Building Your Brand with Flanker Brands*

File C5-51
Updated June, 2010

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This is the second in a five-part series on building a brand and developing it in the marketplace. Previous files outlined the importance of branding and the process of creating a brand for a new product. This file moves ahead to developing flanker brands.

What is a flanker brand?

A flanker brand is a new brand introduced into the market by a company that already has an established brand in the same product category. The new brand is designed to compete in the category without damaging the existing item’s market share by targeting a different group of consumers. This strategy, also called fighter branding or multibranding, is used to achieve a larger total market share than one product could garner alone. Companies with multiple brands in a single product category generally have the following types of products in their portfolios:

  • A premium brand that offers high quality at a higher price.
  • One or more “value” brands offering a slightly lower quality or a different set of benefits for a lower price.

For example, General Mills markets both Gold Medal and Robin Hood brand flours. Gold Medal serves as a premium product and commands a premium price from consumers who value quality. However, Robin Hood offers a lower-priced product with a slightly lower level of quality for those who are more heavily influenced by the price of products within a category.

Why is flanker branding important?

Flanker branding is important because it allows a company to attract new customers from various market segments. The main brand of a company’s portfolio should target the market segment containing the most consumers. Another brand can then be positioned to convert users from other market segments by using a different set of benefits or product characteristics. For example, Proctor and Gamble’s (P&G) Tide is an extremely successful laundry detergent. In order to appeal to consumers who desired a lower-cost detergent, P&G introduced Cheer, which is a slightly lower quality product offered at a value price. While Tide’s sales dropped slightly with the introduction of the new brand, the combined sales of Cheer and Tide were higher than Tide’s original sales alone, allowing P&G to gain a greater market share. A company’s brands should attract customers from competing brands and not each other.

There are a number of advantages to developing a flanker brand:

  • Gain more shelf space for the company, which increases retailer dependence on the company’s brands.
  • Capture “brand switchers” by offering several brands.
  • Develop excitement within the company by monitoring sales figures of the different brands.
  • Protect the company -- giving a product its own unique name means it will not be readily associated with the existing brand. This reduces risk to the existing brand and/or company if the product fails.
  • Companies with a high-quality existing product can introduce lower-quality brands without diluting their high-quality brand names. For example, Farmland markets three separate brand name hams: Carando, Farmland and Ohse. Carando, a premium product with a distinctive spicy flavor is targeted toward individuals who desire high quality and authentic Italian flavor in hams. Due to these qualities, Carando commands a premium price.  Farmland brand hams are more middle of the road – good quality, traditional hams targeted toward family-minded consumers who desire quality but also pay close attention to price. Finally, Ohse is a value product – its lower level of quality is reflected in its bargain price. The Farmland name is only attached to the Farmland product, leaving consumers with a separate view of each brand. They do not lose respect for the quality of the Carando or Farmland branded products because of the lower quality of the Ohse products because there is not a clear connection between the three brands.

Developing flanker brands does present challenges.  Introducing a new brand is quite costly. Creating another independent brand requires name research and substantial advertising expenditures to create name recognition and preference for the new brand.

Will flanker branding work for you?

Flanker branding is not for everyone. There are a number of questions that must be answered in order to make the best decision for your situation. The most basic questions include:

  • Can my existing brand be changed enough that a new brand will have unique qualities that will appeal to a separate group of consumers?
  • Are these new qualities believable?
  • How will the new brand impact my existing brand(s)?
  • How will the new brand impact competitors’ brands?
  • Will the cost of product development and promotion be covered by the sales of the new brand?

A flanker branding strategy can be very effective if implemented appropriately. The next file Information File Building Your Brand with Brand Line Extensions in this series will examine another type of branding – product line extensions.

* Reprinted with permission, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University.


Nancy Giddens, agricultural extension marketing specialist, Missouri Value-added Development Center, University of Missouri
Amanda Hofmann, student research assistant
Reviewed by Connie Hardy, Iowa State University Extension