What Is a Masterbrand?

A masterbrand is an overarching brand name that serves as the main anchoring point on which all underlying products are based. Masterbranding is one of the main tent-poles in branding architecture that aims to link a company's product-lines with the key values the brand represents.

While individual products may have their own names and brand identities, the masterbrand is instrumental in contributing to consumer beliefs that products stand alone in their classes. Virgin is one well-known masterbrand example.

Although masterbranding lets companies achieve greater economies of scale with their advertising campaigns, on the downside, these initiatives tend to be less market-specific and less product-specific.

Understanding Masterbrands

A masterbrand, in effect, creates a single corporate trademark for a variety of products in a portfolio of offerings. The intent is to link affiliates under the masterbrand, even though they may operate independently, and may serve vastly different functions. If executed correctly, consumers will readily identify associated brands with the qualities of the masterbrand—even if only on a subconscious level.

Of course, this strategy works best when the masterbrand is regarded positively by consumers, who consequently assume that there is a consistency of quality, across all brands and products.

Masterbrand vs. Sub-Branding and Portfolio Branding

Masterbranding is part of a branding architecture landscape that also includes sub-branding and portfolio branding. Sub-branding may be described as affiliated brands that have little in common with the masterbrand.

For example, Disney is known for outputting more child-friendly fare, while affiliated studio Touchstone Pictures tends to produce more risqué film titles. In portfolio branding, a parent company features a portfolio of brands that are kept separate and distinct. They may even deliberately compete with one another so that the parent entity is better able to segment the marketplace. Procter & Gamble is particularly well-known for strategically engaging in portfolio branding.

Intel Corp., another prime example of a masterbrand, has several competing product offerings under its banner. At one time, Intel offered a full range of computer processors, such as Pentium, Centrino, and Core Duo. While each one of these products offers a different level of performance and sells at a different price point, it is the Intel brand that lets consumer believe that the chip he or she purchases will have the same high level of quality as all other Intel products—regardless of the sub-brand.

Key Takeaways

  • Masterbrand is a business term used to describe a specific encompassing brand name that serves as the main anchoring point on which all underlying products and brands.
  • Although individual products may carry their own names, masterbrand is essential to leading consumers to believe that products stand alone in their categories. 
  • In the practice of sub-branding, affiliated brands have little in common with the masterbrand name, for example, the film company Touchstone Pictures produces more risqué film titles than the child-friendly films typically offered by its parent company, Disney.

Masterbrand Advantages and Disadvantages

Masterbranding has a number of benefits, such as the creation of better brand awareness and lower marketing costs. It also may facilitate customer feedback and brand mergers. Successful implementation of a positive masterbrand is one way for a business to create an economic moat.

With masterbranding, a company should be aware that some business or product lines may have unique marketing requirements or demands that may not fit well into a single, rigid branding architecture.