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Brand naming strategy: branded house or house of brands?


At Red Hat, I often get questions about how we name stuff. It is usually not just idle curiosity, mind you, in most cases someone has a new program or product and would like to call it something like Supersexyshinyfoo. Our team has to play the bad guy role and explain that we don’t usually create new brands like that at Red Hat.

Cow sez: Dude. Do I really need another brand?

Cow sez: Dude. Do I really need another brand?

The response is typically something like “Let me get this straight… You guys think long, boring names like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform are better than Supersexyshinyfoo?”

My answer? We already have a Supersexyshiny… it’s the Red Hat brand.

We’ve spent years building the Red Hat brand into something that people associate with (according to our surveys) value, trust, openness, choice, collaboration, and a bunch of other neat things. Studies have shown that Red Hat brand karma is pretty positive. And the logo looks great on a t-shirt. Our brand is one of our most valuable assets.

This is why most Red Hat products have very descriptive (some would say boring…) names. The equation probably looks something like this:

(Supersexyshiny + Foo) = (Red Hat + descriptive name)

This brand strategy is often referred to as a “branded house” strategy.  Take one strong brand, plow all of your brand meaning into it, while differentiating each product with descriptors instead of brand names.

These days, many automobile manufacturers do things this way. Remember when Acura used to have the Acura Integra and the Acura Legend? Honda simplified the branding strategy by moving to RL, TL, TSX, etc. as descriptors for their cars, pointing all of the brand energy back at the Acura brand. Many other auto manufacturers follow similar principles.

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