Mini-brands in Marketing

If you haven’t seen it yet, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School has a pretty interesting advertising campaign for their online MBA program.
I was surprised when I saw a banner ad on a website that looked like this:

Although business school was some time ago for me, this ad caught my eye immediately. In any case, the link lead to a website that prompted me to sign up to find out more information.
I thought this was an interesting case because online education, although growing in popularity, still has a stigma. UNC chose to deal with the reputation in a pretty aggressive but also humorous way. The ad creates an air of exclusivity around a product that is oftentimes regarded as sub-par.

This fall, Starbucks stores ran out of their famous Pumpkin Spice lattes. Major news sources, like the Wall Street Journal, covered the story. There wasn’t a widespread shortage; only a small percentage of store were affected. Why is this so notable? The Pumpkin Spice Latte is unbelievably popular. It is only available for a limited time in the fall. Starbucks has it prominently featured, whether in the store window or on a chalkboard. For many of its fans, the latte represents a distillation of the spirit of autumn in a cup. Starbucks even held a contest  the past two years to determine which town got the first Pumpkin Spice Lattes. People competed to win the chance to spend 4 dollars on 8 ounces of coffee early.
The fervor of the Pumpkin Spice cult is unbelievable. There are dozens of other drinks on the menu, and nearly every place that sells coffee offers a pumpkin version–even Royal Farms. So why the mania over the Pumpkin Spice Latte? It’s a mini-brand–the Pumpkin Spice Latte benefits from the Starbucks brand. However, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has its own marketing campaign as well. It’s produced in limited amounts. As a result, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has taken on its own unique identity within the company. Similarly, UNC’s online MBA is a mini-brand of UNC itself–even a mini-brand within the business school.
Both the Pumpkin Spice Latte and UNC’s online MBA are “mini-brands” with their own marketing campaigns. Does your business have a mini-brand?

About the author
Harry Plack, president of Plack and Associates, P.A. in Bel Air, MD, is responsible for business and profitability planning, mergers and acquisitions, business valuations, succession planning, and general healthcare consulting. A widely published writer, Harry is an authority on business and healthcare issues. Harry is a CPA and a member of both the AICPA and the MACPA. Additional certifications include PFS, CVA, CFE and CMC.