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.

A few years back, 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 during that time 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?

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