We are family

The Sister Sledge approach to professional services brand architecture.

Giving love in a family dose

Something’s stirring in the world of professional services branding. Firms have started to explore different brand architectures.

Having been acquired by Deloitte, Regester Larkin is now Regester Larkin by Deloitte. Mishcon de Reya launched Mayfair Private and MDR Labs. Since becoming the first law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange, Gateley Plc has launched Gateley Capitus and Gateley Hamer, a tax consultancy & chartered surveyor.

Most professional firms operate as one business that does everything under one name. However, the firms above have moved to different points along the traditional brand spectrum: branded house; sub-brands; endorser brand; & house of brands. Things are becoming interesting.

Everybody in the house of love

So what’s each option good for? Here’s an example of each & some thoughts about how they can work for professional services firms.

Branded house

Good for

Targeting the same audience with different services. If you want to provide legal services, tax advice & HR consultancy to SMEs, then the branded house is for you.

For example

Virgin is a classic example of the branded house approach:

Whether it’s media, trains, gyms or financial services, it’s the Virgin name that’s dominant. It works because the core Virgin brand proposition, values & personality flow through every business.

Whether you’re buying a gym membership, TV subscription or train ticket, what you’re ultimately buying is Virgin.


Can you imagine your firm’s name on a logo followed by ‘legal’, ‘tax’ or ‘insurance’? Your firm’s master brand (Virgin in the example above) needs be strong enough in the mind of your target audience to assure them of the quality & value of each individual offering.


Good for

Focusing your core product or service on different markets.

Imagine your firm only operates in three sectors – general insurance, public health & commercial real estate development. You might want to position & market the firm differently in each.

For example

Consider MTV and their different channels:

The rational for the sub-brand approach is simple; people who watch MTV Base probably won’t also watch MTV Rocks or MTV Dance. The sub-brand approach allows MTV to market & advertise each channel differently while deriving overall value from the MTV name.


Can you imagine your firm name followed by ‘insurance’, ‘health’ or ‘real estate’? Can you picture a variation on your colour palette, messaging & a personalised tone to your marketing for the different buyers in each market? If you can, the sub-brand approach might just work.

Endorser brand

Good for

Building different associations in different segments of the same market.

You might be an accountancy firm targeting private organisations of varying sizes & with different budgets. An endorsed brand could target & position itself differently in each segment, but benefit from the backing & positive association provided by the endorsing parent.

For example

A selection of endorser brand examples are below:

There are two things to notice here. First, the sub-brand is in the same broad market as the parent brand – entertainment, hotels, professional services.

Second, the parent brand is much smaller in the logo than the endorsed brand. This is because the endorsed brand is the main focus of what’s being sold – the parent brand is only there for validation.


If you’re considering an endorser brand approach, you need to be totally honest about how strong your parent brand is. Is it really strong enough in the eyes of your new target market to add anything of value to the endorsed brand?

‘Regester Larkin by Deloitte’ only works because the Deloitte name is so well known & their brand is so strong.

House of brands

Good for

Having complete flexibility to do pretty much whatever you want. You can target the same or different audiences with the same or different types of product or service.

If you wanted to (& could) own a number of different law firms, accountancy firms & insurance brokers, this would be the way to do it. Perhaps you want to focus some of them on private clients & some on corporate clients. No problem. You can build whatever personality & brand attributes you want for each business.

For example

P&G & Unilever have typically been the definitive case studies for house of brands, with a variety of different products in various FMCG categories. However, both have started to move towards more of an endorser brand approach.

The example below is Whitbread:

The only thing to note is that the Whitbread name doesn’t appear at all. Many people have probably never heard of Whitbread – but I’m pretty certain they know Costa.


Resources. Do you have the time, money & skills? Because rather than having one business to run, now you may have four businesses to run – which is four times more expensive.

It’s a family affair

There are plenty of things to consider if you’re thinking about changing your brand architecture. The starting point, as for everything, should be your vision, strategy & brand proposition.

After that, how strong is your existing parent brand? Will it carry any weight in a new market? Do you have the skills & money to market separate brands to different audiences? Do you have the conviction to make it work?

However, the most important factors are what services you’re providing & to whom. How similar or different are they?

Of course there’s a scale of similarity & difference, but as some wise men once said, welcome to the house of fun.

Richard is Creative Director and owner of Brand Remedy and one of the pioneers of branding in professional services. His sector experience includes legal, accountancy, wealth management, financial services, real estate and public sector.