Brand architecture 201: Mervin Manufacturing

Previously, we talked about different structures of brand architecture. Let’s continue from where we left off and look at brand hierarchy and roles by studying one of my favourite brands: Mervin Manufacturing.

Mervin is a designer and manufacturer of snowboarding and skateboarding products. What I love the most about Mervin is its culture, which is the brand’s core differentiator: Mervin is managed and staffed by snowboarders (It is literally written on my GNU Carbon Credit) who innovate and experiment, ride and refine new shapes, constructions, geometries. The brand is by far the most innovative player in the snowboard business. Mervin’s constant “build, ride, refine” philosophy (IDEO calls it “quick prototyping”) has created many important developments in snowboard evolution. That philosophy and the brand’s quirky personality are the reasons why its clientele is loyal to the brand as religious fanatics. (I am one of them.) Mervin owns many brands and manages them almost to perfection. Let’s see what I mean.

When we talk about brand hierarchy and roles, we usually refer to five levels:

  1. Corporate brand
  2. Master brand
  3. Sub brand
  4. Product
  5. Product descriptor

Corporate brand is often the parent company, which is usually not consumer facing. Mervin Manufacturing is a perfect example of a corporate brand. You cannot buy a Mervin board, binding or jacket. It is the holding entity (Actually Mervin is owned by Quicksilver, which is the higher corporate brand.)

It is the master brands that drive the customer relationship. They must have their own logos, personalities and values. Mervin owns five consumer brands: Lib Tech, GNU, Roxy, Freedom Dolly and Bent Metal. Every brand is unique. For instance GNU is “weird” in a cool way, whereas Lib Tech is more of a hardcore, performance-driven innovator.

Sub-brands are the differentiated brand promises within the master brand. In addition to five master brands, Mervin Manufacturing has two sub-brands: BTX (Banana Technologies) and MTX (Magne-traction). While MTX does not have its own look and feel (“Red flag” if Mervin is reading this!), BTX has its own logo. It even has variations. These are 2 great sub-brands that are shared by all Mervin boards. As a matter of fact, these sub-brands are also called ingredient brands, which we will discuss on the next article. (GNU also has the pickle technology, but I  don’t think Lib Tech is using it.)

Next, we have product lines. GNU has the Carbon Credit Series, the Street Series, Pickles and more. Lib Tech has the famous Travis Rice series. The role of a product line is to identify a specific form within the master brand. Products don’t have their own look and feel. That said, they might have proprietary fonts, but not their own logos.

Finally, we have product descriptors, which distinguish the uniqueness of the product. Within the Carbon Credit series, there are “Wide” boards. The “Wide” is the product descriptor.

As you can see, Mervin Manufacturing manages its complex brand portfolio very well. As far as I can see, the main red flag is the absence of a logo for Magne-traction. MTX is a clear differentiator for Mervin boards, just like BTX is. Therefore, it’d better have its own logo. Speaking of MTX and BTX, on the next article we will look at the two sub-brands and talk about “ingredient branding.”

540-698 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada

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