As my husband and I prepare to become first-time parents in mere weeks (or days!), we’ve wondered about what kind of parents we’ll be to our new baby. What kind of relationship will we have with him/her (and how will this change throughout life)? Parenting, and the challenges it brings, had me thinking about parent brands and the relationships they maintain with their “children.” What’s the nature of these dynamics? Are they defined by the industry they’re in? The following are some examples of parent brands and their kin: Parents? What parents? The hands-off parents watch from afar. They let their kids run around with lollipops in their mouths and lit matches in their hands. By butting out, these parents teach their children to fend for themselves and learn to right their own wrongs. This approach works mostly in the child’s favor, allowing them to be their own person and grow into their own without the stress of overbearing expectations. On the flip side, these hands-off parents have no control over their child’s actions and their brand counterparts are no different—take a look at two of the most influential global beauty brands of today, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. Both seem to be buying up every other beauty brand in sight, and yet don’t necessarily share this information through their advertising or product packaging. There is no sign-off on an Essie Nail Color ad that has the L’Oréal logo on it. And Estée Lauder doesn’t flaunt its ownership of Aveda or Bumble and Bumble. Each brand has its own look, feel and style and isn’t restricted by the guidelines that might come from their heavily involved “parents.” But if these brands mess up, they’ve got to figure out a fix on their own. Now you see them, now you don’t.
Then we have the kind of parents who guide their children through thick and thin. Whether it’s through a PR ploy or a desire to show off their entire house of products, these brands maintain their parent brands’ sign-off…but not ALL the time. Some months ago, I remember seeing TV commercials for Dove Beauty and Axe Body that punctuated the last frame of their ads with the Unilever logo. It was the first time I’d seen parents assert their identity so explicitly. (In product packaging, for example, parent brand logos live on the back of the packaging in a legible size so that anyone who looks can find them [as a consumer, this is a clear signal that Unilever has given its stamp of approval]). Parent brands don’t usually shout their presence from the rooftops, but they are always present to guide their children.
Hello helicopter parents.
And finally, the helicopters. These are the parent brands (not unlike many moms and dads across the country) that can’t seem to get out of their kids’ way. They’re involved in every interaction, every relationship and every step their children take (sometimes even hindering their children from growing into their own because, frankly, they’re ALWAYS there). Take Nabisco. Any average Joe can tick off products in Nabisco’s portfolio. That’s because Ritz, Oreo, Triscuits and even Swedish Fish are branded with that bright, iconic, red “Nabisco” triangle in the top left corner of their packaging, lest anyone forget the “parent.” This has become a food brand trend— bundling the kiddies together to increase purchasing (i.e., “buy one box of Triscuits and get Ritz half off!”) or brand awareness. Or, to make sure no one ever forgets Nabisco is mom.
Who really knows what kind of parents my husband and I will be (we’re closest, I think, to the Unilevers of the world, where we’ll help guide our child to make the right decisions but step back to allow him/her to flourish on their own). There really is no right or wrong approach. No matter which path we take, all parents, like their brand counterparts, probably have the same goal— to raise smart, independent and self-aware children.