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What’s The Difference Between A Company Name And Brand Name?

POINT: Paul Williams

The difference between company name and brand name can be confusing. Especially when a company may not want you to know it owns certain brands. Sometimes a big company will own competing brands to control more of the market. Seattle’s Best Coffee is owned by Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks bought Seattle’s Best as a “second tier” brand to keep Starbucks as a premium brand and use Seattle’s Best in places Starbucks didn’t want to go. Burger King and Subway wouldn’t elevate the Starbucks brand, so Seattle’s Best is there instead.

When you think ‘company name,’ you’re probably thinking of the names of companies like Apple Computer, Target Stores or Starbucks Coffee Company. Or you may be thinking of conglomerate parent company names such as Unilever or Kraft. Though these are company names, they are also brand names. A brand name isn’t always a company name. Twizzlers is a brand owned by Hershey. But Twizzlers isn’t a company.

I agree with what John says at the end of his article… We’ll transfer the beliefs we have about a parent brand to the child sub-brand… But, that’s only if we know who the parent is.

Unilever is well known because they own so many brands. However, unless you read the fine print on the bottom of the packaging, you wouldn’t know Dial or Ragu are from Unilever. You probably don’t want to think the same company is making spaghetti sauce and shampoo.

Did you know Chipotle Mexican restaurants were owned by McDonald’s? Or Mars, the company that makes M&Ms, Milky Way, Snicker, and Twix also owns Uncle Ben’s, Juicy Fruit, Life Savers, and Starburst? Did you know they also own Pedigree pet food? Did you know Expedia owns TripAdvisor,, That eBay owns PayPal? Disney owns ABC, Hyperion Books, ESPN, and Marvel Comics? InBev the Belgian/Brazilian brewer, that a few years ago purchased Anheuser-Busch which also owns (among others) Stella Artois, Budweiser, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Leffe, and St. Pauli Girl. Swiss owned Nestlé owns (to name only a few) Edy’s and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Hot Pockets, Tombstone Pizza frozen foods? Nestlé also owns Purina, Friskies, Alpo, and Mighty Dog pet foods.

Proof a company name is linked directly to the brand, Apple Computer recently dropped the ‘computer’ from their title. They’re just Apple now. They have been more than just a computer vendor for quite a while. And, right back to Starbucks Coffee where I started this article… They are in the middle of re-branding, changing their logo and removing the word ‘Coffee’ from the name. They want the brand to mean more than coffee.


The answer depends upon whom you ask. If you ask a marketer, the answer will be, “Yes, there’s a difference between a brand and a company. Every brand within a company is distinct in design and carries with it unique attributes that can be totally different from the overall company.

If you ask a customer, the answer is bound to be different.

Consumers do not, nor should they, have a reason to separate a brand name from the overall company name. To a consumer, they are essentially one and the same.

You’re probably thinking, what about conglomerates like Kraft, Sara Lee, and Procter & Gamble? Don’t consumers separate the company name from a product brand name? I don’t think so. It all goes back to brand equals reputation.

For example, the Kraft brand portfolio is a family of brands. Under the overall Kraft family name there exists over 60 brands including, Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, Nabisco, and Oreo. Every brand in the Kraft family is distinct, just like every child from a parent is unique. All brands in the Kraft family share the same last name—Kraft. And because they share the same last name, consumers equate certain beliefs and feelings they’ve come to understand from knowing that family’s reputation.

Crackerjack Marketer

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