Berlin & Los Angeles


Re-Generation: A Sub-Branding Story.

Sub-branding can position your company to take on a new market with an altered identity. kulturspace recently worked with AOK to relaunch their sub-brand AOK International Service to do just that.

It’s expensive and time consuming to create a brand. When diversifying or expanding, creating a sub-brand can be the alternative to launching a completely new brand or stretching your current identity. Developing a sub-brand can be an effective way to make the most of your current brand while expanding to a new market or audience. 

A sub-brand is simply a secondary brand within the overall concept of the main brand, but with a different focus and different audience. When Toyota launched the Lexus brand it wanted to create a new perception and new identity. A sub-brand would not have succeeded – Toyota needed to launch a new brand to attract the market they were aiming for with the more luxurious Lexus vehicles. 

Diet Coke is the classic example of a highly successful sub-brand. Coca-Cola is its own entity. For decades, Coke developed its identity and branding. When it was launched, Diet Coke took advantage of the new market for diet sodas while maintaining the same core from the parent company. Diet Coke developed its own image, it’s own reputation. The ad campaigns were different. Purposefully or not, Diet Coke began to be seen as Coke for women. Coke Zero was launched as another sub-brand to capture the male market of calorie free soda drinkers with a black can and a different identity again still based on the brand identity developed for over a century by its parent, Coca-Cola. 

That’s the key: to succeed, a sub-brand needs to capitalise on the reputation and strength of the parent brand while diversifying and expanding into a new market and new audience.  

When the major German insurance company AOK approached kulturspace to better brand the sub-brand of AOK International Service, the challenge was clear. As one of the major names in insurance in Germany, the reputation and identity of AOK had to be maintained, but in a new way to speak to the audience of AOK International Service – the growing international expat community in Berlin and Germany. 

Initially kulturspace started by analysing the differences of the traditional AOK audience and the younger, international crowd of the expats. When those differences had been found, the brand story of AOK had to be realigned to connect with that audience. Parts of the old branding could be extended but only if it was inline with the story of the new brand. 

Visual and written language was developed along with other concepts in the initial stage. The second phase was to start mixing it up in a collaborative process with the client. The kulturspace team redeveloped the website and completed a photoshoot at the AOK International Service to bring the visual elements of the story into alignment. The key visual element of the sub-branding was the logo. The tricky part was maintaining the balance of the identity of AOK and the new aspect of the sub-brand. 

The international aspect of the sub-brand and the Berlin location were pinpointed as being essential. Several versions were developed with before the perfect balance was found. The final new logo kept a few smaller details like the AOK leaves and their typography, then developed the rest from the creative brainstorming sessions.

The goal from the AOK perspective was to launch the sub-brand to connect with the growing expat community in Berlin. A new look and a fresh approach, a realignment of the brand story, connects with the target audience in a way that both capitalises on the trusted AOK brand but with a fresh approach for the sub-brand. 

Jason Kenny