An imprint in business is a smaller ‘sub-business’ or a secondary brand that a company can use in order to promote its goods. Understanding how to use an imprint can greatly help a business to manage its reputation and image and to craft the perfect brand.
The term imprint is used most commonly in the publishing industry. Book publishers will often have ‘imprints’ which allows them to market more than one type of book to more than one type of person, without creating mixed messages. While the term is generally a publishing one however, it can nevertheless be applied to a wide range of different businesses in order to achieve the very same benefits.
Let’s say that you’re a publishing company that mainly prints technical books about business. You have built up a reputation for yourself in that niche and many people that need that kind of information now consider you as their ‘go to source’.
But then you get a programming book proposal. It doesn’t quite fit the subject matter that you normally cover, it doesn’t quite fit the niche that you’ve carved out for yourself. After all, many of the books that you’ve published so far are more interested in engineering, business management or leadership.
So, what do you do? Simple: you create a new imprint. This imprint can then either be related to your business in name, or it can be its own standalone entity. So for instance, your company might be called ‘BizBooks’ and you might call your imprint ‘BizBooks Tech’. Or alternatively, you could give it a completely original name and call it ‘CoderBooks’.
Which you choose will depend on how you want to go ahead and market the books. Are you going to try and sell these titles to your established readerbase? Perhaps you might rely a little on your existing contacts and the reputation you’ve built up. On the other hand though, you might worry that giving your new imprint a similar name will just confuse your current audience and muddy the waters. Perhaps you plan on largely targeting entirely new audiences?
If your company is not a publisher, you can still benefit from a similar approach to segmenting your businesses. For instance, this will often happen when one company acquires another. In this case, the latter company might keep its current name but simply become a subsidiary of a holding company.
In this way, brands are treated very much like assets and are very separate from the businesses themselves.
For instance, Microsoft acquired Nokia a short while back and used the company to manufacture Windows phones. After a while, it became apparent that this business model wasn’t working and so the company returned to making Android phones by outsourcing the Nokia license to a company called HMD.
So, the phones are now made by HMD, called Nokia but owned by Microsoft! This is how the world of branding works and it makes it very clear how these decisions are built around the marketing potential of different names, moreso than the reality of who ‘owns’ who.