Now that the exchange of greetings pertaining to the World's Stupidest Holiday are complete, I'd like to revisit a topic I brought up last month: publisher branding and brand management.
As Andrew Wheeler brought up in the comments (and later in in his own blog post), it may not be in publishers' best interests to push their overarching corporate structure on consumers, but rather let their individual brands speak for themselves. And I quote:
I'd say your advice is exactly backwards: publishers need to understand the power of specific brands and strengthen the ones they have... This is exactly parallel to the way that SC Johnson isn't a brand, but Glade, Drano, Windex, Ziploc, and Raid are brands.
This is true! However, do we not all know (most likely via some sort of creepy post-hypnotic subliminal messaging) that S.C. Johnson is a family company? (Thanks, television!) Like MomCorp of Futurama fame, should publishers not maintain some hulking, terrifying presence in the consumer's brain? (I kid, but you get the idea.)
Andrew makes a good point, and so let me resolicit your opinions, fair readers. Should consumers not be made aware of the publisher's branding (e.g. Penguin Classics, Ace) as much as the author(s) in question? Granted, authors are the the primary brand because they're the ones attracting followings, producing content, &c, and liking one of their previous titles is generally a better indicator of whether you'll like a new title, but what of the début novelist? The gal or guy whose branding might, for the time being, rely exclusively on the house brand to which (s)he belongs?
Andrew may be right that our awareness of specific brands and imprints belonging to a larger publisher are more important than our consciousness of the publisher itself, but I think it's for precisely this reason that the "flagship" imprints to which Andrew points have lost their steam and vision over the past several years (the eponymous Penguin imprint and "Little Random" being prime examples).
The question, I suppose, is this: should the larger corporation brand itself as, in a sense, a creator of myriad brands (imprints), or should it stick to those specific imprints and not try to brand itself (vis-à-vis the "flagship" model)?