There are a number of ways to build brand equity in a range of products. One route is to have a strong recognisable “house” name, think for instance Virgin, and then create sub-brands under that house name using descriptive terms, for instance Virgin Mobile, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and even Virgin Galactic. A variant on this is to have not only a distinctive house brand, but also wholly distinctive sub-brands, an example here is Ford which uses Mondeo, Fiesta and Focus. Staying with cars, some manufacturers choose to have a distinctive house brand and also a common thread running through their sub-brands, for instance BMW use “series” and Mercedes use “class”. Apple is another great example with its iPod, iPhone and iTunes brands. The use of a common connecting thread in brands is often referred to as a “family” of marks and, just as in the context of our own social framework, a strong family can be a powerful force. Perhaps the best known example of this approach is McDonalds which has spent years building and growing its family, McMuffin, McCafe, McRib, McNuggets and McChicken. The ultimate aim is to educate the consumer such that if they see “McAnything” then they know that Ray Kroc’s empire is behind the product. Building a family, as any parent will know, has ups & downs, highpoints & lowpoints and wins & losses. McDonalds recently experienced the positive side of raising a family when Europe's second highest court seemed to suggest that, such was the strength of the McFamily, it could have exclusive rights to the use of the prefix “Mc” or “Mac” in trade marks for foodstuffs and beverages. The loser in this instance was Singaporean firm Future Enterprises who had tried to register MacCoffee; something that McDonalds took exception too, and the Court agreed. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for McDonalds but, certainly in the EU, the McFamily unit has been shown to be a strong one.
"The repute of McDonald's trade marks makes it possible to prevent the registration, for foods or beverages, of trade marks combining the prefix 'Mac' or 'Mc' with the name of a foodstuff or beverage," judges said