Even those with only a passing interest in business affairs are familiar with the grandfatherly visage and folksy wisdom of investing sage Warren Buffett. And his long-time investing vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, is almost a household name as well. Yet, for the most part, the Berkshire brand has remained behind the scenes.
But as new report from the Financial Times highlights, that may be changing. A range of Berkshire subsidiaries and acquisitions are rebranding to emphasize their affiliation with Buffett and his golden reputation. Soon, consumers will be increasingly likely to think of the Oracle of Omaha when they shop for homes, cars, and even when they look at their electric bill.
Earlier this month, Berkshire announced it was buying Van Tuyl Group, the nation's fifth-largest auto retailer, and renaming it Berkshire Hathaway Automotive. The new business will include 78 locations in 10 states. And that number is set to grow: Buffett says he plans to buy even more dealerships in the future, adding them to the Berkshire fold.
Prudential Real Estate, meanwhile, has already placed more than a thousand real estate agencies under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand after striking a franchising deal with the conglomerate in 2011. That number is still expanding, both in the United States and internationally. The company plans to pursue further licensing deals in Europe and Asia, in addition to other American markets.
Depending on where you live, Berkshire's trademark could even be coming inside your house. MidAmerican Energy and PacifiCorp, two utility companies serving Western and Midwestern markets, were recently renamed Berkshire Hathaway Energy and now share a logo.
Why the sudden marketing push for the Berkshire name? Analysts say his celebrity holds value, and could bring in additional business if successfully monetized. "Like Virgin reflects Sir Richard Branson's rebelliousness and Apple reflects the genius of Steve Jobs, Berkshire Hathaway has brand equity around trust, stability and integrity," Oscar Yuan, a partner at consultancy Millward Brown Vermeer, explained to CNBC.
The irony of Buffett's new branding effort is that virtually all consumers already have a deep attachment to Birkshire's brands. It is, after all, the corporate parent of Heinz ketchup, Benjamin Moore paints, Fruit of the Loom underwear, Brooks running shoes, Spalding basketballs, and the Geico gecko, to name a few. The company's catalogue even extends to military uniforms (Fechheimer), sweets (See's Candy) and engagement rings (Ben Bridge Jewelers).
In one way or another, we're all Buffett customers. Now, it seems, he just wants us to know it.