This article helps our Volunteer Squad keep the database clean and consistent! It pertains to members who have Creator access and above. If you're interested in getting involved, read more about joining the Squad here. We'd love to have you aboard!
It might not always be clear if a Subject should be classified as a Brand or as a Series, particularly in cases like Hot Wheels or Barbie, which are both fully owned, developed, manufactured, and distributed by a large corporation (Mattel). Large media properties like Star Wars can also be a murky area.
The decision of what Subject Type to use is ultimately an editorial judgment call, but we have some general guidelines to help Squad members make that call.
Note that these guidelines are primarily for creating new Subjects. Existing Brand and Series Subjects should not be reclassified without discussion and consensus within the Squad.
Some existing Subjects we’ve classified as brands instead of series include Barbie, Hot Wheels, Lorcana, Magic the Gathering, Matchbox, and Wicked Cool Toys.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is a brand?
- What is a Series?
What is a brand?
A brand, as we define it on hobbyDB, is the name used in marketing to identify an item’s source. In most cases this is either the manufacturer’s name, or another trademark that the manufacturer uses to market a product line as a whole.
The brand might not be a company
Some manufacturers, like Funko and LEGO, keep things simple and market their products directly under their company name. However, many other manufacturers have several differentiated product lines that they market under separate brands.
Mattel is a good example of a company that markets products under a variety of distinct brands, including Hot Wheels, Barbie, Mega Bloks, Fisher-Price, and more. The products from each of these brands have the Mattel company name and logo on the packaging to identify the manufacturer, but as more of a footnote than as the primary branding. For example, the brand name/trademark featured most prominently on the packaging for Barbie dolls is always Barbie, and both collectors and the general public typically refer to the dolls as "Barbie Dolls" rather than "Mattel Barbie Dolls."
If a brand has a parent company, like the Mattel examples previously mentioned, the parent company should be added to the brand's hobbyDB Subject page as a Parent Subject. Even if a brand has a parent company, the Subject Type should still be Brand and it should be used in the Brand field on Database Items instead of the parent company. Brands with a parent company do not typically have their products divided into further sub-brands, but their products are often divided into various series (see What is a Series? below).
In most cases the brand's parent company Subject should not be added to the Database Item at all. Exceptions could include a model race car with the brand’s corporate parent as a prominent sponsor, such as this Variant of the Hot Wheels Velocitor model, which has “MATTEL” emblazoned on the side in large block letters. It would be appropriate to add Mattel to the item’s Related Subjects field, but not to the Brand field.
Although most Hot Wheels Database Items will not have the Mattel Subject attached, those items' association to Mattel can be easily found by going to the Hot Wheels Subject page and reading the Subject description or looking at the brand’s Parent Subjects.
Brands can change ownership, but they’re still brands
One important reason we differentiate between brands and manufacturers on hobbyDB is that product lines can be transferred between different companies without changing their branding. For example, Matchbox began as a brand owned by Lesney Products, was sold to Universal Products after Lesney went bankrupt, became part of Tyco when that company bought out Universal, then continued under Mattel after they acquired Tyco. Despite the change in ownership, the model cars have continuously been marketed under the Matchbox brand name.
Brand ownership information and history should be included in the brand’s Subject description (including dates of ownership) but generally should not be directly added to Database Items. For example the Matchbox Subject should have all of the brand’s previous owners and current owner as Parent Subjects, and the description should give an overview of the ownership history and when the brand changed hands, but Matchbox Database Items should only have Matchbox listed as the brand.
Some brands currently owned by a parent company were formerly standalone companies. For example, Fisher-Price and MEGA were independent companies before being acquired by their now-parent corporation, Mattel.
Media Franchises are not Brands
Licensed franchise tie-in products often feature the franchise name/logo much more prominently than the name/logo of the item’s manufacturer, but because those franchises are often licensed across multiple manufacturers simultaneously they aren’t considered item brands. A good example is Kenner’s Star Wars action figures. Even though the Kenner logo on this Luke Skywalker figure isn’t prominent on the packaging, Kenner is still considered to be its brand:
Can an item have more than one brand?
Most Database Items should only have one brand listed, however there are exceptions:
Sometimes brands will collaborate on a product and release it under both brands, like a model car that carries both Schuco and Tarmac Works branding. In these cases it’s appropriate to add both brands to the Brand field.
Distributor + Manufacturer
Some products are made by one brand and distributed by another brand, such as this model car, made and branded by Maisto but sold in Speed Wheels-branded packaging. Items like this should also have both brands listed in the Brand field.
What is a Series?
Brands often group similar products together into a series within their overall product line, like M2 Machines' Detroit-Muscle series of American muscle car models. A series contains products made by one specific brand (although there are rare exceptions where a series has been part of different brands at different times, like Burnin' Key Cars which has belonged to three different brands over the years), and series names and logos are typically given roughly equal billing with the brand’s name and logo on packaging and in marketing materials.
Individual items are often part of more than one series—for example, a main series and a sub-series or wave (both Subjects having the Series type)—so multiple series Subjects may be added to the Series field when applicable.
A Subject hierarchy for a sub-series would look like this:
The brand, series, and sub-series would all be included in the appropriate fields on the database item, but not the parent company.
Media Franchises are not Series
When a Franchise Subject is added to a database item it should always go in the Related Subjects field, not Series (and not Brand). Some brands might designate their own series for a licensed franchise, like the LEGO Indiana Jones series, which goes in database items’ Series field. The Indiana Jones franchise Subject goes in Related Subjects, along with the Indiana Jones character Subject and film Subjects if applicable.