We are going to extend our business to a different language and brand (English,
abc.com) rather than our local one (German,
bcd.com). Whilst the content for both focuses on same subject, the design and site names differ. Can we safely use
hreflang in this situation?
Since your domains are different for your English site and German site, there really is no need to use
Even though the two sites will focus on the same subject, you won't run into duplicate content issues because English content is not considered to be the same as German content by search engines like Google, as discussed here by Matt Cutts: Does translated content cause a duplicate content issue?
One caveat to the above however is that you shouldn't use the same content for both sites that has only been translated by Google Translate, since it would detect that the content is the same. Instead it should be translated by a human, and as much as possible tailored to users of that language.
As a side note, it might be a good idea to specify the Geotarget for each site to Google and Bing:
One special case is:
So for any link on your German site to your English site, you should use