The process of developing or honing your brand architecture can be a rabbit hole, so we’re going to start with the basics and help you decide if you can benefit.
What is brand architecture?
Also referred to as brand structure, brand hierarchy or brand portfolio strategy, brand architecture is exactly what it sounds like: a system that organizes your brands, products and services. It can help you decide which brands to focus on, how to re-energize a brand and how much to focus on building your corporate brand.
Why do I need brand architecture?
Brand architecture offers several advantages which may be critical depending on the size of your organization. If your architecture is set up properly, you can create cost efficiencies in marketing and brand building. Some other benefits include:
- Ease the process of merging new acquisitions or offerings into your brand
- Simplify the communication of the similarities and differences between your brands
- Organize your offerings to help inform decisions like budget allocation, sales and marketing strategies, when to rebrand or even when to add/change/cut a product or service
- Generate positive synergy between your brands, enhancing their perception and avoiding potential negative conflicts
- Go after new opportunities or take risks without risking overall brand equity
What are the types of brand architecture?
Every company has its own structure (or lack thereof). Most fit somewhere within one of these four types:
Branded House or Master Brand
Products and sub-brands share their brand with the parent/corporate/master brand, as in the case of Google or FedEx. The benefit of this model is that all companies, brands, products, locations, etc. are unified by the same brand promise, allowing greater clarity and consistency. Greater focus and emphasis are placed on building and protecting the master/corporate brand since positive and negative perceptions are felt across the entire portfolio.
This model allows the endorsing brand to impart the qualities and advantages of their reputation to the sub-brands while still allowing the sub-brands the freedom to have their own personalities and appeal to different audiences. So, Marriott can have multiple hotel brands with different identities and targets, but they are all united and supported by the Marriott brand promise.
House of Brands
While a House of Brands sacrifices the economies of scale offered by the Branded House model, there is greater opportunity to capitalize on niche markets, focus on specific product benefits and include a range of brands that are unrelated or opposing. It is easier to take risks as there is less threat to the other brands in the portfolio. The endorsement from the master/corporate brand is much more subtle in this model. P&G or Unilever are some of the most well-known examples.
Companies like Microsoft and Coca-Cola are a hybrid of the Branded House and House of Brands. Some of their brands share the corporate identity, but others are subtly endorsed or almost entirely isolated. This structure is a little more complex to manage, but if done correctly can deliver the benefits of all the other models.
How do I develop brand architecture?
Based on your goals and your existing brands, decide what structure makes the most sense. Then begin your Brand Portfolio Audit. Start by assembling your team. You’ll want people who can be critical but fair. To avoid common pitfalls, ensure the team can create strategies without falling back on “how it’s always been” or making “change for the sake of change”.
Next, you’ll create the audit structure, making sure you know from the beginning what you need to learn. The first piece you will be measuring is the equity of each brand in your portfolio based on:
Once you have the results of your audit, you should be able to weigh the data against your goals and the opportunities in the market. Identify key insights that will drive your primary decisions such as conflicts between existing brands or an opportunity in a new market. Then decide which basic model you want to follow. It’s easy to get lost in the details, but if you focus on the bigger picture and start at the top, the day-to-day decisions and changes you need to make to get there will follow. Put together your system of brand management and ensure everyone in your organization is on the same page, especially leadership.
Now you should have some idea of what you’re in for and if it will be worth the work. Brand architecture can contribute greatly to long-term success, especially for large or growing companies. The work you put in now will pay off big time in the future.