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How Important is Brand Architecture?

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A solid brand architecture is just as important as creating a strong brand identity.

Brand architecture holds the key to creating cross-selling and up-selling opportunities for products and services. It simplifies the buying experience so customers can build up relationships with multiple things at the same time. Clear brand architecture can lead to increased brand advocacy, higher speed into the marketplace, streamlining business decisions and moving into new markets.

 

What is brand architecture?

Put simply, brand architecture is the mapping of what your business intentions are. It should answer questions like; How many products or services are you going to offer? How are they related to one another? How are they not related? How do we sell to our customers? How do we acquire other brands?

 

The four brand architecture models:

Monolithic/branded house

There is a single master brand, followed by descriptive names for each product or service. One visual and verbal identity (tone of voice) strategy is used for all the products and services that the business provides.

Advantages:

  • Increases brand awareness
  • Customers easily recognise the products or services
  • New products or services leverage existing brand equity of the master brand and can gain rapid speed into the market
  • Focusses brand marketing (and marketing spend) on a single brand strategy and brand image
  • Streamlines business decisions on structure and growth

Disadvantages:

  • If a single product or service goes through a crisis, the whole brand may suffer as a result – any negativity associated with a product/service is attributed to the brand and all its other products and services
  • Products and services need to be aligned to the master brand – otherwise they can look incoherent and untrustworthy

 

Endorsed

There are individual product or service brands that have their own identities, but there is a clear link between them and the master brand. They are called endorsed brands because the master brand endorses the products with its reputation.

Advantages:

  • The product or service brands leverage existing brand equity of the master brand and can gain rapid speed into the other markets
  • Marketing activities advertise both the product/service brand and the master brand
  • The connection between product brands can facilitate cross-selling
  • Increases brand agility into markets

Disadvantages:

  • If a single product or service brand goes through a crisis, the whole brand may suffer as a result – any negativity associated with a product/service brand is attributed to the brand and all its other products and services
  • There are creative, legal, and time-to-market costs for every endorsed brand

 

House of brands/Stand-alone brands

Each brand has its own individual name, visual identity, personality, audience and can sometimes compete with each other. They are designed to be independent from the master brand and sister brands. It is common for consumers to not be aware of the master brand.

Advantages:

  • If one brand goes through a crisis, it’s not contagious to the other brands
  • Different audiences and markets can be targeted without a need for cohesion
  • Each brand is free to create its own identity and strategy, unburdened by the meaning of the master brand
  • It’s possible to test new opportunities and ideas without losing any master brand or other sub-brand equity

Disadvantages:

  • The time, resources and finances involved in planning and implementing the brand activities (strategy, identity and marketing) is greater
  • Brand equity and success will not be attributed up to the master brand or across to sister brands

 

Hybrid

Sub-brands can be a combination of monolithic brands, endorsed brands or stand-alone brands. Often used when changing brand architectures to avoid confusion or acquiring businesses through mergers and acquisitions.

Advantages:

  • The benefits of monolithic, endorsed and stand-alone brands can all be utilised

Disadvantages:

  • Complex brand portfolio management
  • High development costs involved in planning and implementing brand activities
  • Higher commercial and organisational maintenance costs

 

The four different brand architecture models demonstrate different ways in which a customer can build relationships with a brand. Once these relationships have been established, brand architecture allows for cross-selling and up-selling. The BMW model is a good example of this. BMW own Mini, yet they are aware that there are BMW drivers and there are Mini drivers – two very different audience types, so they keep them separate. BMW use a numeric system for branding its various products to create clear offerings to the customer. It allows you to buy the model that is best for you. For example, I’m sporty and young so I’m going to drive a 3 series. These people are more likely to upgrade to a 5 series or 7 series as their loyalty with the BMW brand builds. The naming architecture makes products easier to find, buy and ultimately advocate for it.

 

Five signs of brand architecture problems (and opportunities!)

  1. Products and services are confusing to customers and employees
  2. No system for managing how new products and services are launched
  3. Not gaining enough leverage from the master brand
  4. Brand architecture doesn’t align with business strategy
  5. No system for integrating acquired brands into architecture

 

Three common misconceptions of brand architecture

  1. Brand architecture = re-organisation – Usually less than half of brand architecture work result in a business restructuring process. An internal business structure does not always need to mirror the customer facing architecture.
  2. Brand architecture is just a design exercise – Design and language is imperative to creating brand architecture, however it is driven by strategic objectives of a business to demonstrate its position and purpose in the market.
  3. Brand architecture is only useful for B2C companies – In fact, B2B offerings largely benefit more from a brand architecture system.

 

How to (and why you should) define your brand architecture

Empathise and organise – Do you understand how your customer buys from you? Do your offerings align with your customers’ needs?

Distil – Remove anything unessential to the decision making process of the customer. Brand architecture should deepen existing relationships, not add complexity to them.

Clarify – Use design and language to communicate those relationships clearly.

 

Using this process will help build a clear brand architecture for your customer, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. The business benefits will be clear: greater profitability, sales opportunity identification, brand equity piggybacking (products/services leveraging the strongest brands) and higher success rates for new offerings – gaining a shortcut to success.