Brand architecture is the relationship of a company’s various corporate, product and service brands to one another. Select your framework well. Good architecture can grow sales and brand equity, but bad architecture leads to confusion and lost opportunity.
An unsexy but absolutely essential component of brand strategy, brand architecture is a framework describing the relationship of a company’s various corporate, product and service brands to one another. Whatever the size of your organization, this article can help you understand the importance of clarity in your brand architecture, and offers a process for some housekeeping if things have gotten a bit out of hand.
To start, here are some common brand architecture frameworks:
What makes a "good" brand architecture?
Your brand architecture and naming system is doing its job when:
It’s clear. Your buyers immediately understand the similarities and differences between your offerings. They find it easy to find and choose what they need.
It’s simple. Your sales team and marketing materials easily explain your offering, even if you have a highly technical portfolio.
It’s comprehensive. Good architecture supports an evolving portfolio of brands, sub-brands and extensions. This makes it easier to name and launch new products and services.
It’s aligned. It fully supports your positioning and brand strategy, and will continue to fit your business for the foreseeable future.
Have you created a monster?
Entrepreneurial companies add and subtract products and services. They acquire other companies. They evolve. It’s what they do. Yet they often do so without a clear plan to describe the relationship of one brand to one another—until one day, they wake up to a big mess.
Some indicators it’s happened to you:
You’ve recently experienced a merger or acquisition, and the portfolios are overlapping or competing with one another. This is causing confusion in sales and your market.
If things have grown out of control, it’s never too late for some housekeeping. Here’s the process we use to help companies through brand architecture challenges:
1. Audit and assess
Get a grip on the current state of affairs via a comprehensive audit. A few questions to ask yourself:
What is the full lineup of current external corporate, masterbrands and sub-brands? How do they relate to one another?
Where do conflicts, overlap, or confusion exist?
Which brands have valuable equity and strong perception with your customers—or not? (Customer interviews can be a great tool for this stage.)
Which brands best contribute to the business? What are the cash cows vs the poor performers?
Does this structure hold up today? Would it support any potential changes that need to be made for the future of your portfolio, company, market?
2. Choose a framework
A brand architecture framework shows the levels of the company brand and their relationship to one another. It acts as a blueprint for future brand additions, including rules for naming. Selecting one is a strategic decision tied to your unique goals and business plan, so it’s not to be taken lightly! As you decide, ask:
What is the organization’s overarching brand strategy? Does it fit best with a branded house, house of brands, endorsed brands, or a hybrid approach?
What are the organizing principles of your framework (market type, target audience, geography, price point, etc)? How many verticals and levels are there?
Will there be differences between global and regional brands?
What type of naming strategy will increase understanding to our markets? What will be the rules for naming now and in the future?
3. Transition and train
If you’ll be transitioning your framework or any of the brands within, it’s important to have a plan for the change, and to communicate clearly to all stakeholders so they know what’s coming and why it matters. This may include anything from simple FAQ emails to immersive sales training, to calm concerns and/or equip people to communicate externally. Don’t overlook this critical step—training users is key to future success, and can make all the difference between clarifying and complicating your offerings!
Your future self thanks you.
Developing brand architecture is challenging—but immensely rewarding when done right. Your employees, sales force, marketing director, partners and especially customers will appreciate it, and you may find opportunities that were previously out of reach.