Brand Architecture Strategy

Brand architecture is defined as the logical, strategic and relational structure for all brands in the portfolio.  A key concept of brand architecture strategy is that customers relate to brands at different levels — for example, a corporate (or master brand), endorsed brands, product brands and product descriptors.  This allows an organization to create a brand portfolio that appeals to distinct segments or needs states.

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 10.27.06 AMHere are a few examples:

  • Coca Cola Company vs. Coke vs. Diet Coke vs. Diet Coke Caffeine-Free vs. PowerAde (from the Coca Cola Company)
  • Apple vs. Mac vs. iPod vs. iPhone vs. iPad
  • The Gap vs. Banana Republic vs. Old Navy vs. Athleta vs. Piperlime.  Within the Gap exists Baby Gap, Gap Kids, and a host of individual product brands
The master brand will often carry emotional benefits, with endorser brands conveying rational benefits and target-specific relevance.

 

Brand Architecture Strategy Objectives

Three key objectives of brand architecture include clarity, synergy and leverage, as described here:
  • Clarity.  The brand architecture must promote clarity of offering both to the marketplace as well as to the internal organization.  Key questions:  Will customers understand their purchase and how it relates to other offerings?  Are we consistent and fairly single minded in presenting the core focus and benefits of each brand area relative to another?
  • Synergy.  Brand architecture should allow the organization to deliver against a larger brand promise than any single brand could achieve.  Key question: Have we created strategic linkage to provide incremental value (i.e., the idea of 1 + 1 = 3; Honda adds to Accord, Accord adds to Honda)?
  • Leverage.  A well-managed, strategic brand architecture should provide leverage for a company to extend its brands both horizontally and vertically to capture new customer segments and markets.  Key question:  Have we enabled brand extension or new brand creation opportunities given the vision for the brand?
Brand Architecture Issues and Considerations
A number of factors need to be considered in developing and evaluating alternatives. There is no one-size-fits all solution or magic formula for defining the appropriate brand architecture or brand portfolio structure.  Brand architecture recommendations should be informed by the following three question areas:
  • Financial resources – how many brands can the organization afford to support?
  • Customer “bandwidth” – how many brands can customers understand?
  • Strategic decisions – do special circumstances (partnerships, etc.) dictate tighter or looser brand linkages?

House of Brands vs. Brand House vs. The Right Answer

There has been a lot written about various brand architecture models, broadly ranging from a house of brands to a branded house approach.  As defined, a house of brands contains an independent set of stand-alone brands each focusing on maximizing the impact on a particular market.  Conversely, a branded house uses a single masterbrand to span a set of offerings operating with descriptive subbrands.  Endorsed brands are often seen as fitting in between these two approaches, where a master brand is paired with a brand that is lower on the brand hierarchy (e.g., Honda Accord, Courtyard by Marriott, etc.).  In practice, brand architecture development is not an either/or decision, and the full brand spectrum should be considered.  Brand architecture examples can provide useful insight into  brand architecture strategy alternatives.

 

Managing Brand Architecture

In managing brand architecture, there are several key components to consider: brand architecture audit, brand architecture principles, brand architecture framework, and the brand naming decision tree, as described here.

To learn more about EquiBrand’s brand architecture services, call Tim Koelzer at 925-247-1400 or fill out a contact form.