Managing Brand Architecture

Managing Brand ArchitectureIn developing and managing brand architecture strategy, there are at least four key components to consider: 1) brand portfolio audit; 2) brand architecture principles; 3) brand hierarchy models alternatives; and 4) the brand naming decision tree.  In our experience, many organizations place too much emphasis, too early, on brand hierarchy frameworks without first auditing their existing portfolio and then defining the brand principles that underlie the various hierarchies.  Here is an overview of each component:

Brand Architecture Audit

The audit is a necessary starting point to define the “as is” or current state of your organization’s brand structure.  Depending upon the size and complexity of your organization, this can be a fairly simple or very elaborate exercise.  The brand portfolio audit should focus on two key areas: business performance and brand structure.

  • Business performance involves assessing the performance of the various products and brands within the portfolio, in terms of sales, profits, and growth potential.  Which brands and products contribute the most to your business today and in the future?
  • Brand structure involves understanding — from the eyes of your customer — how they experience the current brands and product today, across all the various brand touchpoints.  This involves auditing and then visually representing how customers experience your brand — including logos, website, advertising, collateral material, at-retail, etc.  Practically speaking, this can be done in a conference room or using a brand touchpoints wheel.  Is the brand visual depiction clear, consistent, and logical or do opportunities exist to improve the structure?

Once you complete the “as is” assessment step, it’s time to consider and develop a set of portfolio development principles to guide strategic decision-making.

Brand Architecture Principles

Brand architecture principle development should serve as the foundation for developing alternative brand hierarchies.  This is a critically important, though often overlooked step, in developing a clear, consistent brand architecture.  As questions arise in managing multiple brands — should we add a brand, delete a brand, establish a brand-driver relationship — it’s necessary to have a set of principles to guide decision-making.  Importantly,  principles development should precede brand architecture examples and alternatives development.  Before you consider whether a “house of brands” or a “branded house” is the right approach, you need to establish a set of criteria, specific to your organization, to guide development.

Here is a sample:

Sample Brand Architecture Principles

  • Identify and invest in the fewest number of brands needed to meet business goals.  Today, that is Brands A, B and C
  • Create new brand(s) only when a business case (including target customer insight) has been proven and necessary multi-year support has been confirmed
  • Minimize the proliferation of sub-brands by using endorsed brands, product extensions or product descriptors
  • Maximize understanding and minimize confusion by using descriptive or generic terms for product extensions or product descriptors

The above principles would tend to favor a more streamlined brand hierarchy (with fewer, stronger brands).  Another set of principles may call for a greater number of brands.  The key point, however, is that the principles should be established before alternative brand structures are developed, considering the brand architecture strategy factors discussed prior.

Brand Hierarchy Alternatives

After conducting the brand audit and developing guiding principles, it’s time to develop alternative architecture models and frameworks.  This is where you consider the “boxes and sticks” approach across a variety of brand architecture examples. What alternatives exist for determining the strategic, relational structure for all products and brands in the portfolio?

Again, depending upon the size and complexity of your organization, an almost limitless number of options may exist.  Therefore, at least initially, our brand consultants and clients will develop and draw on a  brand architecture template to jointly develop a limited set — typically three to five alternatives — that are strategically sound and distinctively different from each other.

Brand Naming Decision Tree

Once the brand architecture has been established, it’s useful to develop a brand name decision tree to “test” the effectiveness of the architecture under different scenarios.  So, for example, if a new product is developed within a particular product group, how should it be branded and named?  Does it fall under the master brand or is a new brand warranted?

Ultimately, a decision tree needs to be published and disseminated throughout the organization to ensure consistency over time.   More information about brand naming is contained here.  Brand identity guidelines should also be developed regarding creative treatment.

For information on EquiBrand’s managing brand architecture services, please call Tim Koelzer at 925-235-9556 or fill out a contact form here.