From Chaos To Clarity: The Architecture Of Your Brand
How strong are your brand foundations?
Brand architecture might not sound like the most exciting part of your corporate identity, but it is crucial to running a successful company.
Just like the blueprint for a house, your brand architecture is the map that organises your services and products into a lucrative strategy for success. A comprehensive brand architecture definition can help your organisation to grow, evolve and transform over time, into something that attracts a broad range of potential customers.
With the right brand architecture, you can define the ways that different products and services link back to your overarching identity. Different approaches to architecture can influence the way you connect with your audience and even prompt the creation of multiple “sub-brands” that turn your company into a family of interweaving ideas and opportunities.
The question is, how do you decide on the right way to build your business future? What’s the difference between a monolithic brand architecture and an endorsed brand architecture, and how do you know which will reach your audience in the right way?
Here, we’ll cover the basic building blocks of developing a brand architecture strategy, so you can structure a successful future for your business.
Getting your house in order: What is brand architecture really for?
So, what is brand architecture, and why should you be using it in your organisation?
On the surface, the concept of brand architecture can seem quite complex. It’s an inside-out approach to organising what you have to offer the world to specific groups or segments. Usually, this involves developing a framework that highlights how products, services, and sub-brands within your identity connect with each other.
When you start to explore your personal brand architecture definition, you’ll need to decide exactly what kind of relationship each element within your portfolio will have. Will you be selling all your products under the same name? Are you going to use different names but the same visual branding materials, like a shared logo or company colours?
Brand architecture isn’t just for huge multi-national corporations either. A brand architecture strategy can help to give depth to your company and ensure that you organise your offerings effectively to boost profits. Regardless of the size of your venture, brand architecture can help you to:
The types of brand architecture: Building your blueprint
One of the things that make a brand architecture definition difficult to determine, is the fact that there are numerous ways to architect a brand.
Different companies grow and evolve in unique ways. As you explore some of the brand architecture examples we’ve included in this article, you’ll begin to see that fact in practice.
However, while there’s no singular approach to establishing brand architecture, most strategies will fall under one of three categories: Monolithic brand architecture (branded house), Endorsed brand architecture, or product brand architecture.
Monolithic brand architecture offers perhaps the most logical path to new brands and brand extensions. Otherwise known as a “branded house”, this system involves a strong master brand (the overarching identity), which constantly leverages its strength with sub-brands or brand divisions. For instance, imagine Google, and Google Maps, or Google Docs.
With monolithic brand architecture, companies build on pre-established customer loyalty and relationships to drive attention to new organisations. For instance, the Virgin Group is a corporation that does this very well – as each element within their portfolio features the “Virgin” prefix.
A house of brands ensures that new creations established by the same company can be automatically accepted by the customer base because they share the same traits as other brands belonging to the company. The main issue with this kind of branding is that it can be difficult for sub-groups to create a name for themselves that isn’t in the shadow of the master brand.
While the endorsed brand architecture still makes use of a “master brand”, it’s far more flexible than the monolithic strategy. In an endorsed brand architecture, each extension is given its own separate identity, and they can either be associated with the brand or not – depending on the context.
In an endorsed structure, both the parent brand and any divisions within it are given their own unique market presence, with specifically-designed marketing strategies. Sony and PlayStation are good examples of a company and a sub-brand in the endorsed architecture. It’s clear to see that “PlayStation” is under Sony’s wing, but it’s also a brand, which continues to evolve regardless of how Sony might be doing as a master brand.
Endorsed brands often rely less on the master brand, though their background can give them better footing in an industry. Of course, endorsed brands are expected to live up to the customer expectations that were established by the parent brand.
Finally, the product brand architecture, or “pluralistic” brand strategy is characterised by a selection of highly-distinct, but familiar brands underneath a parent brand that the customer might not be aware of. Usually, the parent brand is responsible for investment only, and they don’t have any connection with the branding elements used to establish the sub-brands.
A good example of this type of brand architecture is “Proctor & Gamble”. If the crest company had some kind of PR crisis, the other brands in the Proctor & Gamble mix wouldn’t be affected at all.
The downside of a product brand is that you have no opportunity to build on the pre-existing loyalty established by a parent brand. However, on the plus side, product brands are far more versatile, as you’re not restricted by the expectations of the parent company either.
Next week we will delve into the strategic implications