Brand Architecture. What on earth..?
It’s ok, we’ve got your back.
Brand Architecture is essentially how a brand organises itself to communicate all aspects of its business. It is most important to businesses that have multiple dimensions of work that are headed by one larger presence. Often, companies enter on a confusing journey of development or acquisition where clear boundaries are not established early enough between one product/service and another, leading it to become unclear to the consumer whether there is a relationship or whether they are different entities entirely.
To overcome this external confusion, several key methods of organisation have been developed, each consisting of an overarching head/parent brand and a series of sub/sister-brands, whose relationships can be highlighted in different ways.
But why does this matter…?
As a consumer, we make purchases based on numerous influences and although there are many intricacies, a huge aspect of this is our perception of the brand, whether it is concerning the product quality, press, customer service, or the look/feel, we develop a brand opinion. If it is unclear whether one product is related to another, we may be more or less likely to purchase it as a result.
Let’s take a toothbrush and toothpaste as a simplified example, if I buy a branded toothbrush which I get on well with, there is a possibility that as my trust for this brand grows, I would then be increasingly likely to purchase the same brands’ toothpaste when I next need some, having seen the branding replicated onto this packaging. Equally, if the products have no association with one another… a toothbrush and a carton of juice… would the benefits still be on par? It’s likely not, so in this instance, it may be more beneficial to proceed with a different identity entirely.
The Types of Architecture:
It is crucial companies begin to think of this long term strategy ahead of developing new sub-brands or acquiring companies so that from the off they can hit the ground running with clear and concise marketing messages. They can align with the correct influences and ensure that it is not damaging to other aspects of their company.
There are a few key systems currently in place to help guide direction:
The Branded House
(Also known as monolithic brand architecture)
The parent brand steals the show in this arrangement. It is clear that each sub-brand is subordinate to the overarching company. They all fit the same brief and can be very easily identified. This works well for companies that have similar objectives across the board and want the reputation to carry across from one to another. The brand tone of voice can be echoed as they are essentially looking to offer a consistent and concise experience for consumers.
The Freestanding House of Brands
Here, the Parent Company takes a slight back seat… the sub-divisions market themselves independently from the overarching brand and are usually only associated with smaller trademarks or fine print – it would not be obvious to the average consumer. This method is often applied when very different services or products are being offered and there is no need to associate the two.
The Endorsed Brand
A middle ground of Brand Architect models, this option positions the parent brand in an ‘endorsement’ type position where the name carries value onto the smaller sub-brands that may not be as well known. Whilst this can be obvious in some of the sub-brands, it is not always the case and some will have a lighter version of association – it can differ between each. A benefit is that this enables the business to tap into exiting brand equity to gain a stronger impact in the relevant markets.
Whilst there are further structural examples (See hybrid mentioned in the above diagram), these three are often used as a starting point to help a business gain insight into their brand direction so that a clear pathway can be paved. Creating a consistent brand architecture model not only enables clear and concise channels internally but it also helps offer consumers exactly what they are after.
CuCo Creative has assisted a diverse range of clients to establish their branding direction, implementing a structure, and also carrying this forward with the brand guidelines and execution of creative branding and marketing across sub-categories. Most recently, client Dorset Growth Hub went through this process intending to effectively communicate their sub-brands to the correct audiences following on from their awareness of the over-arching parent brand. Read more on this transformation here.