What is brand architecture? You might have heard the term ‘brand architecture’ in relation to marketing your business and wondered exactly what it means. In this article we’ll take a look at the concept, what it is, how you go about creating it and the different types of brand architecture strategies you can employ. Firstly, let’s try and answer the big question.

What exactly is brand architecture?

If you want to keep things really simple, brand architecture can be understood as the way in which subsections of a larger brand are organised. Brand architecture shows us how those subsections are organised and how they relate to one another.

This is helpful for a marketer as it allows them to keep the different aspects of a brand separate when necessary at the same time as it allows for coordinated and coherent working across these aspects when required. You can see how the subsections of a brand are both different from one another and how they integrate.

Brand architecture is an organisational framework that prevents brand subsections becoming confusing and contradictory. It prevents a subsection of a brand from undermining the rest of the brand or from becoming entirely lost and anonymous.

Brand architecture helps your customers conceptualise your business and what it offers. And it can help customers, employees and other stakeholders make sense of a multifaceted brand and organisation.

A couple of key concepts

Two key concepts that can be helpful to understand when approaching brand architecture are:

1. Master brand

This is the top-level brand that encapsulates all the other branded products and services.

2. Brand extension

This is when a known brand launches a product or service that is outside what you might expect from the brand. It might be a completely new product line, or an entirely new service. The aim should be not to disrupt or confuse the existing brand, but to extend what people understand about it.

What are the different types of brand architecture?

There are three principal types of brand architecture. Let’s take a look at each of them in a little more detail.

1. Branded House

A branded house is characterised by a strong master brand that has keen associations in the minds of customers. Beneath the master brand it has a number of subdivisions that feature the master brand name with the product or service with which it is associated. A good example of this is the Virgin brand, which has a plethora of brands across a wide-range of product and service categories. Virgin Holidays rubs shoulders with Virgin Bet, Virgin Media and Virgin Radio International to name but a few.

The strength of this brand architecture strategy is that it allows for the easy addition of brand extensions that in no way threaten the overall brand identity. It also makes use of a strong master brand to bolster the customer expectation of the latest subsection. It helps, if like Virgin, you have a readily recognised master brand that is associated more with a certain set of values than it is a particular product or service. Positive spill over can also occur between subsections, but it’s also important to remember that negatives can also happen.

A subsection that generates poor headlines, reviews or customer experience can shift perceptions of other subsections as well.

2. House of Brands

The House of Brands approach is where a number of distinct and familiar brands exist under a parent brand that people may or may not be aware of. The master brand will be primarily of interest to its existing and potential investors, while the sub-brands will be highly distinct and memorable. Most customers will not know there is a connection between the brands. This is markedly different to the Branded House approach.

A good example of a House of Brands approach is Unilever. This huge multinational makes some of the UK’s best known brands. Their brand roster is highly diverse including such household names as Domestos, Colmans and Ben & Jerry’s.

The advantages of this approach is that it insulates brands from the failures of other brands as well as protecting the master brand from reputational damage. It also makes marketing easy, as each brand is, in essence, distinct with its own brand identity and marketing approach.

3. Hybrid or Endorsing Brand

This approach is flexible combining aspects of the first two. Brand extensions are given their own identity and can be associated with the master brand or not, depending on individual circumstances. This gives you the freedom to leverage the equity of the master brand when it’s convenient, or to create something entirely independent. A good example of this strategy is how Toyota handles its relationship with Lexus and Scion brands.

How do you create a brand architecture?

Building brand architecture is about creating clarity. Your brand architecture can be the key to your entire brand strategy. There’s no one size fits all approach to brand architecture so begin by asking some key questions:

● Who are the target customers for each of your products and services?

● How do they interconnect?

● Are there subdivisions within your existing market, perhaps with different price points?

● Do you have a dominant niche, or are you intending to develop a range of different brands selling different products?

Brand architecture may sound complicated, but through developing your understanding of your business, what your purpose is and where you want to go with it, the easier it will be to settle on a form of brand architecture that aids your goals.

At Dawn Creative we’re experienced in all aspects of branding. If you’re exploring brand architecture and how it can be applied to your company then we’d love to hear from you. Don’t sleep on it, contact us today.