The 5 brand architecture types and how to create Brand Architecture for your organisation
You might be thinking ‘what is brand architecture’? Your brand and business started out so simply. One business. One brand. And even that at times was hard to manage. As your business evolved and grew, you may have decided to add more products and services, explored other industries or acquired more businesses. Suddenly, things got really, really complicated!
If this sounds like you, a revised brand architecture might be just what you need.
An effective brand architecture is the best way to manage your range of businesses and offerings. It creates a family or ecosystem where each business, product or service complements each other and the greater organisation. It is a great way to create a unified voice that is expressed in unique ways but still holds onto the essence, values and purpose of your initial vision and business.
What is Brand Architecture?
Brand architecture turns this chaos into clarity. It helps you clearly define the organisation’s structure and organise a company’s portfolio of brands, sub-brands, products and services.
Think of it as an organisational chart for your business instead of your team and roles.
Brand architecture defines both the depth and breadth of your business and offerings and helps manage how your customers perceive them in a clear and easy way. It also helps create links and associations with each of your sub brands, products or services helping you leverage the brand equity, experience and reputation from other parts of your organisation.
For example, a customer who has a positive experience with one of your offerings is more likely to try one of your sub brands. It’s a great way to be strategic by working smarter not harder.
It helps your customers and stakeholders make sense of a multifaceted organisation as well as helping you manage all the moving parts related to brand management – like cross pollination across your entire organisation.
Types of Brand Architecture
Simply speaking, there are five different types of brand architecture : Branded House, Sub Brands, Endorsed Brands, House of Brands and Hybrid Brands.
A branded house is one of the strongest, clearest and easiest ways to manage your brand architecture. A branded house starts with a master brand that influences the entire organisation. Think Apple. Every product or service looks just like the master brand, almost like it had children. Same message, same style, same look and feel, expressed in its slightly unique way.
Usually the master brand dictates the look and feel as well as the purpose and vision for the company. This includes your tagline, brand promise, brand positioning statement and story. However each of your sub brands can have their own unique expression which is usually influenced by its slightly different audience and unique value proposition.
The main advantage of creating a branded house architecture for your business it that is easy to manage, usually because the audiences are very similar. This also means you can really tap into the brand equity and familiarity of each sub brand which feed into each other. The other benefits include a more efficient marketing spend as this activity has the capacity to positively impact all your other brands.
The negative side of a brand house strategy is the flip side of this equation. If one of your sub brands get a bad rap, it can affect the entire organisation, with other brands becoming guilty by association.
It’s also important to think about the future of your business from an accounting perspective. If you plan to sell sub brands later, this may not be the best approach.
Lastly, if you’re working in a niche market and looking to expand, there is a possibility that your brand message will get diluted across different markets and negatively impact your brand positioning overall.
Examples of a branded house include:
Sub brands is the closest option to a branded house – with some crossovers and a few crucial differences. The sub brand architecture allows extremely strong ties both visually and strategically to the master brand but allows each identity to have its own unique market, audience and offering.
Using the parent or master brand strategy and visual identity strongly in every aspect of communication creates extremely strong brand equity whilst simplifying your organisations brand ecosystem. It’s the best of both worlds and is one of the strongest and most flexible of brand architectures out there. It also happens to be my favourite as it really makes the most of your marketing and advertising budget.
The downsides are the same as branded house above.
Examples of a sub brands include:
House of Brands
This brand architecture strategy is a little more complex than a branded house, but the ‘house’ is important. It reminds me of Game of Thrones House of the Dragon… (bear with me a minute for the GOT references if you haven’t watched it).
If you think about King’s Landing and House Targaryen running Westeros, each of your sub brands would the houses that make up the Kingdom. Each house has a unique brand, with a distinct personality, purpose, vision and mission. Each house is in it for their own self interest and self preservation, however, there is a parent brand that connects and controls them all.
The interesting thing about this brand architecture is the parent brand is mostly relevant from an investment perspective. It owns diverse brands which can span across multiple industries. The parent brand identity usually appears on products or packaging with the logo and address but may be otherwise fly under the radar in terms of branding or strategy.
The true advantage of a house of brands strategy is the diversity of products and services you can create and variety of audiences you can reach without diluting the brand. Having the subtle backing of the house helps strengthen the unity of the brands and increases brand awareness and trust in the market. However, because the connections may be less prominent, there is a reduced risk of a bad reputation affecting the entire organisation.
The downside of this strategy usually comes down to cost. You need a large marketing budget to manage and market a multitude of brands individually. Cross pollination isn’t going to work here. However it is easier to sell each business separately if this is part of you larger business plan and vision.
Examples of a house of brands include:
An endorsed brand architecture is very similar to the branded house but with a splash of house of brands. While each brand can look significantly different and target very different audiences and markets, the parent brand is always presented and associated with the sub brands. Hence why we call them endorsed.
Using an endorsed brand structure gives the sub brands extremely strong ties to the parent brand which has all the benefits of a branded house offering slightly less risk but with more flexibility to express the brands individuality.
Again, an issue with one of your endorsed brands can affect the entire organisation.
Examples of an endorsed brand architecture include:
A hybrid is exactly as it sounds. It uses combinations of different brand architecture to create a tailor-made model.
The hybrid model is the most flexible of brand architectures. It allows you to pick and choose what works. For example, tie certain products or services to the master brand both visually and strategically while keeping others separate.
With a hybrid brand architecture, things get complicated very quickly. The advantages of other brand architectures tend to get lost when trying to combine more than one approach. Most brands will only take this approach out of necessity – for example after a company merger or acquisition – rather than an overarching brand strategy.
Examples of a hybrid brand architecture include:
Do I need a brand architecture?
If you’re a little confused and not sure where to start you’re not alone. This is where a brand strategist can help you make sense of the mess and create an effective plan for the business.
How do you know you need a brand architecture in place?
• Your customers don’t understand your full list of services
• You have a successful brand and would like to leverage the brand equity into a new business
• You have bought another business and you would like to integrate into your existing organisation
• You want to launch and integrate a new product or service into your existing brand
• You need a plan for future expansion of the business
• You’re rebranding and need to simplify your brand and marketing efforts
Benefits of creating brand architecture
• Reduce brand and marketing spend exponentially
• Amplify your brand across multiple markets
• Target different audiences across different market segments
• Create a stronger presence in the market
• Elevate your brand positioning and messaging
• Create authority and grow your brand equity
• Increase and protect the value of your brand and business
• Simplify your organisation internally and externally
To help you simplify things, we’ve put together an infographic that showcases examples of the 5 brand architecture types explained above.
Download: High resolution image
How to create brand architecture
So where do you start to create your brand architecture?
Like everything worth doing you need to start with a plan and a strategy. This is where creating a brand strategy can really help with a brand strategist. Once you’ve assessed your current situation, and articulated your 10 year goal and plan for the organisation, you can start researching the best way forward.
The purpose for most organisations is to simplify their offerings and create efficiencies across the board. To do this effectively you will need to really understand how each sub brand affects each other and how each audience will interact with each other. You will then need to create a hierarchy of importance amongst the organisation and create a plan on how to integrate the brand messaging and visual identity.
You will need to consider how this integration and migration of your brand entities will affect your brand positioning in the relevant markets. This could also disrupt the culture of your business and existing brand equity.
Communication will be a key priority throughout the entire process to all stakeholders. To avoid any negative fallout, we recommend involving key stakeholders throughout the entire rebrand process.
You should expect and allow for significant costs in rolling out a new brand architecture. If you’re thinking of a rebrand, this is the time to evaluate what this looks like now and for the future.
Building a strong and effective brand can be daunting. It involves a strategy for what’s best for the business long term and it’s about creating growth strategies that will benefit your organisation.
It’s also not just about creating a pretty logo and great name (although this is important). It’s about creating clarity and simplicity from what can become a complicated mess and having structure that helps you get the most out of your brand and marketing efforts.
Set your business up for success today and consider your brand architecture.