A well-organized Brand structure that clearly, consistently, and compellingly organizes a product portfolio simplifies the number of product names while strengthening and streamlining the branding process. This concept, known as Brand Architecture, refers to a complete, correct, and current portfolio of all products that helps to ensure that brands are marketed effectively and efficiently, saving valuable time and preserving budgets. The exact number of brands within an architecture is determined by the number of distinct promises being made to customers and, in general, can be divided into three distinct approaches:
Branded House: Consisting of a master Brand utilized across a wide range of products and/or services, a large example is Virgin.
This approach relies on a strong individual Brand that is used to boost the recognition of new branding endeavors, tying a wide range of products and offerings together. Branded houses also benefit from a simplified branding process that costs less and can save time. While this tactic can use the strength of one Brand to its full potential, it isn’t without risk. When several brands are connected in this way, a flaw or weakness in one product reflects poorly on all the other brands with which it shares that master Brand.
House of Brands: The classic example of this approach is Procter & Gamble. P&G focuses on building strong individual brands for their distinct products across all categories. Short of the fine print and paperwork, consumers wouldn’t know that household names like Tide, Charmin, and Crest are all within the same Company’s product portfolio.
This allows all the brands to build distinct identities and flourish based on their own merit against only direct competitors. What this also means though, is that P&G is responsible for developing and maintaining several unique brands across different product categories, which can be both expensive and time consuming.
Blended House: What about combining the above two strategies? Having some products and/or services share a master Brand while some do not doesn’t necessarily avoid the issues associated with the above two strategies, but it also can benefit from both styles as well. Google, with the creation of Android and the purchase of YouTube is now an example of a blended house in that they unite some brands under the Google name, while leaving some others to stand on their own.
Regardless of the approach, architectures should be proactive instead of reactive, helping to build better names with less resources from the beginning, as opposed to an unorganized Brand creation, ultimately leading to confusion in both name and message.
These separate strategies represent only guidelines to fit an overall architecture. Often, companies naturally grow and spiral into one of these tactics unintentionally which can cause problems down the line. Without a concrete understanding of the market and their audiences, companies can often spend a large portion of their budgets unnecessarily on multiple, individual branding projects, risking extending too far from their core demographic or message, causing confusion and hurting profits.
Ultimately, companies can benefit from developing a clear, consistent, and compelling Brand Architecture that is informed by key variables. Not only can planning prior to branding yield dramatic benefits, but companies should also be auditing their portfolios consistently – triggered by external needs like divesting or acquiring of brands, or internal needs like introducing or retiring brands – to ensure that changing markets and growing product lines haven’t provided a reason to adjust or redefine that architecture.