Brand Architecture 101

If you are taking the time to read this blog, odds are you know what brand architecture is; but just in case, brand architecture is the structure of the brands within an organization. It provides a framework for how the brands within your portfolio will relate to and differentiate from each other. If your organization has more than one offering, you have a brand architecture. The question is then, do you have the right brand architecture?

You have four basic options, the first is a branded house. In this model, you have a master brand, under which all your other brands fall. You may add descriptors or brand extensions, but the focus is always squarely on the master brand. Think fed-ex.  Fed-Ex is the master brand and everything else is a descriptor fed-ex ground, fed-ex freight, etc. The spotlight is always on the master brand, fed-Ex. The main advantage of this type of architecture is that each product or service leverages and ties into the positive brand equity, or perceived worth, behind the master brand. On the flip-side, any negative associations tied to the overall equity will also be transferred to the associated offerings.

Another brand architecture you may consider is a house of brands. A house of brands is the mirror image of a branded house. Here, the sub-brands have their own distinct identity and positioning while operating underneath a master brand. The master brand is an endorser of the offering, not the offering itself. The best example of this is P&G. When you buy P&G products, Pampers, Tide, Gillette, etc., is what comes to mind, more so than P&G. Mirroring the branded house, this means that the associations and reputation of a brand are unattached and will not drive consumer behavior. If the equity of one brand is diminished, it won’t adversely affect the others. In fact, many of Procter and Gamble brands compete with each other in the marketplace. When deciding between tide and gain, for example, many consumers aren’t aware that they’re both P&G brands.

Next, we have an endorsed brand. An endorsed brand is a sort of middleman between branded house and house of brands. In this structure, the master brand is still associated with the sub-brands, but not as evident as a branded house. Think Kellogs Crunchy Nut and Residence Inn By Marriot.

Lastly, you can opt for a hybrid, a combination of the branded house and house of brands model. Coca-Cola employs this brand architecture. There are several products such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero that fall under the master brand Coca-Cola. There are also products completely detached like Sprite and Fanta.

Now that we know our options, which brand architecture do we choose?  To determine this, you must consider multiple factors including how many products you offer, how your brands are being perceived now, how you want your brands to be perceived, etc. One step to determining the answers to these and more important questions is a full brand audit of your current brand architecture as well the existing industry landscape. Look for our upcoming article, “brand architecture: keeping control of your portfolio,” for more insights into how to create and manage the optimal architecture for your brand. And, in the meantime, if you have any questions about brand architecture, feel free to reach out to us at info@brandsymbol.com.