Brand Architecture: Why Build It?
Creating a strong brand identity is of paramount importance in business, we all know that.
But what if your business has multiple brands and products? Designing a system that makes sure they all fit and work together seamlessly will mean you’ll give off a clearer message and build a stronger relationship with your customers; this is known as Brand Architecture.
Brand Architecture in a Nutshell
In a multi-brand organisation, brand architecture creates a system in which each individual brand, product and service is organised. Within the system you can create a clear hierarchy and map out each element of your business which, in turn, enables your customers to navigate, interact with and form opinions about your brands.
That’s the most basic definition of brand architecture, but to give you a clearer idea of what it can actually look like, we need to take a closer look at the types of brand architecture that dominate the majority of the world’s well-known multi-brand companies. There are three main types:
Also known as Umbrella, Monolithic or Parent-Dominant, this type of brand architecture features a master brand which then transfers and extends to other products using the master brand name.
A great and well cited example of this type of architecture is Virgin.
Virgin is a globally recognised brand with it’s fingers in many pies, as it were. Illustrated perfectly by the above brand extensions, Virgin uses it’s famous name as the signpost for recognition and customer trust, followed by the extra service or product name. This allows Virgin to extend their services easily without losing any visibility or customer loyalty.
House of Brands
Also known as ‘Individual Product Brand’ or simply ‘Branded’, this form of brand architecture always features a parent brand, much like Branded House. But this is where the similarities between these two formats end. Rather than each brand within the group featuring the master or parent brand name, each brand has it’s own name and personality and can even compete with other brands in the group.
A classic example of such a structure is often illustrated by Proctor & Gamble, another major player in the global market and parent company to a veritable army of well-known household brands such as Gillette, Duracell and Olay. Unlike with Branded House products, you wouldn’t generally go looking to buy a P&G product, but rather one of the individual branded products in the group. The parent company is, in that sense, largely invisible to consumers.
Often also referred to as ‘Endorsed’ or ‘Sub-Brands’, the Blended House system consists of a parent company much like the other two formats, however in this case the parent brand’s presence acts as an endorsement to each sub-brand.
An example of such a brand structure in action is Cadbury. Each of their products has it’s own name, identity and target market, however each one benefits from being associated with the parent company. The familiar purple colour and classic Cadbury logo act as a comforting signifier of trustworthiness and quality to the customer and so encourages sales and customer loyalty.
But which is best?
The type of brand architecture you use might largely depend on the nature of your brand or services, and all three are sound from a strategic point of view. However, there are some pros and cons to each type which could help you decide on which to implement for your brands.
Let’s start with Branded House. This is the cheapest and simplest form of brand architecture to implement as it uses just one main logo and branding style across all products and services. This cuts out the need to fork out extra design costs as well as bespoke, ‘from-scratch’ product branding and launch.
Branded House is also commonly considered to be the best choice for smaller businesses who want to slowly add new products to their line-up. However, remember that every product will carry the same name, so one piece of unwelcome publicity could have a negative impact on your entire branded range.
Implementing a House of Brands style of brand architecture has the potential to be more expensive, depending on how many individual products you have under your parent brand. You will need to factor in the costs of multiple logo designs and branding and marketing campaigns as well as the complexity of running and managing each brand.
However, this format means that each brand will be free to have it’s own identity and fight it’s own battles without being associated with your corporate parent brand.
Finally, the Blended House brand system falls somewhere between the first two in terms of the costs, pro’s and cons of implementation.
There will still be the added design cost of creating new individual brands, however when it comes to integrating each brand with the rest of the line-up and marketing it, the costs are less than they would be with a House of Brands structure. This is because your new product can rely on the clout of the parent brand to ensure its own success.
It is, on the other hand, widely agreed that the Blended House format is not entirely suitable for smaller businesses and start-ups. This is due to the fact that each product will rely so heavily on the reputation of the parent brand, which in this case will be practically nonexistent.
Getting it right
Choosing the best form of brand architecture for your company will ensure that you are able to play to your strengths and really make the most out of your brands. Choosing the wrong type could have negative effects on your business in the long run, so make sure you take into account every aspect of your business and really nail down your goals before you make any decisions.
You may already have a rough idea of the direction you want to take it in, or you may still be weighing up all the pros, cons and costs. You might even still have no idea which direction to turn and need to get some outside help.
If you’re really stuck, a good plan of action would be to talk to some branding agencies and experts. These most knowledgeable of folk will have seen countless brands pass through their doors and will be able to advise you on the best plan of action based on your company type, goals and ambitions.