What is Brand Architecture?

By Steve Gilman

Brand Architecture is a system that organizes brands, products and services to help an audience access and relate to a brand.  A successful Brand Architecture enables consumers to form opinions and preferences for an entire family of brands by interacting or learning about only one brand in that family.

An established Brand Architecture is an important guide for brand extensions, sub-brands and development of new products.  It will also provide a road map for Brand Identity development and design, and remind consumers of the value proposition for the entire brand family.  It also provides the maximum brand value by fully leveraging both corporate and sub brands.

Like most marketing topics, I could write on a book on this. As such, I’ve left out some nuance, but I’ve tried to provide enough information to be a useful jumping off point.

Here are some short definitions for key concepts to get us started:

Master brand: A top-level corporate brand that encapsulates other branded products and services.

Brand extension: a product or service launched by a known brand name, where the extension is in a different category than the brand’s other products or services.

Below are the three most common types of Brand Architecture:

  1. Branded House – This offers a very logical path to brand extensions and new brands.  In a branded house, the master brand is always present and is easily linked to and leveraged by extensions. A good example is FedEx. FedEx Kinko’s provides very different (but complimentary) services than the master FedEx brand, but is easily linked back to FedEx, and therefore shares its credibility.

  1. House of Brands – This insulates and protects the master brand from brand extensions and in turn protects brands from each other. A house of brands also allows for a Master Brand to have competing brands in the same segments.  A good example is Proctor and Gamble. If Crest, for instance, had some kind of brand crisis, none of the other brands would be affected.

  1. Hybrid or Endorsing Brand – This is a more flexible way to package brands under a master brand. Brand extensions are given separate identities and are associated with the master brand, or not, depending on the context. This gives you the freedom to have independent strategies for the brand extensions, but to also use the equity of the master brand when it’s convenient. A good example is Toyota with the Lexus and Scion brands.

These three types are the most common, and they each have different strengths and weaknesses, as I allude to above. Deciding the right structure for your brand takes an extensive amount of research, and an in-depth understanding of your position, offerings, strategy. You can read more about these topics below, or contact us if you’re interested in talking about this further.

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