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Brad VanAuken Brand Architecture Branding: Just Ask...

Brand Architecture Defined

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Today, another question from the BSI Emailbag. Anton, a marketing major/future marketer from Manila, Philippines asks:

"Brad, I am a daily reader of Branding Strategy Insider and have a question about brand architecture. Is there a hierarchy or structure you can share? I appreciate your advice."

Anton, thanks for asking. As you probably know, brand architecture describes how a family of brands relate to one another. It indicates how many levels of branding there are (hopefully, no more than two or three), which brands are at each level, which brands relate as brand/sub-brand, which relate as endorsed brand/endorsing brand and which remain independent of one another. It also addresses which brand's identity systems are dominant in different situations or contexts. And it addresses the type of names used at each level (coined, associative descriptive or generic descriptors). There are no absolute rules that apply in all situations, however here are some simple rules of thumb:

•    The simpler the system the better
•    Ideally, there are no more than two levels of hierarchy
•    The system should be flexible enough to address all current and anticipated branding situations
•    The dominant brand should be the one you most intend to build over time

•    Sub-brands should be created sparingly, however they can be built to make the main or parent brand more relevant to new customer segments

•    When an existing brand can be used, new brands should not be created
•    Careful thought should be put into at what level taglines are used
•    Many organizations have evolved to brand/sub-brand systems with some provision for flexibility and variation
•    More and more organizations are trying to build and leverage their corporate, parent or organization brands as a way to save money when marketing products and services
•    Only brands that (a) are highly differentiated, (b) will be maintained for at least several years and (c) will be supported by significant marketing resources over time should have coined names

I hope this helps. Good luck with your studies.

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4 Comments

Joy Levin on September 10th, 2009 said

A key issue in developing a brand architecture is also researching and understanding the target market so that the brand reflects a positioning statement and strategy that meets the needs of the market. In developing an architecture, the best marketers make sure to study different segments of the market so that the benefits sought by each segment are met in the sub-brands while the “parent” brand and image ties together these differing strategies together in a cohesive way.

Carol Phillips on September 10th, 2009 said

Brand architecture is so important I devote a whole class to it when teaching Brand Strategy at Notre Dame. It is often overlooked, yet naming new products, extending existing ones and organizing the corporate brand can have a big impact on marketing efficiency. The key is to organize for the external not the internal audience. Here is a slide presentation you may also find useful ‘The Brand Architecture Toolkit’.

link to slideshare.net

David Cameron on September 10th, 2009 said

It’s one thing to organize for efficiency. It’s quite another to organize for what truly matters: creating an experience and a performance that will wow customers.

At the end of the day, the additional costs of maintaining an additional brand may be well worth it. Do I think this applies to all situations? Absolutely not.

That said, I feel sometimes we become far too overprotective of the parent brand and fail to realize other imaginative opportunities to ensure relevance and, ultimately, selection and loyalty.

This is one of the hardest parts about branding in my view: the need to remove bias and be objective in making such brand architecture decisions.

I do like the rules above. Thanks for sharing them!

Brad VanAuken on September 10th, 2009 said

Carol makes a very important point that I neglected to make. It seems so obvious to me but is rarely obvious to my clients. Brand architecture should be designed with external audiences in mind. It should not be designed to reflect legal entities or internal organization structure.

Joy also makes a very important point. Sub-brands should be developed to meet the needs of different market segments. This requires a deep understanding of those segments.

Finally, I agree with David. Brand architecture design is one of the most difficult of all the brand management tasks, not only because of the egos and the politics but also because of its complexity and the need for it to anticipate a wide range of future scenarios.

Brad

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