Society is accelerating. In the digital world, time and geography are of little relevance. People can be anywhere and everywhere. As lines blur providing some separation between “real life” and “digital life”, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain distinct parts of our lives.
Earlier this week on Branding Strategy Insider, Mark Ritson shared, The Rise of The One Brand Strategy citing the recent announcement that Coke (UK, NW Europe) was consolidating all of the Coke sub-brands (Coke Zero, Coke Life, etc.) under the Coca Cola brand. And as he notes, this approach to brand architecture isn’t new, but what is new is the amount of companies who are departing from portfolios of independent brands, and moving towards a more singular corporate focus.
If we consider people as brands, there are similarities in the Brand Relationship Spectrum that can be used to describe what is happening in the culture. This is important to consider because it’s a move which aligns to the way more and more people work. When a brand works the way people work, it’s easy to grow and nurture a relationship at the personal level.
The single most important piece of brand theory of the past quarter century was published in the California Management Review in 2000.
‘The Brand Relationship Spectrum’ was not especially revolutionary and yet the paper, by academic legend Professor David Aaker and his co-author Erich Joachimsthaler, became an instant classic.
The reason for its resonance lies in the paper’s first diagram. Splashed across page two are a series of innocuous looking boxes that, on closer inspection, reveal the titular spectrum. Starting with a ‘House of Brands’ and concluding with a ‘Branded House’, this diagram lays out the complete geography of brand architecture.
Most companies have more than one brand in operation and yet most have rarely contemplated how best to link, or separate, those brands for maximum effect. This question of brand architecture became one of the fundamental challenges of contemporary branding and, when allayed with the equally important issue of brand portfolio, came to represent perhaps the biggest single challenge to successful brand management in the early 21st century.
Brand architecture is the logical, strategic and relational structure for your brands or put another way, it is the entity’s “family tree” of brands, sub-brands and named products. As organizations grow through mergers and acquisitions they are faced with many important decisions regarding brand architecture, including how many brands should be managed. Here are the reasons a company might want to maintain different brands or sub-brands:
1. If there are channel conflict issues, especially if key customers who resell to the end consumer want to offer something different from competitors
2. If the same (or very similar) products are sold at different price points – separate brands or sub-brands create more distance between the offerings
3. If one set of products are upscale or premium, while the other are standard or value products
4. If one brand appeals to a very different market segment with different needs from the other brand (making the messaging different)
Regarding linking brands, usually, there is no significant danger, especially if one is endorsed by the other. (The exception to this is if one brand’s associations somehow detract from the other brand.) Brand endorsement indicates the linkage but also creates some distance between the two brands. Endorsed brands make the parent brand relevant (or at least increases its awareness) to the market served by the endorsed brand.
The advantage of using fewer brands or a singular brand is marketing efficiency in brand building and customer communication.
Brand architecture strategy and the issues that arise from growth can be quite complex, for that we have developed this comprehensive guide to brand architecture. For those brands that need one-on-one help The Blake Project developed The Brand Architecture Workshop.
Sponsored By: The Brand Architecture Workshop
Brand architecture is the logical, strategic and relational structure for your brands or put another way, it is the entity’s “family tree” of brands, sub-brands and named products. Brand architecture addresses each of the following:
- What the overarching branding approach is – master brand, brand/sub-brand, endorsed brand, stand alone brands or some combination of these
- How many levels of branding should exist
- What types of brands exist at each level
- How brands at different levels relate to each other, if at all
- Decision rules for creating new brands
- Which brands’ identities are dominant and which ones are recessive
- What types of names the organization uses – coined, associative descriptive or generic descriptors – and in which circumstances (usually controlled by decision rules)
- Which brands are features in each and every media, vehicle, situation and circumstance (e.g. business cards, stationery, product catalogs, website, shipping boxes, vehicle signage, employee uniforms, building signage, etc.)
Organizations often find themselves at a stage in their development in which the number of brands and named products that they are managing has gotten out of control. This could be due to a series of mergers and acquisitions or just the continuous growth of new products and services over time. These organizations find that their portfolios of brands and other named entities have gotten too difficult or expensive to manage. Frequently, there are no naming standards. Each new product or service is named as it is created, with no view to the overall picture. And sometimes, employees are creating variations or new versions of existing brands for entities and programs such as internal training programs, company picnics or employee reward programs. If some or all of this applies to your organization, you likely need help clarifying and simplifying your branding structure.
We are happy to answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today we hear from Jose, a Chief Marketing Officer in Chicago, Illinois who writes…
“I have a question regarding the measurement of negative and positive impact sub-brands may have on each other and the master brand. I understand there are different methodologies such as BCM and factor analysis that can help me understand key associations for a particular brand relative to competitors, but they do not highlight the specific impact sub-brands may have on each other. What methods would you recommend to better understand the full impact?”
Thank you for your question, Jose. I would approach this in one of two ways:
1. PRE & POST: First, I would seek perceptions of the master brand. This could include reaction to a battery of predefined associations (rating them on a five-point scale) or open-ended responses or both. Next, I would present an ad form concept that links the new sub-brand to the master brand. Then, I would seek perceptions of the master brand again. Finally, I would note any changes in master brand perception pre and post-exposure to the ad form concept.
2. SPLIT CELL: I would seek the responses of two demographically/psychographically identical groups. One group would provide perceptions of the master brand without any exposure to the new sub-brand (again, through a battery of predefined associations, open-ended responses or both). The other group would first be exposed to an ad form concept that links the new sub-brand to the master brand and then be asked to provide perceptions of the master brand. In this case, you would identify the differences in responses between the two cells.