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Category: Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture Strategy Guide

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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.

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Brand Architecture

How Sub-Brands Impact Master Brands

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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.

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Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture: The Danger Of Attachment

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Once a brand has been established, it is difficult for people to give it up. They become emotionally attached to it. It may even be a source of self-esteem and personal pride. They invent a variety of excuses for why it should never go away.

The people I am talking about are not the brand’s customers or consumers but rather its creators and caretakers.

Often, brands create as much or more of an emotional connection with the people who manage them as they do with the people to whom they are marketed.  Therein lies the problem with organizations that are skillful and prolific at creating new brands or that have grown through numerous mergers and acquisitions.

The Blake Project has been retained by many an organization that needs to simplify its portfolio of brands. The complex brand structure usually results in increased complexity, cost and customer confusion. However, the brands are entangled in so many ways with their individual support systems, including their dedicated managers and teams, that they are very difficult to terminate.

How likely is it that the person who created the brand or currently manages the brand will say, “yes, my brand should go away’? Not only does that person understand the brand’s equity, consumer franchise and complex expressions but that person’s ego, and perhaps livelihood, also depends on the brand’s survival.

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Brand Architecture

Overcoming Complex Brand Architecture Issues

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We regularly answer questions from marketers here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today we hear from Tammy, a Vice President of Marketing in Knoxville, Tennessee who has this brand architecture issue…

Background: We went through an extensive corporate branding initiative around 2006-2007. A corporate brand strategy was developed but they did not dive into product brands it was more of a corporate branding strategy at a high level. A monolithic approach was recommended and many new products do follow this trend. However, no migration strategy was put in place to move endorsed brands under our corporate brand name. We have also had numerous acquisitions over past few years in support of our corporate growth strategy that do not fall within the original strategy. We have moved into the B2C space with more of a shadow-endorsed product. We have recently made our largest acquisition to date. Their portfolio of products have high market share, strong brand awareness and complement our portfolio. This acquisition also supports our move as a company to be a more specialized company.

However, their brand strategy is completely different from our brand strategy. They have made many acquisitions over the years and because their brand wasn’t strong they led with a product brand strategy many of which have little to no connection to the parent brand. Many of their brands have changed hands multiple times over the years, the one constant has been the brand names. Many of their brands are more B2C while most of the brands in our heritage portfolio are B2B.

Challenges: We are now faced with a significant challenge to integrate these brands into our brand portfolio and develop a brand portfolio strategy that supports our business strategy of growth through both acquisitions as well as organically, and supports and helps us achieve the vision to become a more specialized company. In the process we will also be reviewing our heritage brands to decide where they fit, what roles they play, and how to clarify and simplify our brand portfolio. We are looking to clean up the heritage brands, integrate the acquired brands, and provide clarity and synergy across our brand portfolio. What approach do you recommend?”

Thanks for your question Tammy. Given the complexity of your current brand architecture, the first thing you will want to do is audit the brands, sub-brands, endorsed brands, product names and other named products and services you have today. This will help you understand the scope of the project and the nature of the issues. Next, you will want to measure awareness and associations for all of your (at least major) brands against their target markets. This will inform your brand portfolio and brand migration strategy. Next, you will need to decide what brand strategy and architecture you intend to pursue. Finally, you will need to decide which brands will go away, which will remain endorsed brands and which will become sub-brands.

Recently, we have seen an increasing number of organizations moving toward a single (master) brand strategy to increase brand recognition and reduce marketing costs. Some endorsed brands or sub-brands may remain depending on their awareness levels, positive associations and differentiation within their product/service categories.

You should devise branding decision rules for all future acquired brands and internally developed products and services. This will ensure a consistent treatment well into the future without having to engage brand consultants for each new situation. The most important consideration is to create a brand architecture that is as simple and cost-effective as possible but that maximizes your target customers’ comprehension of your product/service offering and their intent to purchase your brand or brands rather than competitive brands.

Some brand consultants specialize in this area and can help you understand how all of this works together, making sure the recommended brand architecture works in all media, communication vehicles and situations. The Blake Project’s brand architecture workshop has a robust brand education component to ensure decision makers fully understand the implications of every decision.

Tammy, you can find more on how we think about brand architecture here.

Do you have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

Leave Your Comfort Zone: The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley October 17-18, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants
As in Your marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

Sponsored By: The Brand Architecture Workshop

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Architecture Branding: Just Ask...

Brand Strategy For Acquired Brands

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Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. This is our reason for being. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Robert, a Vice President of Marketing in Chicago, Illinois who writes…

“The insurance company for which I work recently acquired a much smaller, established company out of state to allow for geographic diversification into new markets. We don’t want to immediately rebrand everything to the parent company brand, but also don’t plan to keep using the acquired company’s brand as a DBA name much beyond a transition period that allows agents and policyholders to get used to the new company brand. Are there some broad strategies or rules of thumb about how and how quickly to morph from one brand to another?”

Thanks for your question Robert. Assuming you have already made the decision to transition all acquisitions to your brand’s name, the key thing is to communicate each transition in a way that the acquired brand’s target audiences have heard about the transition at least 7 to 12 times before it is fully executed. In this way, they will associate the new name and identity with the former name and identity.

This can be accomplished through communication or by that and linking the two names/identities for a period of time. For instance, you can render the acquired brand as a sub-brand of your brand or it can be endorsed by your brand for perhaps a year or two before the acquired brand is dropped and replaced by your brand. On the side of caution, I would also explore any associations the acquired brand’s target audiences have with your brand’s name/identity just in case there are any negative or confusing associations that need to be addressed prior to the transition.

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