How to develop a brand architecture

Just as every building needs a foundation, every business needs brand architecture. It is the structure that allows you to organize your offers, develop a brand identity and gain brand equity.

The right brand architecture provides clarity around your products or services and influences how your brands and sub-brands relate to each other.

Without this framework, there is no connection between offers, messages and your brand identity. This inconsistency can confuse consumers and dilute the overall brand value. (Think of it as walking through a building where each room has a very different interior design).

To ensure your brand architecture fits your business, this article will share the different brand architecture models, highlight real-world examples, and provide steps for choosing the best structure for your business.

What is Brand Architecture?

Brand architecture is the organizational framework that a company uses to structure its brands, sub-brands and products or services.

The framework helps define both the breadth and depth of a brand, making it easier to develop marketing campaigns, identify growth opportunities, and ensure consumers understand offerings.

brand architecture framework

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Companies use brand architecture to inform internal efforts. It serves as the foundation for the brand identity, style guide and brand story, but it also helps increase efficiency by highlighting opportunities for cross-promotion, brand awareness and mergers and acquisitions.

Brand architecture is not always obvious to consumers, who use it as a way to categorize the business and understand how it meets their needs. For example, people may not know that Alphabet is Google’s parent company. But they have a specific perception of the value of the Google brand and transfer it to products such as Google Sheets, Google Docs or Google Search.

Ultimately, brand architecture aims to bring order to a brand’s offerings and build brand equity. Not all architectures will work for all businesses. So let’s take a look at the options to determine which one is best for your brand.

Brand architecture models

The most common brand architecture models are brand house, house of brands, endorsed brands, and hybrid brands.

brand house

example of brand architecture: masterbrand

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A brand house architecture combines multiple house brands under a single umbrella brand, leveraging the well-established primary brand for equity, brand awareness and customer loyalty. Often private labels are designed to target different audience segments to maximize reach and revenue.

For example, Apple uses in-house brand architecture to create a consistent look across its sub-brands: iPad, iPhone, iMac, Watch, and TV. By relying on Apple’s loyal customer base, sub-brands increase their capital and attract buyers more easily.

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The following companies use brand house architecture:

  • FedEx: FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Office, etc.
  • Virgin: Virgin Mobile, Virgin Pulse, Virgin Money, etc.
  • Hubspot: Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Services Hub, CMS Hub, Operations Hub

House of Brands

example of brand architecture: brand house

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A brand house architecture minimizes the main brand in order to highlight the sub-brands. This structure allows sub-brands to shine on their own as they are not tied to the message, look or positioning of the main brands. But it also increases complexity because each brand has a distinct audience, brand identity, marketing strategy, and equity.

Because of this complexity, companies that use a brand house structure are often large global brands with established equity. While the primary brand may be widely recognized, such as consumer goods company Unilever, it may also be behind the scenes, such as fast food company Yum! Trademarks.

example of brand architecture: brand house

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The following companies use a brand house architecture:

  • Procter & Gamble: Pampers, Tide, Bounty, Bounce, Dawn, Tampax, and more
  • Yum! Brands: KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill
  • GE Appliances: Monogram, Coffee, GE, Profile GE, Haier and Hotpoint
  • Target brands: Aunties Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba Juice, Carvel, etc.
  • PepsiCo: Pepsi, Lays, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Aquafina, Tropicana, etc.

Hybrid brand

example of brand architecture: hybrid brand

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A hybrid brand architecture combines brand house and brand house models. The goal of this structure is for the sub-brands to have similar styles to the main brand while maintaining distinct brand identities.

Companies that use a hybrid architecture may mention the main brand in marketing, but most adopt this model as a way to separate the main brand and sub-brands after rounds of mergers and acquisitions. It’s also a good approach for brands that want to address very different target audiences, like Marriott Bonvoy.

Taking a hybrid approach, the company maintains a diverse portfolio of brands that includes luxury hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton, as well as budget options, such as Residence Inn.

hybrid brand architecture: mariott bonvoy brands

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The following companies use a hybrid approach:

    • Alphabet: Google, Nest, YouTube, Fitbit, Waze and more
  • Microsoft: LinkedIn, Skype, GitHub, Mojang, etc.
  • Amazon: AmazonBasics, Presto!, Mama Bear, AmazonFresh, Zappos and more
  • Levi’s: Levi’s, Dockers, Denizen and Signature by Levi Strauss & Co

Approved brand

example of brand architecture: approved brands

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Another option for brand architecture is the endorsed brand model, which has a main brand and sub-brands that build on an association with it. Each sub-brand benefits from the strength of the others as they all share the same endorsement.

Often, an endorsed mark incorporates the primary brand’s logo and colors. Of course, this allows the sub-brand to leverage the reputation of the main brand to improve brand equity, awareness, and safety.

The approved approach is ideal for companies that use a hybrid approach and want each sub-brand to have its own identity, without separating it from the main brand. Unlike the brand house approach, the endorsed model lets everyone know the main brand behind the products or services. And unlike the brand house approach, an endorsed brand may look or feel different from the primary brand.

brand architecture example: approved brands marriott hotels

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The following brands use an approved approach:

  • Nestle Nescafe
  • Sony Playstation
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
  • Polo by Ralph Lauren

How to develop a brand architecture

Defining brand architecture is one of the first steps a company should take when building a brand, as it lays the foundation for an organized and intuitive brand strategy. Although brand architecture can get complex, with dozens of sub-brands, the right structure can ensure that each brand stays true to its identity.

You can develop a brand architecture for your business in three steps: research, strategy, and application.

1. Research

Strong brands don’t just pick a model and run with it. Conducting research is an essential step in developing brand architecture because it gives you the information you need to organize offerings in a way that makes sense for your business, your customers, and your industry.

The more data, the better. But collecting the following information will give you the information you need to get started.

  • Brand Audit – Brand Loyalty, Brand Awareness, Brand Perception, Brand Value, Brand Assets and Brand Portfolio
  • Market Research – Buyer Personas, Market Segmentation, Product/Service Usage, Pricing, Customer Satisfaction and Competitive Analysis

Before making a decision, it’s wise to review your company’s mission, vision, and values ​​to ensure the brand architecture aligns with business goals.

2. Strategy

With the data in hand, it’s time to design the brand architecture. If you’re revamping an old architecture, this step may require tough decisions about whether to get rid of or sell brands that don’t fit the desired architecture. If you’re starting from scratch, you need to decide how connected you want your current (or future) sub-brands to be to the main brand.

You can test each architecture by seeing what the brand would look like in each approach and creating a list of pros and cons. Maybe the house brand model won’t work because you have several separate brands that can’t be grouped under the parent brand.

When you find a structure that can work, describe the links between the main brands, the sub-brands and the products or services. You need to know how it all works together, whether defining separate brands, designing cross-promotions, or marketing to customers.

Along the way, be sure to consider your available resources (employees, budget, time). Some approaches take more work than others, so you need to choose a brand architecture that matches your current capability as well as your future vision.

3. Application

Choosing a brand architecture is just the beginning of creating an enduring brand that people love. But for the purposes of this article, the last step is to share the finalized structure with your team.

Since brand architecture is part of your brand identity, you can unveil it alongside your overall brand positioning strategy. Be sure to include a clear structure that highlights the relationships between the main brand, sub-brands, and offerings, in addition to any connections between the sub-brands. All team members should understand each brand’s strategic role within the architecture and its relationships with customers.

As your business grows, your brand architecture should change to include any new offerings or brands, whether as a result of a new product launch or an acquisition.

By taking the time to conduct brand research, develop a brand architecture strategy, and share it with your team, you prepare your entire organization to make effective brand decisions that have lasting effect. term on brand equity.

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