A Case for Brand Architecture

Mitsubishi has more than 65 brand names. BMW has one.

Both are valid brand architectures, and the trick is to leverage the brand without diluting it.

Sooner or later, aggressive growth companies are faced with the decision of building their brand architecture. Which is better? A branded house? Or, a house of brands? And how is each brand related to, differentiated from, reinforced with and connected to other sub-brands and the parent brand?

Brand metrics such as awareness, value, uniqueness, extension, understanding and relevance must be considered. And then there needs to be alignment with the corporate strategy and long-range vision. A successful brand architecture will minimize barriers of entry for future brands and leverage the value of the parent brand.

Failing to build a well thought out brand architecture places the integrity of all brands at risk.

Brand architecture can be defined as a logical system of organizing and naming parent brands and sub-brands to leverage the value of each, and to form a set of expectations.

When designing your brand architecture, you must build one that minimizes barriers of entry, one that allows for brand extensions and most importantly, one that provides clarity to employees, customers, investors, channel partners and stakeholders.

The five models include:

1. Monolithic: Using a single name across all products and servies offered by the parent brand.

2. Endorsed: Sub-brands are linked to the parent brand by verbal and visual endorsement. (think 3M)

3. Product: Each product is individually branded, but the parent brand receives little or no prominence. (think Altria)

4. Umbrella: A brand name used to span across a wide range of sub-brands. (think FedEx)

5. Hybrid: Incorporates more than one brand system for strategic rationale. (think GE)

Choosing the right model will require an intimate understanding of your competitors and customers. And, it will require a deep understanding of who you are, how you’re different and why your company exists because the answers to these questions must drive everything you do.