What Is Brand Architecture

[+Examples]

When it comes to building a brand, few terms are revered and sought after more than clarity.

Initially clarity is focused on the position and messaging though as some brands grow, clarity of structure becomes critical, and that’s where brand architecture takes centre stage.

Brand architecture helps brands to organise and structure a framework to allow for independent brand equity, enhanced focus and highly targeted communication.

In this article we’re breaking down what brand architecture is and how you can leverage it to construct multiple brands to maximise structured growth.

brand architecture header
brand architecture header

When it comes to building a brand, few terms are revered and sought after more than clarity.

Initially clarity is focused on the position and messaging though as some brands grow, clarity of structure becomes critical, and that’s where brand architecture takes centre stage.

Brand architecture helps brands to organise and structure a framework to allow for independent brand equity, enhanced focus and highly targeted communication.

In this article we’re breaking down what brand architecture is and how you can leverage it to construct multiple brands to maximise structured growth.

What Is Brand Architecture
[The Video Breakdown]

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What Is Brand Architecture?

brand architecture blueprint

Brand architecture is the discipline and technique used by brand strategists to organise and structure a variety of subdivisions of a master brand.

These sub-divisions can come in the form of products, services, sections or entire companies with their own individual offerings.

The architecture of the brand illustrates how the sub-brands of a master brand are organised and the relationship they have with one another and the master brand itself.

Brand Architecture Definition

Brand architecture can be distilled and defined as:

The structure of brands within an organisational entity

Think of brand architecture as the organisational chart of brands.

Instead of structurally positioning personnel of the organisation, the chart structurally positions brands of the organisation.

How Brand Architecture Fosters Growth

The vast majority of businesses present their products, services and offerings under a single entity and in most cases this structure is effective.

A growing brand however, often coincides with a growing suite of products, services and offerings, which broaden the target audience which in turn, dilutes the message.

As the suite of offers grows and the audience expands, more specified segments of the growing audience emerge providing an opportunity for the brand to speak more directly and more specifically to each segment.

Brand Architecture division

A continuation of the existing structure in this case would result in untailored messaging, overlooked segments and unfocused positioning.

Using brand architecture however, would allow for sub-brands to emerge to meet the emerging market segments, speak more directly to them and grow more intimate relationships and brand equity independent of the master brand.

Brand architecture therefore fosters growth for growing brands.

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The Benefits Of An Architectural Structure

brand architecture framework

The term “brand architecture” can be daunting and you might feel that it only really exists for the giant brands of the world such as Apple or Unilever.

The truth however, is that many small to medium businesses can also reap the benefits of structural organisation which flows down to performance.

Small, medium or large, the benefits of a solid framework are many.

Focused Target Audience

Segmenting broad audiences into smaller segments allows for hyper-targeted communication.

Brands that have the capability to speak directly to their audience in a way that makes them feel understood, earn trust and affection from their followers.

Marketing Efficiency

brand architecture creatives

Leveraging a more focused audience increases the cost effectiveness of marketing as audiences have more attention to offer brands with highly tailored messaging.

The opportunities that exist for cross promoting between brands further increases efficiency and effectiveness.

Clarity Of Position

A brand with multiple products, services, divisions and companies that don’t leverage brand architecture find it increasingly difficult to occupy a distinct place in the mind of their audience.

The broader the brands offering and audience, the less defined their position and ultimately the more likely they are to become insignificant.

Leadership Conviction

brand architecture inspiration

As a brand grows, it can become increasingly difficult to see the forest for the trees.

A clearly illustrated brand architecture sets the scene and illuminates the framework on which the broader business in being constructed.

This clarity not only helps with confidence and conviction, it also supports decision-making and the long-term vision.

Enhanced Brand Awareness

brand architecture billboards

Products, services, divisions and companies that remain under a single entity, are entirely reliant on that entity for brand awareness.

Even if brand awareness of that entity is high, that doesn’t always translate to high awareness the sub-divisions of the organisation.

With brand architecture, each sub-division has an opportunity to stake a claim for its own brand awareness with specified messaging talking to specific strengths, benefits and outcomes.

Traction in the market therefore is either less dependent on or entirely independent of the master brand.

Develop & Defend Brand Equity

brand architecture apple

Brand equity is the value of the brand derived from consumer perception.

With each sub-division boasting its own brand, each has the opportunity to shape their specific customers’ perceptions and ultimately grow it’s own brand equity.

Brand Architecture Models & Frameworks

Brand architecture tends to fall into one of four specific structures, which are:

Branded House

House Of Brands

Endorsed Brands

Hybrid Brands

Let’s dive deeper shall we?

Branded House

A branded house structure is most common when a master brand has well defined product or service offerings that are tightly related to how the audience consumes the brands’ offerings.

The structure of the brand names and identity design of the sub-brands are usually a derivative of the master brand making it’s messaging and appearance feel and sound distinctly familiar.

brand architecture base identical

The branded house architectural structure leverages the often well-established brand equity, awareness, association and customer loyalty.

In this case the consumer will happily adopt a sub-brand without question, due to the relationship and trust built by the master brand.

Branded house examples include household names such as:

Apple

FedEx

Virgin

Coca-Cola

Google

House Of Brands

While a branded house contains a collection of sub brands all deriving from the master brand in terms or position, identity and messaging, a house of brands is a little different.

In this architectural structure, the master brand, which operates primarily from an organisational and investment point of view, houses a suite of distinctly different brands all operating independently of one another.

Master brands operating under such structures often have a well-diversified target audience across multiple industries, while remaining relatively unknown to consumers.

brand architecture base swiss knife

These audiences are served through multiple brands offering products and services across a wide range if industries and sub industries though the vast majority of consumers are completely unaware of any brand relationships.

The main benefit of this structure is in the independence and flexibility the sub-brands enjoy.

Essentially, they aren’t tied to the position, appearance or messaging of the master brand and can address it’s audience with bespoke communication.

House of brand examples include:

P&G

Unilever

General Motors

Newell

Endorsed Brands

brand architecture endorse

The endorsed brand architecture approach is a halfway point between the house of brand and the branded house structures.

In this setup, you have a sub-brand is endorsed by the master brand with a reference to that brand throughout their communication.

This allows the sub-brands more flexibility than the branded house structure in terms of its positioning, appearance and messaging while still leveraging the benefit of the master brand’s equity through the endorsement.

Essentially, the sub-brand establishes itself in its own world while consistently and publicly holding the hand of its master brand.

Endorsed brand examples include:

Nestle Kitkat

Sony Playstation

Polo by Ralph Lauren

Marriot Hotels

Hybrid Brands

brand architecture hybrid

The Hybrid Brands structure is an emerging trend set by modern brands, which is all about subtlety.

In this structure, sub-brands subtly reference the master brand without overly referencing its name or appearance.

In essence, the sub-brands follow the same “style” of the parent brand in a very obvious way (without being the same) so the sub-brands display a distinct resemblance to the point that it “feels like” the parent brand.

Google (a brand owned by Alphabet) is the best example of a hybrid with its sub-brands including

Chrome

Ad Sense

Analytics

Hangouts

Maps

Each of these sub-brands uses the Google colour palette and/or clean graphic style and without over referencing the master brand, still very much “feels like” a Google brand.

Brand Architecture Examples

brand architecture structures

Apple Brand Architecture Example
[Branded House]

Brand Architecture apple structure

Apple is without a doubt the most recognised example of a branded house.

Every one of Apples products is separately branded including:

iMac

MacBook Pro

iWatch

iPhone

While some might argue that these aren’t separate brands, simply products of a single brand, each one is carefully and meticulously named and branded separately while adhering to very rigid guidelines.

Each of Apples sub-brands enjoys access to the brand equity Apple has amassed over the years, while attempting to establish itself in the market.

Unilever Brand Architecture Example
[House Of Brands]

Unilever is one of the biggest and most well-known examples of a house of brands and although most consumers recognise their sub-brands, the vast majority don’t know the Unilever brand.

That’s because the House Of Brands structure offers the freedom of sub-brands to build their own brand equity without reference to the master brand.

Unilever owns over 400 sub-brands including:

Dove

Lynx

Lipton

Ben & Jerry’s

Flora

Each one of these brands has earned their own trust and brand equity by speaking directly to who their consumers are and what they care about which would not be possible under any other structure of ownership.

Over To You

Brand architecture is often a topic aligned with brand growth though when considering the vision of the brand and projected growth, establishing a structure for growth is worth considering.

For new brands, this may come in the form of splintered products or services that are named and developed with growth in mind.

Either way, if you’re a brand strategist or you have your hands on a brand that you expect to grow, consider implementing a structure and framework for brand growth.

I’d love to hear from you about your experience or challenges when it comes to brand architecture.

Let me know in the comments now!