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Is Your Brand Architecture Built on a Faulty Foundation?

By: Robert Wallace

We’ve been talking a lot about branding these days, and that’s because it’s an incredibly important component to building a solid business. If you’ve been following along, you know brand is more than just asset design, it is business strategy design. That statement couldn’t be more true than when multiple products fall under the umbrella of one brand, or when multiple “brands” make up one overarching company.

How do you know which route to go? Do you create multiple brands or create one brand with several product offerings? Building a solid brand architecture will uncover the best plan of action to take.

Aligning with the right model

There numerous ways to approach your brand architecture, it truly boils down to business goals, and understanding the market and your customers. A couple of years ago, Activiste produced a guide based on models enterprise-level brands have followed over the years. This can be useful as a starting point. While not comprehensive, the below is a high-level overview of the models in their guide:

  • Masterbrand or Monolithic – product names are extensions to the company name (i.e. BMW, FedEx, Nike, Virgin)
  • Endorsed – individual product brands are linked by an endorsing parent brand. Think Marriott, Nabisco, and TOMS.
  • Individual – in this scenario each product is in effect its own brand. P&G and Unilever are shining examples of this.
  • Hybrid – this is a blend of individual and masterbrand. Coca-Cola Company for example, has multiple individual product brands like Sprite, Dasani, Fanta, etc., but they also have their series of classic Coca-Cola products.

Which model is right for you? It boils down to understanding your customer segments, stakeholders, and your company’s goals and vision. Sometimes the brand architecture models you start out with no longer service your brand as you grow.

If you have or plan to have multiple products or brands, think about where your company is positioned in the market:

  • Who are your customer segments?
  • Do your products target vastly different segments?
  • Do these differing segments want to be associated with one another. For instance, if Motel 8 were to come out with a luxury resort brand, that target clientele won’t want to be associated with staying at a Motel 8. In this scenario, “Motel 8” as the masterbrand would be the best architecture model to follow.
  • Do consumers know your products by name or function? Have any of your products or brand become verbs or product descriptors? (i.e. Google, Kleenex, Band-Aid) If you already achieved that kind of status with your product brands, your architecture model may already be carved out for you. If not, do you want to achieve that status? Do you want to become a generic household name for all other copycat products that may follow?

Find and leverage synergies

If you have several products or plan to, think about how they interact with one another. Do they build off each other or support the customer at varying points in their lifecycle?

For instance, Apple has identified points of synergy and has brilliantly branded the lowercase “i” across its line of product. Many early adopters dip their toe into the Apple brand with a single iMac or iPad, and soon find themselves with an iWatch, iPhone, and the list goes on. Apple chose this route because all of their products are intended to work seamlessly with one another.

Another way to think about brand synergy is when the products collectively benefit one another. In addition to Apple, Dell has also done this with their line of PCs, monitors, printers, etc. Each presents an opportunity to upsell and cross sell because they are synergistic.

We are starting to see early signs of Uber doing this as they explore new territories. We’ve come to know, like and trust the Uber brand and there’s a certain amount of equity that brand has amassed, so it makes sense for them to leverage it as they expand into new areas.

It goes back to knowing your customer segments and taking assessment of your company’s goals. At the end of the day a product portfolio should touch on these key factors:

  • Relevance
  • Clarity
  • Leverage
  • Differentiation
  • Energy

Is your brand or product brands relevant in the mind’s of your customers? Is it clear what you do or offer, or do you regularly hear, “I didn’t know you did that?” Can you leverage synergies across your products. Are your products differentiated enough? Have you differentiated your brand in the market? Are each of the products or brands fueling or energizing the business?

Said another way, how can the parts work together to make the whole stronger?

Learn more about how brands drive revenue:

Written by Robert Wallace

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