Brand Architecture: Why Is It So Important?

Brands & Branding

There are numerous definitions that attempt to define a “Brand”.
A brand can be defined simply as the relationship that exists between consumer and a given entity – a product, a service, even an individual (think about well-known celebrities and popular business icons that we have “relationships” with).

As with most relationships, brand relationships have 2 key properties:

1) A brand relationship is an intangible one
2) It is a relationship that is constantly evolving and changing.

Brand Architecture – Defining The Relationship Context
An important aspect pertaining to brands, is brand “architecture” – where a branded entity that has multiple relationship “tiers” needs to be contextualized and defined in the mind of a prospect. In cases where multiple brand relationships occur, a clearly defined architecture is vital for ensuring clarity of brand relationship.

Why Is Brand Architecture So Important?
Consumers build brand relationships based on “fragments” that they consume or “experience” over time.

Today, consumers are faced with literally countless fragments of branded “messages”. Media and other brand communication channels have also exploded with consumers similarly being bombarded  with hundreds – if not thousands – of different communication fragments  daily.

Only brands that have a clearly defined positioning on a solid brand platform have a chance of capturing the attention or interest of consumers. Brands that are not clearly defined, or have a “confused” architecture run the risk of being potentially ignored – or “tuned out”.

Brand Architecture Example – VW
A good way to illustrate brand architecture is is to use a brand that we all know well: VW (Volkswagen).

Volkswagen is a well established and respected manufacturer of motor-vehicles with numerous “sub-branded” product ranges(Golf, Jetta, Polo etc). Importantly, the “primary relationship” lies with the individual product “sub-brands” – i.e. when viewing a VW Golf, we instinctively think of a “Golf” first, not VW  – this being the primary relationship. We know, that Golf is “delivered” by VW, however the VW brand is a secondary relationship – the “Masterbrand” for the “family” of brands within the VW stable – providing the context and overall set of brand values from which each respective “Sub-brand” can benefit.

Importantly, the VW brand also benefits from the values of the collective sub-brands – thus the relationship between Masterbrand/Sub-Brand works both ways.
Brand Architecture – 3 Points To Consider
  1. It Must Work for All The Full Portfolio
    The architecture solution must provide a suitable platform that takes cognissance of all branded entities within the portfolio. Depending on the architecture model, each brand entity must retain its own individual characteristics, whilst also co-existing within the overall brand framework
  2. It Must Work for Current Brands…as Well as Future Brands
    The architecture solution must not only work for the current brand portfolio, but also for potential new brands that may be developed in the future. When considering the brand value-set, thought must also be given to where the organisation is going…
  3. It Must Become a “Stake in The Ground”
    Sometimes new business opportunities arise that fall outside the parameters of the brand values – creating a classic conflict between “Brand Integrity” Vs Commercial reality. However, branding is as important as any other component in the “business mix”.
    Should an opportunity arise that places a brand outside the scope of the existing brand architecture, a fresh branding model/strategy should be considered for the opportunity.

Your “Next Best Move” 

The good place to start is an internal Brand Workshop – designed to assess the current branding model and architecture as well as to plan the best path forward. A Brand Workshop should ultimately interrogate all aspects related to the brand – defining the best branding model and brand value set, as well as looking at the various sub-brands or separate branded offerings and how these should best be treated – both individually…as well as collectively.

About The Author:

Ted Frazer runs a Branding & Marketing consultancy that specialises in providing practical consulting solutions.

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