Brand architecture can have a big impact on the success of your company as a whole. Even if each individual brand under your umbrella (or in your brand house) is impeccable, a broken brand architecture can bring the whole thing tumbling down. Fortunately, the signs of a brand architecture problem are fairly easy to identify if you know what you’re looking for.
To start, we should lay a foundation and explain exactly what we mean when we say “brand architecture.”
Brand Architecture is a clear hierarchy of the services and products a corporate brand offers and the relationships that exist between them. There are four main types of brand architecture: monolithic (also known as a branded house), endorsed, segmented (also known as a house of brands), and hybrid. We cover the details behind each of these different brand architecture strategies here.
If you asked, would your customers (or even your brand-segmented sales team), be able to tell you the name of the master brand behind their favorite products? If not, you may have a brand architecture problem. Or, maybe, there’s confusion about which of the many brands under your umbrella resides at the top of the pyramid. Lack of a clear hierarchy perplexes your customers and muddies their experience with your brand.
One of the most common ways our clients realize they have a brand architecture problem is when they start the process of naming a new product or service. It becomes overly complex and there’s no clear way to group the sub-brands together. Maybe you’re finding it impossible to follow the previously established naming framework. Or maybe you don’t even have an established naming framework. If you keep hitting walls in the naming process, it’s probably time to clean up your brand architecture.
If you’ve worked hard to develop a wide breadth of products and services designed to help your customers in a variety of ways, it can be frustrating when they’re only aware of one or two pieces of your offering. That doesn’t mean you should panic and start sending them a slew of emails packed with details of your full product or service list. Consider how your brand architecture might be blocking the free exchange of information between brands, and take steps to remove the blockers.
This is really another symptom of the same brand architecture problem discussed in number three. If your brand architecture fails to make a connection between all your related products and services, you’ll have to build brand equity from the ground up every time your sales team wants to introduce another solution to the mix. Without the reassurance of a familiar brand relationship, cross-selling between brands becomes an uphill battle.
On the flip side, you might have multiple well-known brands that accomplish essentially the same thing, creating an environment where each brand starts cannibalizing sales from the others. This symptom tends to arise after companies go through a series of acquisitions. Often the purpose of the acquisition is to expand into new territories while leveraging existing competencies. It’s a great business strategy, but it can create issues if you don’t also evaluate your branding strategy in the process.
Another common symptom of brand architecture issues resulting from a series of mergers and acquisitions is a set of completely independent logos. If your brands make no visual sense, it’s likely the architecture doesn’t make any sense to your clients or customers. Sometimes, this is the result of expanding into distinctive territories (like the Unilever or Alphabet examples). But, if you’re going after the same or similar audiences, you should consider tidying things up.
If this list read like your business diary (that’s a thing, right?), know that all is not lost. It simply means it’s time to take a step back to evaluate your existing brand architecture—or lack thereof—and start developing a brand strategy that works for your individual brands. It can seem like a daunting task, but, in the long run, it will make things easier for everyone (and every brand) in your organization.
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