Brand architecture – what’s it all about?
Brand architecture is jargon in design which simply means a brand framework (or system). It is created to show how hierarchy of services and products fit within a business. This is important to bring consistency, visual and verbal order, thought and intention to disparate elements to help organisations grow, make decisions and market effectively. Any company which is growing, merging or going in a new direction needs to evaluate its brand architecture strategy which will support future growth. Most large companies that sell products have a mixture of strategies.
A successful brand architecture should communicate clearly to an audience what each product, service or sub brand stands for, it’s point of view, and who it is for. There are three main types of brand architecture:
These are characterised by a strong, single master brand. Customers choose on brand loyalty, features and benefits matter less than the brand promise. Think Google, Apple, Fedex and Virgin.
House of Brands
These are characterised by a series of well known consumer brands. The name of the parent may be invisible or irrelevant to the consumer, and known only to the stakeholders. Think of Kraft Food, Unilever and Procter and Gamble.
A mixture of the two can also be used. Think Coca Cola, they have their own branded house but they also own other products such as Sprite, which stands as its own brand.
A shared framework for building and managing your organisation helps to manage and develop clear products and services under one brand. Simple criteria and process inform whether or not you brand sub brands/products under the same master brand or whether you build individual sub-brands; and how you integrate a brand into the bigger organisational picture.
Keep it simple, opt for something that makes the most sense to the audience. Multiple sub brands brands is a time consuming process to manage. Does your brand have the budget, team and resources to support multiple sub brands or the resources for building one powerful brand? Maintaining the status quo or establishing a new normal takes a solid strategy, discipline and time. The right model helps you lay the foundational criteria and the tools that will help your team enact that vision.
Next, figure out how your organisations parts and pieces are organised, related and communicated. Tightly managed brands have a visual and verbal strategy that acts as a North Star for decisions. Brands use these visual and verbal strategies to help external audiences and customers better recognise and understand the organisation. An endorsed visual and verbal strategy makes the creation, integration and management of brands more efficient.
Here are some tips to ensure you are building a solid, flexible and future-proof frame work:
• Make sure the structure is coherent – it must make sense from the outside in. Who is it being created for? Is it relevant? Be honest, and be practical.
• What is your vision? Ask strategic questions, this should be the base of all your decisions for the brand framework option you choose to work with.
• Who are your audience(s)? This question should drive everything you do. It is not a one time question, the world changes, audiences change, and should always be reviewed. Make sure the brand framework makes sense to them.
• Take your time – make sure you have time scheduled for this, and involve all stakeholders from the start.
• Keep it simple – if you don’t keep it simple it will be confusing externally. Don’t overcomplicate.
• How many brands do you have? Each one must have it’s own distinct point of view. Don’t overcomplicate it. Are they actually brands, or are they products or services?
We have worked on many projects where we have reviewed brand architecture both across product and services for clients such as Newcastle Carers, Lankelly Chase and Sphera. It is crucial this is solidified before any design work begins.