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Branding experts from Cheadle Hulme-based creative agency, Dawn, explain brand architecture and how different products can integrate into an overarching brand.
Brand architecture, put simply, is how an organisation is structured. How each sub-brand, product or service relates to the overarching brand. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of brand architecture, its importance in marketing strategies, and the different types of brand architecture models.
What exactly is brand architecture?
If you have more than one product or service offering, you need to know your brand architecture. It will determine how each of the sub-brands and their individual identities relate to one another, how they’re structured, and how they integrate into the overall brand system.
It’s usually the first thing we visit in our brand workshops when undertaking a rebranding or repositioning project, as it drives decisions made further down the line. Establishing your architecture early on future-proofs the brand so you know exactly how a new product or service will fit into your existing brand.
Why is brand architecture is important for marketers to know?
Well, it lets them know how much or little to differentiate a brand, and when a brand may need to be aligned to another within the structure. For example, the marketing director of Virgin Money knows, due to the brand architecture, that the way an additional brand being added to the portfolio would portray itself needs to be similar to other Virgin brands. There would be a sense of cohesion and unity to the marketing, alongside Virgin Airlines and Virgin Holidays. Whereas someone working on a brand under a different architecture may be able to approach the marketing in a different way, as all brands under the umbrella may be completely separate to one another.
A couple of key concepts
Before we go any further, it’s worth understanding a couple of concepts: the master brand and a brand extension. And the difference between a brand extension and a line extension.
The master brand represents the top-level brand that encompasses all the other branded products and services within an organisation. If you’ve heard of the term “umbrella company”, or the “parent company”, a master brand is exactly that. It serves as the primary identifier and carrier of the overall brand identity. The “main” company, if you will. An example of a master brand is Procter & Gamble (P&G), which falls under the House of Brands architecture model. P&G owns a diverse portfolio of famous brands like Gillette, Ariel, Tide (sold mostly in the USA), Tampax and Pantene, each with its own distinct brand identity and target audience. Other examples of master brands are L’Oréal, COTY, Shisedo, Nestlé, and Unilever.
Brand extension happens when a recognised brand introduces a new product or service that expands beyond its existing offerings. A completely different product or service. For example, P&G’s brand extensions include a variety of different types of products, ranging from laundry detergent (Ariel/Tide) to razors (Gillette) and shampoo (Pantene). Unilever’s brand extensions are varied too, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to Domestos bleach.
Brand extension vs line extension
A line extension for Coca Cola would be binging out a chocolate flavoured Coke drink. Ignore the fact that that sounds absolutely vile for a second, and understand that this would be a new product in an existing category. Think Oreo mint flavour, Oreo birthday cake flavour. They’re all line extensions.
A brand extension, as we’ve discussed, is when an existing brand offers a new product in a product category the brand has never competed in. This would be like Coca Cola bringing out an aftershave. Or Oreo bringing out a moisturiser. Ok that one actually sounds good.