Unravelling Brand Architecture and Its Impact: Navigating the Maze

Authored by: Atul Raja: Career Marketer, Leadership Mentor and Growth Strategist

Brand architecture is the logical, strategic, and relational structure of brands within an organizational entity. It allows the consumers to understand and appreciate the breadth and depth of its offerings, create a clear-cut differentiation for internal operations, achieve resource optimization and streamline the structure for any future merger and acquisition. Understanding brand architecture is pivotal to attaining brand clarity and synergy. Let's delve deeper into the four types of brand architecture and their importance.

  1. Branded House – the ‘Monolithic’ Brand Architecture

Occurs when a company uses its corporate brand name for all its products or services. All sub-brands align under the primary brand, leveraging its reputation and brand equity. Monolithic architecture is ideal for brands seeking a strong, unified identity. It allows companies to channel all marketing resources towards promoting a single master brand, reducing marketing complexity and enhancing cost efficiency.

Google uses Monolithic brand architecture. Whether you're using Google Maps, Google Drive, or Google Docs, they all fall under the umbrella of the Google brand. This approach allows Google to maintain brand coherence and consistency across its vast portfolio of digital services.

Similarly, the FedEx brand follows the monolithic structure with sub-brands like FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Office, etc. Each sub-brand carries its unique proposition but remains closely associated with the FedEx brand's overall credibility and trust.

  1. Endorsed – The ‘Hybrid’ Brand Architecture

Occurs where sub-brands have their distinct identity but are still visibly associated with the parent brand. The parent brand lends credibility, while the sub-brand focuses on the specialized offering providing flexibility to cater to diverse market segments without diluting the parent brand's equity. This Hybrid brand structure benefits companies with a wide range of products/services that cater to varying customer needs but still want to maintain a connection with the parent brand.

Marriott is an example of the endorsed brand architecture where the parent company is recognized, but the individual brands like Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Four Points, Sheraton etc., maintain their unique identities. Each brand caters to a distinct market segment, yet each is associated with the reputation, quality, and credibility of the parent brand, Marriott.

  1. House of Brands – the Pluralistic Brand Architecture

Occurs when the parent company's brand operates in the background, and individual brands take the limelight. Each brand has its identity, disconnected from the other brands under the same corporate entity. This architecture benefits companies with diverse offerings that appeal to varied customer segments. It allows them to target markets without brand overlap, as each sub-brand can adopt a unique market position.

Proctor & Gamble (P&G)is a classic example of the pluralistic architecture with multiple independent brands such as Tide, Pampers, and Crest, each having its own identity, target market, and marketing strategy. Consumers often aren't even aware that these brands belong to P&G, reflecting the company's focus on building strong individual brands.

  1. Sub Brand Architecture

In this architecture, the sub-brands closely leverage the parent brand while benefiting from the parent brand equity and recall. Sub-brands tie back to the parent brand’s qualities, values, and message while having unique qualities. This benefits the organization in terms of increased brand awareness, improved market share and reduced marketing costs.

Sony is a good example of sub-brand architecture where all its sub-brands, like PlayStation, Bravia, Xperia etc., are successful in their own right, but they also benefit from being associated with the strong Sony master brand

The question arises if there is a ‘fit for all’ brand architecture. The answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. Brand architectures depend on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the business, the target market, and the company's goals. Businesses with a small number of brands and a simple target market may get away with using the House of Brands architecture. Businesses with a large number of brands or a complex target market may need to use a more complex architecture, such as a branded house or a sub-brand architecture.


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