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What is Brand Architecture?

Brand architecture isn’t just the structure of your brand - it’s an integrated system made up of names, visual content, and narratives that help to inform how consumers perceive your company. Generally, the need for brand architecture increases as a company grows or acquires subsidiaries, but even small organizations can benefit from an awareness of how parts of their brand are communicated to the publicon the whole. To better understand the importance of brand architecture, let’s take a look at three common examples.

The Branded House

In this type of brand architecture, a parent brand runs the show. All sub-brands typically share the parent name with an added qualifier to explain what each sub-brand does. For example, in the case of parent brand FedEx, the corporation has several sub-brands, including FedEx Office, FedEx Freight, FedEx Express, and several others. This naming structure signals each sub-brand’s function in relation to the parent brand, allowing customers to choose the option that best fits their needs without having to seek solutions at, say, one of FedEx’s competitors instead.

How might the Branded House model be relevant for smaller brands, though? Consider Sara Mosele Interiors, a boutique interior design firm that has a profitable eCommerce shop, in addition to the design consultation services offered. Clients come to Sara Mosele, first and foremost, for her design expertise - however, some of those clients may very well end up purchasing items from Mosele’s online store in the process. As a result, Sara Mosele's e-shop functions almost like a sub-brand in this regard.

The House of Brands

The House of Brands is essentially the opposite of the Branded House model, consisting of one parent brand with sub-brands that don’t overtly share the parent brand’s name or visual narrative. The parent brand operates incognito in the background, allowing the spotlight to shine on each individual sub-brand. One noteworthy example of a well-known House of Brands is Proctor & Gamble, one of the largest parent brands in the world with a diverse group of subsidiaries such as Pepto Bismol, Tide, Herbal Essences, and many more.

The House of Brands model, however, is not for all companies, and typically only works for mid-to-large sized corporations. This is due to the fact that, under a House of Brands, the parent brand operates like a holding company for the various sub-brands included in that company’s portfolio, managing each brand as though it were a separate entity. Furthermore, each individual brand in a House of Brands system requires separate advertising and marketing, with opportunities for cross-promotion being few and far between.

The Endorsed Brand

The Endorsed Brand, on the other hand, uses the parent brand’s name for all of its messaging, although consumers might not intuitively associate that parent brand with its various subsidiaries. For example, Nabisco’s name and visual identity is consistent with its sub-brands, proudly featuring this parent brand's name on all of the companies' packaging. That said, Nabisco customers almost aways prefer to allude to Nabisco's sub-brands when referring to a specific product. So, even though Nabisco is undoubtedly an established, household name in the U.S., consumers typically ask for “Oreos” or “Ginger Snaps” when looking for a specific type of cookie made by this company, rather than calling them, “Nabisco Oreos” or “Nabisco Ginger Snaps”.

Thoughtful brand architecture can help clarify your brand’s messaging and positioning to better target specific communities while getting the most out of your marketing budget, as well. It can help boost brand awareness and lead to valuable conversions, allowing your company to reach broader, more diverse audiences, many of whom may already be fans of one of your organization’s sub-brands.

So, which type of brand architecture is right for your brand? Regardless of your company’s size, choosing the right brand architecture can be absolutely crucial to building a strong reputation for your organization. The good news is, there’s certainly no “one size fits all” approach, and with careful analysis and a well-informed outside perspective, your company can develop a defined strategy for choosing the right type of brand architecture that helps to ensure the future growth and success of your company.


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