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Brand Architecture and Why it Matters

If you are starting a new business or your existing business is growing, it may be time to think about brand architecture.

Establishing a brand’s architecture is especially helpful when there are multiple sub-brands associated with a larger brand. Brand architecture is like roadmap to communicate internally and externally how those brands work together and/or stand alone. 

The benefit of establishing this structure is that it gives your company, its employees and its customers a clear picture of how to understand your brands. It eliminates chaos, internally and externally. Also, it provides guidance about how to cross promote products and it helps to steer the conversation about the business and its offerings. 

When we start working with clients, this is one of the conversations we have early on. Examining your overall business goals can help you decide which type of brand architecture model is right for your business. Using the decision tree (pictured below), we walk clients through an exercise that will help determine which type of model is right for them. In this post, we will look at the different types of branch architecture models to help you get started making decisions about your business.

Branded House

A branded house is a type of brand architecture model with one master brand which all businesses, products and services offered by the company fall under.

The main brand in a branded house is supported and strengthened by all of the smaller sub-brands. Each sub-brand should be easily identifiable as part of the main brand.

The danger in this type of brand architecture is that if one sub-brand flops or falters, it can affect the other sub-brands and main brand.

FedEx is a branded house. Its sub-brands are hyper-connected. The offerings are similar and their identities mirror their offerings in similarity. These sub-brand identities only differ in color and descriptive tag. If you were to see one of these sub-brands standing alone, even if you weren’t familiar with it, you would know that it is part of the larger FedEx company.

Branded House

House of Brands

A house of brands is the opposite of a branded house. In this type of brand architecture, there is a master brand that is often less well-known than its individual sub-brands. This keeps the sub-brands siloed off from one another, allowing each to have a more defined identity of its own. It also allows for a master brand to have competing brands.

You are likely familiar with Skittles and M&Ms. Mars is the larger brand that owns those sub-brands as well as Snickers, Milky Way, Extra gum, Twix and other types of candy.

While a house of brands gives an identity to its individual brands, by siloing off individual brands it also does not let the sub-brands benefit from having a relationship with one another. If you were a fan of Snickers but didn’t know that Milky Way was also a Mars candy bar, you might view it as a competitor that you would not try.

House of Brands- Mars Example

Endorsed Brand

An endorsed brand falls in the middle of the previous two. In this type of brand architecture, the sub-brands are given separate identities and are more or less associated with the master brand. This allows a brand to determine based on each sub-brand how much they are associated with the master brand.

Intuit is an endorsed brand. It is clear that Intuit is the parent company but each of the three sub-brands (Mint, Quickbooks and TurboTax) have their own identities and offerings.

Endorsed Brand- Intuit example

Hybrid Model

In the hybrid brand architecture, some sub-brands have more of a connection and obvious relation to the parent brand than others. Not all sub-brands share the same level of association with the parent brand.

Marriott is a type of hybrid brand. Some of the Marriott sub-brands have “Marriott” in the name, like Residence Inn Marriott and Courtyard Marriott. Some do not, like Westin Hotels & Resorts, which is also a sub-brand of Marriott Hotels, Resorts and Suites.

Marriot Bonvoy Hybrid Brand

Choosing your model

When you are deciding which model is right for your company, there are some things to consider.

  • Build your core brand first. Your main brand is the one you plan to build over time. Make it your main priority.
  • Don’t create a new brand if an existing brand can be used. Spreading yourself too thin by creating too many brands can dilute, confuse and create a house of weak brands.
  • All of your sub-brands should share similar goals and values. This will help to keep your master brand on track and headed in a clear direction towards the goals you’ve identified for your company.
  • Remember that brand architecture is externally facing, so ask yourself what makes the most sense through the lens of customer experience.

At Branding Africa, we use a branding process that helps define the company’s values, goals, “why” and more. This helps steer brands to make decisions. If you want to learn more about determining which model of brand architecture your company should use, we want to talk to you.

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