top of page
Brand Like a Boss New Background.png
Brand Like a Boss Online Program | Ultrabrand

Think bigger. Brand smarter.

The ultimate strategic toolkit for winning and delivering high-ticket branding projects.

MODULE 14

BRAND ARCHITECTURE

"A brand is not a product or a promise or a feeling. It's the sum of all the experiences you have with a company." - Amir Kassaei

Brand architecture is the way that a brand is structured - it defines the relationship between the parent brand and its sub-brands, and the way that the sub-brands are presented to the market. Essentially, brand architecture is the blueprint for how a company's brands work together to create a cohesive identity in the eyes of its target audience.

 

Brand architecture is important because it ensures that a company's brands are working together in a way that makes sense to customers. It creates clarity and consistency across all of a company's offerings, making it easier for customers to understand what the brand stands for and what they can expect from each of its sub-brands.

 

There are different types of brand architecture that a company may choose to use, such as a branded house, where all products and services are presented under the same brand name, or a house of brands, where each product or service has its own distinct brand identity. The choice of brand architecture will impact the way that customers perceive the brand as a whole, and how they view the individual sub-brands within it.

 

By creating a clear and well-structured brand architecture, a company can ensure that its brands are working together in an optimal way, presenting a consistent message to the market and helping to build brand recognition and loyalty among its target audience. There are many benefits to having a strong brand architecture, such as:

 

  • More clarity: A consistent brand architecture helps customers understand your offer the way it is.

  • More cross-selling: A good brand architecture makes it possible to sell more products or services to the same customer and makes it easier for customers to choose for themselves. 

  • More brand equity: A portfolio of well-performing brands improves focus, drives growth, and adds value to the parent company.

  • More effective marketing: A well-built brand portfolio keeps marketing costs from going to waste and makes marketing and promotion work better. 

  • More robust company culture: Employees work in a well-structured environment and focus on the right priorities.

  • Less brand damage: Brands that have no connection with each other are protected from collateral damage if one fails.

  • More adaptability: In a fast-paced world, change is inevitable, so sub-brands keep the flexibility they need. 

Three Brand Architecture models

Each brand architecture model is a plan for organizing all of your products and services under what we call a master brand that represents a parent company, which runs different brands to sell products and services to different customers at different price points.

 

The more different a sub-brand is from a master brand and has its own brand, the more branding, marketing, and management work it will need. The more a brand is linked to the master brand and looks like it, the more synergies there will be and the less it will cost to manage and market.

 

1) The Branded House

 

The branded house model is used by some of the most powerful and successful businesses. As I said before, it should be your default strategy if you're a small business or just starting out. In this model, your company is the master brand. It also owns one or more sub-brands, which are products or services that are related to the master brand but have their own names and descriptions. The branded house still leaves room for sub-brands to grow and market themselves. But they all work under the same main strategy, brand standards, and branding umbrella.


Advantages of the Branded House

  • Overall, brand equity increases faster as every activity of a sub-brand brings exposure to the master brand.

  • Customers face clear and consistent branding with little to no possibility of confusion. 
Every sub-brand is consistently associated with the qualities of the overarching master brand.

  • It saves money and works well because the parent company only needs one marketing and branding plan. 

Disadvantages of the Branded House

  • Brand damage is a risk, as a problem with one sub-brand might impact the whole portfolio. 

  • A product-centric positioning or a sub-brand that doesn't fit under the master positioning might dilute the master brand and confuse its message. 

  • If the master brand doesn't do well or lacks quality and appeal, the whole portfolio can be hurt. 

  • Conversely, building brand equity if the sub-brands underperform is difficult.

Example: Apple Is a Branded House

Appèle Product Logos.jpeg

2) The House of Brands

 

A house of brands is the opposite of a brand house. In this model, there is no connection between the master brand and the sub-brands. Each sub-brand is positioned, identified, branded, and marketed on its own. Most of the time, the parent company is here for business or investment reasons. A house of brands is the best choice if the master brand is active in different industries at the same time, like cosmetics, pet food, and chocolate bars.

 

Advantages of the House of Brands
 

  • The parent company can reach more people, reach out to different groups of people, and try out different pricing strategies. 

  • The parent company can enter new markets without affecting its other sub-brands.

  • If a sub-brand underperforms or gets a bad reputation, the damage to the parent company's brand image is limited. 

Disadvantages of the House of Brands
 

  • This model is expensive to run as the parent company needs to build each sub-brand from scratch with a distinct brand and marketing efforts.

  • Sub-brands can't rely on a master brand's marketing and branding power, performance, or reputation. They're like sole companies; they offer ordinary commodities without building their own brand.

  • The master brand is potentially confusing, and consumers hardly know what it stands for (which is the whole point, though).

 

Example: Procter & Gamble Is a House of Brands

procter-products-2014.jpg

3) The Blended House
 

 

The Blended House is a term for different hybrid models that fall somewhere between the Branded House and the House of Brands. Hybrid brand architectures combine parts of both the brand house and the house of brands to give each sub-brand the most benefit through endorsement, sponsorship, or using the master brand as an ingredient.

 

Brand endorsements link the sub-brands to the master brand to get a certain benefit. This is different from when the sub-brands were completely separate. Sub-brands have their own promises, but they work quietly with the main brand to take advantage of its reputation or other ingredients.

 

Advantages of the Blended House
 

  • The parent company gets the best of both worlds.

  • It has the same flexibility as a house of brands when it comes to brand damage control, trying out new products, and marketing... 

  • and at the same time takes advantage of how well-known the master brand is to help launch sub-brands in new market segments. 

 

Disadvantages of the Blended House
 

  • Blended houses have the problems of both the branded house and the house of brands. For example, the branded house is less flexible and puts the parent company's reputation at risk. The house of brands costs more and takes more time to manage. 

  • As some sub-brands are linked to each other and others are not, the model can confuse customers and make it hard to build trust. 

  • In a hybrid model, managing a brand and having interactions with it can quickly become expensive and hard to do. 

 

Example: Toyota is Blended House

287-2878498_toyota-scion-and-lexus.png

Craft your Brand Architecture

This task CANNOT be performed with A.I.

 

Today, you'll choose the brand architecture that will work best for your business. This task may be the hardest one you have to do for this branding project, but it's worth it. Be sure to use logic, and don't let the idea of being in charge of a large number of different brands convince you to do so if you don't have to. 

 

Again, a branded house should always be the template that you start with. 

 

The main goal of any brand architecture is to make things as simple as possible. Sometimes it's cheaper to get rid of a sub-brand that's causing problems or incurring extra costs than to pay for a rebrand and market it separately from the main brand.

Don't settle for the status quo, question it in light of what you know now. Your wallet, your schedule, and the number of brand management decisions you'll have to make in the future will thank you for it. 

Today's tutorial will be a bit longer than the ones in the previous modules because I'm trying to make a hard task easy for you. And unfortunately, AI isn’t able to work on brand architecture (yet, but I'm working on it.) 

 

So buckle up and let's get started.

Preliminary questions

Before choosing a model for the future, you need to look at your current situation and figure out why it is the way it is and if it is still valid. Remember that your brand architecture should be based on how clear you want to be in the eyes of your customers, not on organizational or political goals.

Does your present Brand Architecture reflect your functional organization?

If the answer is yes, know that this is one of the most common mistakes businesses make, and be ready to rethink your brand architecture!

Does your present Brand Architecture reflect your business model?

Whether you're in B2C or B2B, or both, if you work in very different markets (like financial consulting, wholesale, and a conference center), you might want to use a model with separate brands. On the other hand, be ready to unify your brand architecture if your market is united around the idea your master brand stands for, or if you work in market segments that make sense if unified. 

Did you create many brands to look bigger or offer more choice?

This another common mistake businesses do. You do not need to create a brand every time you create a product or service. Moreover, marketing many brands does not make your company look big, it simply makes it more complex and more costly to manage.

Are there conflicts in your sales channels?

One of the main reasons to choose a strict division or introduce distinct brands in your brand portfolio is to avoid sales channel conflicts. Keep in mind, though, that if you want to make a new, different brand, you have to go through the steps in this workbook again. Make sure you can't solve these issues in another way first.

Did you create distinct brands because your positioning is too narrow / specific?

Before you create a lot of different brands or try to justify the existence of the ones you already have, think about your new positioning and reevaluate how your products and services fit under this new umbrella. Instead of creating more brands, it's often better to widen what the master brand stands for to include all products and services. This improves clarity and marketing efficiency, simplifies brand management, and saves costs

I hope that answering these preliminary questions has made you aware of your current brand alignment situation, and ideas of the possible solutions. Now let's organize your brand portfolio to gain the marketing efficiency you're looking for, and the clarity you want in the eyes of your customers.

Strategy

Brand Architecture in 8 simple steps

  1. Download my Brand Architecture Matrix and reproduce it on a table in front of you as follows:
     

  2. Clear your table and write the names of the products, services, and sub-brands on Post-It® stickers. Use one sticker per product.
     

  3. Next, take a larger piece of paper and write the name of your present master brand on it. Take a second piece of paper and write “a different master brand" on it. 
     

  4. Place your present master brand on the right end of the table, and the one that says “a different master brand" on the left end.
     

  5. You now have a branded house on the right side, and a house of brands on the left. The area in the middle represent possible hybrid strategies, on the right closer from your present master brand, and on the left closer to a totally different brand.
     

  6. Take 10 new Post-It® stickers and, at the bottom edge of the table, distribute them equally to create a scale from 1 to 10 between the new brand on the left and your present master brand on the right.
     

  7. Take each product or service Post-It® and reconsider it in light of your new positioning. Estimate, on a scale of 1 to 10, how well it helps to deliver, in part or in whole, your master brand promise to your target audience. Write down your rating under each product or service.
     

  8. According to its rating, place each product or service Post-It® on the scale between the two ends of the table. The higher the rating, the closer to your current master brand; the lower the rating, the closer to totally new brand. 
     

 

You should get a clearer picture of how your brand architecture should ideally be set up. The goal now will be to simplify and streamline things as much as possible to get rid of complexity and gain clarity.
 

Product or services that have a rating between 1 to 3 will need to be branded separately and, one by one, go through the whole process again.
 

Products or services that have a rating between 4 to 6 can be adjusted and associated with another brand that you already have, endorsed by a partnering brand, or sponsor another brand.
 

Products and services with a rating between 7 to 10 will be all branded the same under your master branding.

When you're done, double check your results by considering the bigger picture: How many promises do you want to make to your audience? And how many brands can you decently create and fully market? Reconsider the mapping once again before you make final decisions.

 

Remember, a branded house should always be what you go for, unless it is not possible. A house of brands will not make you look larger or more important, quite the opposite!

Then move on to the final organization of your brand portfolio below.

The final organization of your brand portfolio

​Those Who Move In

Move the products and services with a rating of 7 to 10 under the master brand. They belong here and they will adopt your master branding.

Those Who Adapt

For those with a rating of 4 to 6, reconsider them. Decide if you can tweak them to fit better under the Master Brand umbrella. If not, decide if you want to cancel them or if you're going to market them in a hybrid format.

Those Who Move Out

And finally, consider those with a rating of 1 to 3. Decide if you want to develop new brands and market them individually or if you want to get rid of them. You could also create spinoffs, or even sell them.

Conclusion

 

The depth of your decision criteria is specific to you. But consider the existing income and those you can expect, and don’t forget the inherent costs. Remember that each product and service you decide to keep isolated from your master brand in this section must go through a complete branding process and receive a completely different marketing strategy.

But congratulations, you have just completed one of the most complex tasks in brand strategy and solved one of the most recurrent problems I see in companies as a brand strategist. You may want to create a spreadsheet and lay out your new brand architecture for reference.

Once you have organized your Brand Architecture, indicate the model you have chosen and report your brand portfolio organization in your Strategic Reference File.

Business Plan

One word about Hybrid Models

In some cases, companies may need a hybrid model that combines elements of both a branded house and a house of brands. This can include sponsored brands, endorsed brands, and other variations. While these models can be effective, they are also complex and require careful consideration.

 

If you came to the undeniable conclusion that you need a hybrid brand architecture for your business, it's important to understand the nuances involved. This includes factors such as brand equity, consumer perception, and market positioning. Additionally, there are legal and regulatory considerations to keep in mind, such as trademark and licensing issues.

 

Given the complexity of this type of work, I'd recommend that you contact me because you will need someone who has experience in developing hybrid brand architectures. This will ensure that your brand strategy is effective and aligned with your business goals, while also avoiding potential pitfalls that could harm your brand reputation.

bottom of page