Photo: Dano via Flickr
Chances are, if your company has more than one product line, you’re confusing your customers. That’s because most company’s product brands grow in organic ways that don’t fall into neat categories customers can understand. The way a company organizes its brands often bears little resemblance to what matters to customers. Like a house needs a blueprint before it can be built, your brands might need an architectural structure so you can build more loyalty.
For brand architecture to be effective, it must be structured from the customer’s point of view, not the company’s. organising a company’s brand architecture as an exact duplicate of its organizational chart won’t help deliver a compelling brand experience. The best architecture makes it simple and easy for customers to understand the value and purchase the products that best meet their needs. For example, let’s say a company is set up divisionally with hardware and software divisions, and markets its services that way. If customers expect to have the two bundled, it will create an additional barrier to customer purchase and may stymie business.
So what’s your company’s brand architecture? Figuring this out is worth any amount of time and energy. Clear brand architecture will bear fruit in several ways:
- You’ll be able to better align and meet your business goals by focusing your efforts.
- You’ll be able to leverage your assets and resources to create synergy among product offerings.
- You’ll know which products fit within your model.
- You’ll know how to organise and name new products so customers recognise their value.
- You’ll get ideas for new product offerings that meet current market needs.
- You’ll have created a clear, consistent and simple way for customers to understand your offerings and their unique value.
What is Brand Architecture?
A company’s brand architecture determines several things:
- How you relate your brands to each other
- How you talk about the complementary value of your corporate and product brands
- How many brands you offer
- What products fit and where
- Whether to use evocative or descriptive names
One effective brand architecture is the branded house, where there is a master brand (usually the company name), sub-brands (product lines) and descriptive products, customer service, or program names. There may also be ingredient brands, such as Intel’s Inside, or GE’s Ecomagination.
The opposite of a branded house is a house of brands, like that of Procter & Gamble, where you don’t buy the P&G name; the meaning is held within individual brands such as Pringles, Zest and Duracell.
For instance, IBM focuses on its master brand–IBM–and gives its product brands a lesser role in its marketing. The master brand is the primary named brand that holds a shared value across all products. Honda is a master brand that stands for reliability and excellent handling–this is true whether you buy a Civic or an Accord. A sub-brand is a product brand, typically with an evocative name, that is always in relationship to a master brand. Honda Civic, for example, for those who want a smaller car or a lower-priced offering. A descriptive product/service name explains the basic value of the product/service without explanation, such as Honda Civic Sedan, which means it has four doors. An ingredient brand is a named brand that provides supporting value to other brands, often expressed as an icon, such as Honda Civic Sedan with XM Satellite radio. The ingredient is not the reason to buy the brand, but it is an added feature or benefit that enhances its value.
How do you figure out which products should be sub-brands, with real, branded names vs. merely descriptive names? It’s a judgment call, weighing the importance of the product, the target market and the relationship of the product to the parent brand. If you have too many names, it becomes a code that customers have to figure out. Descriptive names might not build a strong enough product line.
Ingredient brands emphasise aspects of a brand’s value or a new trend that may not be well understood but is important for the future of a market. Ecomagination is one example of how a complex and hard-to-define concept, sustainability, can be attached to an evocative symbol that acts as a shorthand for many supporting ideas. This symbol then becomes something customers use to make product choices. Which would you rather choose, a sustainable product that you have good feelings about (strongly reinforced by Ecomagination) or a product that doesn’t have this pedigree?
So what’s your company’s brand architecture? Is your brand house in order, or do you need a new blueprint for growth and customer loyalty?
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.