Brand Architecture
Order or chaos?

In times of growth, diversification as well as expansion, brand portfolios are becoming more and more substantial, complex and detailed. Successful companies are dynamic and that they always keep evolving.

Change of focus and growth are both entrepreneurial realities that can be observed in the brand portfolio of a company. A brand here, a product there. However, the integration of a new brand or product, as well as entering and exploring a new market, are all very hard to predict from the get-go. This is where companies need to be flexible and act quickly. Unfortunately, in this process, oftentimes existing brand structures are not being adapted to the changes and over time, companies find themselves in highly complex and opague brand structures, causing internal and external confusion.

A major reason for this lies in the highly complex brand portfolio, often hardly transparent. At best, these poorly structured portfolios are only inefficient and costly. In the worst case, however, they can prevent brands of a company from growth and cause huge loss. In addition to that, this lack of clarity makes it difficult for employees to identify with the brand they work for, lessening overall loyalty towards their employer.
The brand portfolio of Florian Weitzer Hotels & Restaurants ©

Clarity needs structure

Brand architecture is about creating order, through designing an organizational structure that defines a hierarchy and relationships between the brands of a company. This can either make them more similar or different. Sometimes brands benefit from a close positioning, whereas in other cases they need to have an independent role, in order to stay strong. This basic regulation is the groundwork for growing brands, restructuring them and equipping them with a sharp and unique character.

It is not only about the visual or creative similarities of brands and products. It is about their overall appearance and identity, with its stories and values. Moreover, it is about the relationship between the umbrella brand and its sub-brands, as well as the relationship between a company's sub-brands.
Brand architecture creates internal and external clarity. ©Jon Tyson on Unsplash

One solution fits all?

In theory, there are a few well-known and catchy models that promise simple solutions for complex brand portfolios. In reality, however, rigid models are rather difficult to apply to dynamic businesses. They need more than a simple one-size-fits-all solution. That is how hybrid models are applied. They combine different approaches and highlight or extenuate individual relationships.

So how does a company find the right brand structure?

Answering the following questions is the first step to a customized solution:

  • What do the brands have in common? What distinguishes them? Can they be connected, or are their differences too great?

  • Would the brands mutually benefit from proximity, or would they otherwise be incomplete?

  • Should the brand strategy strive for consistency and trust, or is it one strong brand driven by individual spirit and innovation?

  • Do the brands share certain values, or are they positioned in different price segments?

To sum it all up: Designing brand architecture can be understood as a negotiation between dominance and autonomy or, in other words: a discourse of functional and emotional arguments.

With a lot of intuition and a deep understanding of the market, it is possible to find an ideal brand solution for any company. A sharp strategy and a well-defined brand architecture determine how brands appear. They provide clarity and orientation for consumers and the organization, which at the end of the day creates opportunity.

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