Does your brand architecture need some love?

7 symptoms that suggest a little nurturing may be necessary

Brand architecture is one of our favorite subjects. For the uninitiated, brand professionals use the term “architecture” to define the framework that helps everyone make sense of the hierarchy and relationships between brands and/or products in a company’s portfolio. Brand architecture is often visualized as a tiered diagram— typically in either the “branded house” or “house of brands” model—and serves as a guide for categorizing, naming and presenting sub-brands so audiences can easily understand each offering.

Most companies have an existing architecture for their brands, whether it is the outcome of an intentional, strategically-driven structuring, or the arbitrary result of expansion. Either way, there often comes a point when architecture becomes a roadblock to growth, particularly when a company expands into new markets, changes its focus, or goes through a complex merger or acquisition. 

If you think that brand architecture may be limiting your company’s progress, here are seven common symptoms that may indicate your architecture needs some love:

Most companies have an existing architecture for their brands, whether it is the outcome of an intentional, strategically-driven structuring, or the arbitrary result of expansion.”

Symptom #1: Multiple brands fight for attention on your marketing materials.

If your marketing materials have become a battleground between a parent and sub-brand, or if multiple sub-brands play tug of war with the look and feel of your marketing, your architecture may need a hierarchy tuneup. When sub-brands cause chaos in marketing materials, your communications risk being less memorable and less likely to land with customers.

Symptom #2: You’re overwhelmed by naming.

Creating ownable brand names is no small task, but it can seem impossible if your brand portfolio lacks a cohesive system. Common symptoms include multiple naming approaches in use (some descriptive, others abstract), inconsistent naming structures (single vs. multiple-word) or non-distinguishable modifiers (Ultra vs. Plus vs. Premium vs. Pro). The root cause of naming chaos is often found in the organization of your architecture, or lack thereof.

Symptom #3: Your employees are confused by your product offerings.

Even well-informed employees can still be uncertain of the role certain brands play in a portfolio. These are smart people with intimate knowledge of the organization, so if they don’t understand the differences between brands or how they all align under your mission, it’s unlikely that customers will either. Brand architecture can make this crystal clear.

Symptom #4: Customer service primarily helps prospects identify which products are right for them

And a related symptom: your sales team struggles to cross-sell. These are telltale signs that your architecture isn’t providing needed clarity around your offerings. Customers may not only be confused, but completely unaware that your company offers certain brands.

Symptom #5: Your sub-brand organization doesn’t reflect your positioning strategy.

Your sub-brand categorization and hierarchy should help communicate what your company values. When they don’t, individual sub-brands can’t benefit from the synergy of a larger group, and your overarching brand will face a steeper climb to achieve relevance.

Symptom #6: Several sub-brands compete for the same customer

This is often caused by mergers and acquisitions, but any time sub-brands compete for the same consumer in the same use case, a culling or repositioning of brands may be in order. If nothing else, re-examining the organizing principles of your current architecture is a worthwhile exercise to find unseen opportunities.

Symptom #7: You lack the resources to sustain all the brands in your portfolio.

The inability to support brands at an appropriate level is often a sign of having too many brands. Many business factors may contribute to a lack of resources, but a review of your architecture can offer clarity and level-setting as to how your brand and marketing resources should be prioritized.

If your brand suffers from one or more of these symptoms, examining your brand architecture is a valuable endeavor. The good news is that once diagnosed, any of these architecture ailments are absolutely treatable with a little TLC. And for that, just reach out to us.

Let’s move things forward.