How To Understand and Build Brand Architecture for Optimum Customer Experience

Or In Blirt Language; How To Get Your Brand Family In Order.

If you read or follow our approach at Blirt when it comes to brand, customer experience or technology, everything is about people - people buy things from people.

That’s why we build brands like characters and it’s why we focus on customer experience over advertising, simplicity over cool, content over channel and wisdom over theory.

Brands are complex, because characters and people are complex.  And, when it comes to organising and aligning families - well, let me just ask, ‘How was your Christmas?  Was your family and extended family easy to organise & maintain peaceful relationships?’ 😃

In the same way brand families, or what is commonly referred to as Brand Architecture, are sometimes difficult to organise and keep aligned across business units and departments.

Many Brand Architecture models have been developed over the years.  All come down to understanding how far or close the brand is in relationship to another brand.  The last thing you want is a collection of brands within an organisation with purpose, clarity or order.

 

The Purpose of Brand Architecture

The purpose of Brand Architecture is to enable the organisation’s business model to scale whilst retaining clarity to the customer.

This is really important to understand.  The purpose of Brand Architecture is allowing the business to grow at the right pace (ideally as quickly as possible) whilst being crystal clear in offering to the customer.

A business will not scale if the brand architecture slows it down, creates confusion or allows one brand to devalue another with a net negative effect.

As humans we see and understand brands through the lens of human characteristics and therefore we will always buy things from ‘people’ whether they are face to face or we’re transacting online.

Our approach below uses human centred concepts.  When thinking about brand families; think about parent, child, brother / sister, cousin, friend or neighbour and the closeness or distance that comes from the relationships between these types of people.

When there are two brands in a portfolio are they a Parent Child relationship or a Brother Sister relationship?  Should a brand which be presented alongside, underneath or some distance from another brand.  

Many organisations get this part of their brand strategy very wrong due to poor thinking about the practical nature of relationships.

 

The Four Basic Structures of Brand Families / Brand Architecture

When organising a Brand Family or Brand Architecture, there are four simple categories to understand.  And, just like families, if we tried to organise all the families in the world into four categories there will definitely be grey areas and differences.  Therefore, use this is a framework for unpacking a solution not an absolute gospel.

Here is a starting point to think about your brand family and how to organise 1 or one hundred brands within an organisation.  The four ways of organising brands are:

  • Parent Lead
  • Family of Leaders
  • Parent Endorsed 
  • Lead Individual


Parent Lead

A Branded Family/House which can include brother/sister relationship or a more distant cousin relationship.  However, one member of the family takes a definite leadership and contextual role.

An example here is BMW.

It’s also worth noting the brother / sister relationship that exists between BMW and Mini.  You will typically find a dealer retailing both brands next to each other given their corporate structure.

 

Family of Leaders

Within this family construct, individual Child Brands lead and can have a connection when needed under the family name, or stand alone if required.

A great example here is the Coca Cola family.  At last count there over 110 brands within the Coca Cola family - some connect to each other, some stand alone.  All lead directly as stand alone brands within their prospective segments.

 

Parent Endorsed

A Child Brand is endorsed by a Parent Brand to give the endorsed entity meaning, purpose and a set of perceptions.  Parent endorsed could also be split into Subtle Endorsement or Dominant Endorsement.

A Subtle Endorsement would be they way Unilever signature their ads and products with the dropdown tab of Unilever brand mark.  The leading brand is in the example below Axe deodorant but the Unilever endorsement drops in as a subtle endorsement at the end of the TV advertisement. 

A Dominant Endorsement would be the way Marriott endorses it’s various brands within the portfolio.  In this example, the Marriott brand plays a very dominant role in the design and mark of the asset. 

 

Leading Individual

A leading individual is a classic single individual brand.  Some are Leading Individuals because there is no need for a diversity of brands or because the leading dominant brand absorbs and covers all acquisitions and merges.

The example used here is Accenture.


How Clear is Your Organisation’s Brand Family?

Remember, the purpose of building a brand family is to allow an organisation to scale the business model whilst retaining and enhancing clarity to the customer.

Are you achieving this?  If you’re not sure or need to review your customer’s brand experience, talk to us.


Please note that the trademarks and images used in this blog post are owned by their rightful owners and not used with their permission but gathered for an educational purpose from their respective websites to illustrate this approach.   We love them all and thank them for their participation within this article.