What is Brand Architecture and Why Does It Matter?

Posted by Jazelle Handoush on 10/08/19

The happiest place on Earth is a lot bigger than you might think. After all, Walt’s reach extends beyond animated films and theme parks.

Remember the last time you caught a game on ESPN? Disney. Or turned on Hulu to binge-watch your favorite show? Disney.

Your GoPro, PhotoBucket account, even some of the hotels you stay in—those signature white gloves hold them all. Every company in the mouse’s house falls within the same brand architecture. While each company is a unique brand, they form a seamless whole.

So what is brand architecture, and why does it matter to your business? 

Big or small, every company can benefit from a little organization. Below, we will go over everything you need to know about brand architecture.

What Is Branding Architecture?

Brand architecture is a plan that helps companies organize different sub-brands under their control. Those sub-brands can offer various products and services to many industries.

For example, Disney owns dozens of parent companies with their own subsidiaries. Each brand has a specific industry that they serve, from film to finance. Due to these differences, it doesn’t make sense for ESPN to use the same plan for its brand as GoPro. Even though Disney owns both, each has distinct audiences, messaging, and brand guidelines. Instead, Disney uses brand architecture to define a top-level game plan for the relationship between these companies and how each reflects on their brand.

Basically, it’s a large multi-brand blueprint.

Different Types of Brand Architecture

There are three main types of brand architecture. Let’s take a closer look.

Examples: Google, FedEx, Amazon

The monolithic brand architecture relies on the existing power of a master brand for success. 

Google, FedEx, and Amazon already have giant followings. When Google releases a new product, existing Google customers are bound to show initial interest because they already know and trust the brand.

The monolithic brand architecture allows parent companies to lend the brand power they possess to new products, services, or subsidiaries. 

Examples: Marriott, Nestlé, Apple

The endorsed brand architecture allows companies under a parent organization to benefit from the latter’s brand equity. Nespresso and Kit Kat are two very distinct products, but despite their differences, both benefit from the Nestle name.

Marriott is another company that uses an endorsed brand architecture. Many people across the globe trust Marriott hotels. In contrast, not as many people talk about Residence Inn. So it might surprise you that Marriott owns them along with many other hotel brands. To support these lesser-known chains, Marriott allows them to use their name and logo. The endorsement helps people to trust these hotels more.

Examples: Procter & Gamble Company, The Walt Disney Company

With individual or pluralistic brand architecture, the companies under the parent all have a distinct and familiar brand. In many cases, it’s not widely publicized that the leading company owns the others. This setup allows a parent company to invest in many different brands.

Pampers, Tide, and Febreze are all owned by the same company. These companies do not receive brand equity from the parent. The individual brands may endorse one another, but they’re strong enough to stand alone.

Someone drawing the Fable Heart Media logo surrounded by multi-colored paper.

The Branding Benefits

Giant corporations are not the only ones that benefit from Brand architecture. You don’t need a dozen distinct brands under your umbrella to strengthen and organize your overall brand structure. Even with a smaller company, you can benefit from brand architecture. Here’s how:

Organization

Every brand has its personality and strengths. A brand architecture allows you to distinguish each small brand from the rest. At the same time, you’re also creating a synergy between each product, service, division, or company under your brand umbrella.

Once you distinguish each brand, so they stand on their own, you can define how these brands work together.

Business Growth and Brand Awareness

Acquiring a company or overseeing a merger? Brand architecture can help streamline the process.

During a merger or acquisition, you will need to determine whether you want to rebrand a company or maintain the original brand.

Does your company have a strong presence in the market and a large audience? Is the acquired company lacking in these areas? If so, a complete rebrand under the monolithic or endorsed brand architecture could help give the acquired company a much-needed boost in brand awareness.

However, if the acquired company already has a lot of brand equity, individual brand architecture might be the better fit. If a company already has a strong brand, it doesn’t usually make sense to rebrand it.

Brand architecture allows you to set each company up for success and future growth.

Targeting and Messaging

Brand architecture helps you develop precise messages for different target markets.

The type of architecture you choose can impact your messaging for each of your sub-brands. A company within a monolithic architecture will look and sound like the parent organization. In contrast, an “individual” company has a unique brand that may greatly vary from its parent.

Diversification and Clarity

Using the same brand and messaging across multiple industries is not usually a smart strategy. Like a person, each industry has unique needs and preferences.

Brand architecture allows you to step into a new marketplace with a well-positioned brand. As your business grows, you will have the flexibility to offer new products or services and the opportunity to choose which brand elements pass from your existing brands, if any.

Clarifying your brand with a clear message, audience, and position also avoids confusion. Imagine if the company that repairs your AC sent you an ad selling coffee, that would be weird. Using an individual brand architecture setup, the AC repair company can operate separately from the coffee dealer and still have the same parent company.

Cut Costs

Once you organize your brand architecture, marketing each sub-brand becomes a lot easier. You can make a clear plan for each and learn where they overlap. Well-Documented brand architecture can make developing a marketing strategy more efficient. Which, in turn, can save time, money, and stress for everyone involved.

According to this research, brand quality also enhances shareholder wealth, allowing your company to increase in value and improve your ROI. So, use those brand architecture documents to create better brands. 

There are also opportunities for companies to cross-promote. A company with excellent brand equity can be used to endorse another. The endorsement can improve the less-known company’s customer base and revenue.

What is Brand Architecture (and Why Bother With It?)

Instead of “What is brand architecture?” there’s a new question you need to ask: “How do I get a hold of those branding blueprints?”

If your organization is looking to expand into a new industry or market, take a look at your business structure and start organizing. Identify the products or services that can stand alone and those that might perform well in other verticals. Also, think about the elements your current brands have and determine what needs to pass to the others. Pretty soon, you’ll have the blueprints you need to build your company up.