Are you the brand manager of a slew of products and services patched together over years of mergers and acquisitions? Are leaders of other company divisions asking your advice on what to call new products and services — or worse, naming them on their own? Do you know you need a brand portfolio strategy or brand architecture strategy, but you’re unsure of where to begin? These kinds of issues can leave any brand manager feeling overwhelmed. Brand architecture strategy (sometimes called brand portfolio strategy) is a business strategy.
It’s NOT about graphics and graphical hierarchy. And it’s not about marketing. Both graphics and marketing should be an articulation of your strategy. At its heart, brand architecture strategy seeks to answer one question: From a branding perspective, how can you add new products and services while maintaining customer loyalty and increasing sales? When we’re partnering with clients to develop architecture strategy, we always start with an evaluation of the current architecture using the three steps below.
And, personally, I keep this quote from Kevin Lane Keller’s book, “Strategic Brand Management,” close by for inspiration: “Brand portfolios should maximize market coverage so that no potential customers are being ignored, but minimize brand overlap so that brands aren’t competing among themselves to gain the same customers.”
Three steps to evaluate your current brand architecture strategy
Step 1: Audit your current brand architecture strategy.
You can outline your current strategy with a few easy questions:
- Are you a house of brands (like Procter & Gamble)? If yes, you have a product brand strategy.
- Are you a branded house (like Target)? If yes, you have a masterbrand strategy.
- Is your strategy intentional? Did the leaders of your organization set out to have a masterbrand or a product brand? Or have various mergers, acquisitions and product launches set your strategy?
- Is your architecture strategy documented? Do you have something you can share with internal communicators and external partners?
Step 2: Categorize your brand portfolio.
Based on your knowledge, categorize every brand in your portfolio by which role each one plays for the consumer.
Step 3: Determine whether or not your brand architecture strategy aligns with your business goals.
Your brand architecture strategy should amplify both your short-term and long-term business goals. You should be able to explain “the why” behind decisions of how brands within your portfolio relate to one another. Using the information gathered in Steps 1 and 2, look at your current strategy and answer these questions:
- Does this strategy align with our CEO/company goals? For example, if you are a private company and are planning to go public, it’s better to use a masterbrand strategy. Oftentimes, masterbrands can lead to a higher valuation due to more concentrated customer loyalty.
- Are competitors with similar business models using the same brand architecture strategy? If the answer is yes, there may be an opportunity to differentiate. If the answer is no, are you capitalizing on this difference?
- What is the pace of innovation in your industry? If you are a technology company, and new products are a constant, you may want to stay away from a product brand strategy due to the amount of resources you would need to spend on branding.
- What resources do you have to dedicate to branding? Look at this both in terms of budget and staffing resources. Do you have the dollars it takes to maintain your current brand architecture strategy?
- Are you an international company or are you planning to go global anytime soon? Brand architecture means different things in different cultures. In the United States, we are used to product brand strategies pioneered by companies like Procter & Gamble. In Europe, masterbrand strategies are more common.
Now that you’ve made some discoveries about your current architecture strategy, you’re probably getting a sense of where you need to take things. And hopefully, you feel a little more comfortable getting started.