Some time ago, a client came to us with a problem that we see all the time. Victor Manickam was an organization that works in the arena of providing knowledge and education to people from different walks of life. But their branding was too complicated and complex, and the stakeholders – be it internal or external, remembered the company as the program they were leading or participating in. This totally diluted the brand loyalty.
Their immediate problem was that they lacked proper brand architecture. What they needed was a new way of structuring their brand to bring their full range of services into focus, and at the same time, to simplify things for the end customer.
What is Brand Architecture?
In simple words, if brand building is all about creating customer experiences, brand architecture is the structural plan that ensures everything fits in seamlessly.
Brand Architecture defines the different levels within your brand and the sub-brands if you have multiple services and products. For instance, there are different products associated with Apple Inc., but they are all built around one simple word – Apple. So, when someone hears iPad, the brand image they associate it with is Apple. When Steve Jobs developed a brand architecture, he made sure it was distinct, yet simple enough to lead consumers to one defining label.
Now think of brands like Vicks, Pampers, Ariel, Tide, Olay, Pantene – each of them is a popular household name and have well-established brand identities of their own, but they all belong to a well-known parent brand P&G!
How do you build your Brand Architecture?
There are three different types of brand architecture strategies widely followed by companies today – ‘Branded House’, ‘House of Brands’, and ‘Hybrid Brands’. This structure was coined in 2000 by David Aaker in his book ‘Brand Leadership’ where he explains how the brand relationship spectrum works.
But how do you differentiate between what suits your brand entity the best?
- Branded House
- House of Brands
- Hybrid Brand (Endorsed brands and Sub-brands)
Branded House has one parent brand as the umbrella for a wide product range. A simple example of this kind of brand architecture is Google which has multiple services and these brand extensions are well known on its own like Drive, Play, Calendar, Translate etc. But at the same time, everything is tagged with the primary brand name ‘Google’ first.
This is usually the best brand strategy since all resources are devoted to the same brand, rather than split between multiple teams for multiple brands.
Leveraging the brand strength!
One of our clients had been a running a diversified portfolio of businesses successfully since two generations, with flagship jewelry business. But each of their businesses functioned as an independent brand with no connections or synergy with the other business brands. Hence, we suggested the amalgamation of all the businesses under a parent company called “The Vivan Group”. The Branded House approach was used here to ensure that the brand name given to the group reflected in the businesses. So, the benefit accrued in one business, in terms of brand visibility, helped the other businesses in the group.
We started with creating a master logo and logos of all other verticals were given different color combinations to define their areas of business. Along with house styling, we ensured that their website not only communicated their vision and mission as a group but also clearly demarcated their business verticals. Thereby creating a brand identity of each business, while also ensuring the homogeneity of the parent brand.
Is this structure the right one for you?
Branded House structure offers a consistent brand experience that minimizes confusion for your customers. It will also be much easier for you to build brand equity for the individual brand and as a whole to create a synergy. But at the same time, there is also a risk of negative spillover and any major changes in the future can be both expensive and hard to implement. If you have one strong brand that can reach across markets, categories, target groups, and even geographical barriers, then this brand architecture strategy is apt for you.
This type of brand architecture focuses more on the sub-brands, with little or no focus on the main brand. House of brands architecture is a little more complex since each sub-brand is treated as a separate company. Here the individual business can focus on what they do best without eating into the parent brand. An example of this is General Motors that makes different cars for different segments – Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick etc. – all of which are strong brands in themselves.
When we worked on the rebranding of our client Jagwani Group, a business conglomerate based in the Sultanate of Oman, we realized that this umbrella brand had various sub-brands under it – each of which focused on a completely different business. From aviation and hospitality to logistics, oil & gas and defense, each vertical had a strong presence in its respective business area. House of Brands architecture fits perfectly here. Hence our challenge was to work on ensuring strong and unique brand identities for each of the sub-brand without diluting the parent brand.
We started by modifying the logo of Jagwani Group by bringing in a warm orange color – a color that symbolizes collaboration and inspiration. As a part of the rebranding, we also came up with a simple but strong tagline for Jagwani Group, reflecting their group vision.
The five sub-brands under Jagwani Group are Integrated Aviation Services(IAS), Premier Aviation Services (PAS), Hospitality Products & Services (HPS), Premier Logistics (PL) and AL Mirath Petrogas. We recreated the logo designs of each of the sub-brand, to include specific mnemonic related to its business area. The look and feel of each of the revamped logos of the sub-brands were now more professional, distinct and at the same time, maintained uniformity in terms of color palette and typography. The parent brand logo colors of blue and orange were used across all sub-brands – where blue stands for honesty, intelligence & purity while orange represents energy – qualities that reflect across all the sub-brands of Jagwani Group.
Is this structure the right one for you?
When your products and services are diverse and not always reaching the same target audience, House of Brands approach works best. It allows you full freedom to create a different brand strategy, name, logo, designs etc. for each sub-brand since it’s not associated with the parent brand. At the same time, building this kind of brand architecture involves more financial commitment, resources and time for planning and implementation. Moreover, the success of the sub-brand will not be attributed to the parent brand in spite of all the expenses that go into this branding activity.
Hybrid brand architecture is a mixture of two or more brand architectures. It blends the individual and the master brand. Here typically the corporate brand or parent brand is included in creating the new brand, but it also has a stand-alone entity. For instance, the Courtyard by Marriot where the endorser brand is a part of the endorsed brand’s identity. So, it’s like the master brand here knows when to step in to endorse the sub-brand and when to keep out! It is mostly used when a firm is acquiring existing brands through mergers or acquisitions or when you want old and new products to co-exist peacefully.
A fine example of hybrid brand architecture is Microsoft which offers numerous products like Microsoft Windows, MS Word, MS Excel, Microsoft Surface. So, these are endorsed brands that fuel the reputation of the parent brand. At the same time, Microsoft Inc also has sub-brands like Xbox, Nokia, and Skype that work as freestanding brands.
As a strategic branding unit, it is such subtle nuances of customer behavior and customer pain areas that we keep in mind when helping our clients build effective SEM campaigns. Ensuring that the quality of leads becomes better and assuring better bang for the buck.
The best of both worlds!
Thermolab Group is one of the most trusted brands in the pharmaceutical industry. The Company has a number of divisions under it focusing on various key areas, so we had suggested to the company while working on their branding to use the strength of the parent brand to endorse its other divisions. Hence their divisions were rebranded as Thermolab Scientific Equipment, Thermolab Sales & Services, Thermolab Testing Services, and Thermolab Analytics. The Group also had acquired a new company called Korten Healthcare which was a well-known pharmaceutical drug manufacturing company. We advised the client to retain Korten brand name as it is and not link it to the Thermolab brand name since the division already had established itself well under the current name. This kind of Hybrid architecture worked well for Thermolab Group since it is a growing company and gave them the flexibility to add sub-brands as it expanded into new service areas.
Is this structure the right one for you?
A brand with well-defined brand architecture lays the foundation for the brand’s growth and future. As a company, if you wish to preserve old product names and designs to keep customers happy, or want to avoid confusion while bringing in future offers, Hybrid brand architecture works well. It allows better flexibility for growth and helps you have control over how closely certain brands are associated with the parent brand. However, if an endorsed brand does badly it can affect the reputation of the parent brand. Hence, careful brand management is needed in this model to maximize returns.
Why does Brand Architecture matter?
Brand architecture is not just for multinationals, even small organizations benefit by organizing their offerings better and see measurable improvements in performance. There are various elements that Brand Architecture takes into consideration and this effectively enables you in the following ways:
- Target the needs of specific customer segments
- Create clarity amidst the chaos!
- Enhance customer awareness while enabling cross-selling and up-selling
Ever wondered why Unilever has different detergents brands like Surf Excel, Wheel and Rin in the Indian market while they all basically do the same job?! Because each targets a different customer segment! While Surf Excel is marketed as a premium brand and competes with brands like Ariel which are meant for affluent customers, Rin is pitched as a competitively priced value for money product against the brand Tide in the market. Wheel is positioned more as a low-price segment product with consumers mainly from low-income households.
Brand architecture helps to channelize your messaging so that each of your target audiences gets precisely what they’re looking for.
When a company like Virgin has diversified into everything from music to mobile, it gives customers better clarity when its brands are clearly differentiated but still retain the parent name – as Virgin Records, Virgin Music, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile and so on. Apple Inc is another example where its various sub-brands iPad, iTunes, iPhone etc. have stand-alone identities and yet are related closely to the parent brand.
Brand architecture brings that clarity and consistency, thereby adding to the effectiveness of your brand positioning to customers. It also helps you as a company understand your brand hierarchy system and determine whether a particular product or service should be branded better or differently.
When your sub-brands and divisions are clearly defined it helps customers understand the USPs of each better. Also, conversion of a customer of one sub-brand into another sub-brand becomes much easier than a customer with no history. This is similar to selling a sim card or mobile accessories to a customer who is in a store to buy a mobile.
As a brand strategy partner who invests in understanding your business and your brand synergy well, we can help you identify and build the right type of brand architecture for your company. Connect today to know more.