brand architecture

The term “brand architecture” may sound like a mixture of widely divergent disciplines. Actually, establishing a strong firm identity and position is often related to successful brand architecture.

There are two different types of brand architecture: corporate-dominant, and product-dominant. Some companies successfully mix the two using corporate endorsement of different product brands. Corporate-dominant architecture is found more often in business-to-business companies, with fewer numbers of products and clear target markets. Product-dominant architecture is more consumer-based.

We have recently been engaged by a local company that designs and manufactures a wide consumer product line, with different target audiences–from Nordstrom’s to Sam’s Club. In our Perception Branding d5 Process we identified the differences in the products, the buying motivation and retail experience. Not surprisingly, the company maintains a distinctive brand differentiation between their three retail divisions. The products that sell at Nordstrom are physically different and separately branded from those which sell at Rite-Aid. For this client we will maintain a product-dominant architecture to maintain the physical and perceptual differences between different retailers.

Last year we created a new identity for Albion, an international company based in Clearfield, Utah. Albion has three distinct markets that are so independent that customers in each are best left unaware of the other two. Our brand audit revealed disparate and struggling product brands fighting for attention, while the corporate brand became lost in the mix. The direction for our strategy became clear: we created a corporate-dominant structure, even though the target markets are widely individual.

As indicated by Phillip Kotler in B2B Brand Management, “A key element of success is the framing of a harmonious and consistent brand architecture across countries and product lines, defining the number of levels and brands at each level. Of particular importance is the relative emphasis placed on corporate brands as opposed to product level brands.”