Building brand architecture to support a growing brand

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If you work at a large or long-standing organization, there’s a good chance that your offerings include multiple products or services. But in order to thrive in the marketplace, you need to effectively tie these offerings together.

That’s where brand architecture comes in. Brand architecture is the way you relate your products or services to each other in your messaging. This signposting tells the market what these disparate items share and ties them all back to a strong brand (or brands) to harness positive associations in the marketplace.

Think about it. Even if you’re not very familiar with the term “brand architecture,” you likely see it in action every day, both at home and at work. A consumer company like P&G manages a whole stable of brand lines, and regularly adds new offerings within each brand line. That’s how the grocery aisle came to have not just Tide laundry detergent, but also Tide Free and Gentle, Tide Plus Bleach, Tide to Go and more. The company had a strong brand and built on its success when it wanted to introduce new products and grow in market share.

Brand architecture works similarly in the B2B world, both allowing businesses to introduce new offerings successfully and to simplify and strengthen the market’s understanding of existing offerings. For example, General Electric (GE) has built a well-known and well-respected brand over nearly a century and a quarter. But in that time, they came to provide many unrelated products and services. With thousands of offerings, GE could be mind-boggling to potential customers, until a reworking of their brand architecture organized these offerings into 11 business units, such as GE Aviation, GE Healthcare and GE Infrastructure.

Making decisions about brand architecture

When you decide to launch a new product or service, you have to determine whether it should join an existing brand you offer or stand alone. When multiple items share an overarching brand, that sends a clear message to your audience that they are related.

Put yourself into a customer’s shoes. Your research and development team may think a product is unlike anything else you offer, but will you be able to better make inroads with your audience marketing it as a brand new product or as a special variation on an existing product? Will the customer see it as being closely related to an existing offering? Brand architecture should simplify the experience of interacting with your brand for your audience.

What if your organization grows through acquisitions? If you find yourself with a number of product brands and at a loss to message them all effectively, as often happens when one company buys another, it’s time to take a closer look at your roster of products. Chances are, some of them overlap or are closely related in terms of what needs they serve.

Then, determine the strongest brand in this family of products or services. Why spend money supporting individual weaker brands when they could be brought under the strongest brand’s umbrella?

Revamp your messaging and brand naming conventions to bring these offerings together. You can create a product line  — much like our B2C example above, Tide detergents. Then, instead of having to build demand separately for every one, you can create and focus on key messages for the overall brand, and craft a reputation that will extend to all of the products in the line.

Want to know more about brand architecture? Contact us with your questions.

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