Tuesday, January 21, 2014

House of Brands, Branded House or Both

What story does the architecture of a brand convey? Is it only corporate brand experts losing sleep over it? Why does it feel like everything hinges on it or it won't change much at all relative to the cost of rebranding in the same thought?

I've felt all these things. In an imperfect world where brand acquisition, legacy brands, and brand affiliations are established over time the question of brand architecture can be 'tricky.'

With the focus of digital branding bringing story telling, content sharing and peer to peer endorsement into the offline world a brand voice matters. It matters more than a presence, as communication travels fast and wide oblivious to distribution or target market constraints. A voice provides insight into a purpose, an intent, acquired knowledge, even a perspective.

Branding branches into a number of expressions to convey its story: corporate
brand, product brands, employee brand, social brands, personal brands, retail brand, business to business brand, internal branding...etc.

So what does this all mean for brand architecture models? Does this mean that a branded house is a more authentic approach? Is it important for a house of brands to clearly associate itself with the corporate master brand?

What I believe it means is that corporate branding needs to be integrated across all branding, so the portfolio has meaning, a voice when required, and credentials when entering into new markets or extensions.

Brand architecture is a critical strategy in conveying authenticity. Brand portfolios may be eclectic or designed as a tight family, in either case strong branding is driven by a core philosophy that is consistently delivered internally and externally. This vision lives across an organisation and by definition filters into every brand touch point.

The architecture applied comes down to market relevance in how stakeholders engage and relate to existing and new brands. This is the role that I see brand architecture playing:

   Corporate branding is playing a critical role in stakeholder influence and therefore in brand architecture frameworks.

   Authenticity requires stakeholders to know who you are, what you stand for and why you care about what you do and the way you operate.  Brand architecture models provide a clear understanding of what the corporate brand image, values and positioning is.

   A house of brands is a strong model, especially when there are well established heritage product brands; in this case the corporate brand plays a subtle role.  The connection can bring a 'brand voice' when required to build, advocate or protect.

   A One Brand approach is as much about shared values and relevance, as it is about a shared visual identity. Brand architecture models that highlight why brands exist in the portfolio, the role  they play relative to the master brand add great value to brand marketers.

   A branded house is powerful when there is a single minded focus and innovation that can be consistently associated back to the company.

   Visual cues are powerful. Brand architecture can integrate branding through unifying brands through colour palettes, clever ways to visually use master and product banding together, and  shared design elements.

   Both brand architecture models can exist in companies successfully if the roles of brands are clear. The watch point being brand dilution through lack of standards and/or a lack of affiliation with the corporate brand impacting on overall equity and advocacy.

   Don't be envious of other companies well designed and integrated brand architectures, as the bigger the organisation is the greater the chance is that there  is a complex branding matrix and hierarchy.

   You know your brand architecture model works when it provides a solid framework for story telling, content sharing, and derives benefits from peer to peer endorsement. In other words when the corporate brand voice can be activated vertically and horizontally in a meaning way.

   Regardless of the brand architecture model it should never be the corporate (master) brand vs product brands; to build business value they must work together, share common values, and most importantly understand the position they are working together to enhance.

Pleasant dreams about brand builders and architects creating sustainable houses :)

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