Is your brand identity supporting or damaging your wider strategy? In this workshop round-up, our experts share the principles of brand architecture to help you build a coherent platform in 2023.

With saturated markets and constantly shifting audience expectations, a cohesive, clear brand identity is more important than ever.

In turn, a strong brand architecture can help businesses achieve up to 3.5 times more visibility and simply having consistency in your brand presentation can result in an increase in revenue by up to 23%.

In our latest workshop, ‘The Principles of Brand Architecture – Creating and Delivering a Cohesive, Consolidated Brand’, our experts share the core principles of a strong brand hierarchy, how to deliver a branding project – and common mistakes to avoid, along with guidance for enhancing your brand over time.

Our experts:

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In this Article:

  • Framing your brand architecture in 2023
  • The foundations of a strong brand architecture for your business
  • Reinforcing the integrity of your brand – and external support


Framing your brand architecture in 2023

In today’s increasingly competitive markets, your brand identity plays a vital role in differentiating your business from the rest by enforcing consistency across all your marketing ventures, including an ever-constant brand message to the same, recognisable styles and designs.

However, as businesses grow with the launch of expanding product lines, new market interests and the creation of sub-brands their overall identity can become somewhat complicated or confusing to both internal investors and its customers.

Brand architecture, in short, is the organisational hierarchy of a company’s parent-brand, sub-brands, products or/and services – acting as a framework that connects each sub-sector to ensure consistency and clearly communicate their affiliation to intended audiences.

Below our experts discuss the main reasons brand architecture can shift or dilute in 2023.


The foundations of a strong brand architecture for your business

Steve’s six principles of brand architecture

#1 – Respect the Past

“There’s a reason why your differentiating brands exists, there’s a degree of equity that’s built up so respect its value.”

#2 – Anticipate the Future

“You can’t completely future proof everything, but you must build on the assumption that change is coming. There is no point constructing an architecture that doesn’t allow for any flexibility."

#3 – Find Common Ground

“You want the brand identity to flow through your hierarchy, therefore that notion of commonality between each ‘sub-sector’ can help strengthen your brand architecture.”

#4 – Embrace the Differences

“The whole point of the architecture is to embrace those differences and identify the need for difference from common ground.”

#5 – See it from the Customer’s Perspective

“From an external perspective, your brand architecture should clarity your overall brand positioning.”

#6 – Accept the Exceptions

There isn't a perfect brand architecture. You must find a way to accept that something doesn't fit, and find a way to get that in.”

Download: The (Re)Brand Workbook

The impact of a ‘Branded House’ vs. a ‘House of Brands’ approach

There are several different methods to brand architecture, each offering a distinguished conceptual framework for your brand portfolio.

A ‘Branded House’ approach includes a pinnacle master brand (or ‘umbrella’ brand) with a collection of products or sub-brands that branch off from this, each under the name of the master brand.

A ‘House of Brands’ approach consists of a collection of distinct, individual brands under a parent company that often has very little external exposure.

Ian says, “Both approaches can work, but adopting one over the other should depend on your circumstances – i.e., sector, size, and challenges.  

‘Branded House’ relies on the equity of that master brand, organisations such as Virgin or Apple benefit from this approach as they’ve taken the time to bring their master brand to life and they’re using that equity to trickle down into other products or services.

Executing a ‘Branded House’ approach too early, could mean greater risk of fragmentation.”

Becky Holland, CEO of BH&P on Brand Architecture

Ian adds, “a ‘House of Brands’ approach is more expensive because you must put an equal amount of effort in nurturing all those brands individually and separately. This often works on a bigger scale as global organisations have the expenditure and resources to work this way.  

So, my advice is to be cognizant of where your company is at their journey. How mature is it? How many people know your brand? And are you at a stage where you can start fragmenting?

Read our article: Move Over Manifesto, there’s a Better Way to Bring your Brand to Life

Keeping distinct identities across your brand hierarchy – and when to consolidate?

Becky says, “If you have separate teams that are responsible for managing your sub-brands and loyal customers, this can enforce a case for keeping things distinct, at least in the in the first instance.”

Yet when deciding to keep distinct identities across your brand hierarchy or when to consolidate, Becky adds you should ask yourself:

  • What’s the vision that sits behind the parent or master brand?
  • What’s the purpose and the target audience for the sub-brands?
  • And what is the relationship between each brand?

"Essentially, if there is a clear differentiation in purpose and audience of each sub-brand then there is a rationale for keeping things distinct. But if your sub-brands serve a similar purpose and target relatable audiences, then there is a strong rationale to consolidate under one master brand.

But layer on to that the context, the cost, the resources, the size, and maturity of the brand. As in reality, it's much easier and efficient to build trust in a master brand and leverage off from that.”

Download: e-Guide on Brand Architecture and Online Reputation by BH&P

Reinforcing the integrity of your brand – and external support

90% of potential customers expect to have a similar experience with your brand across all mediums with a disjointed experience often resulting in an immediate loss of brand trust.

To summarise, consistency builds credibility which reinforces the integrity of a brand. Steve adds, “it’s about understanding the balance between the master and the sub-brands – what is shaping internal behaviours versus what is shaping representation outside.

Therefore, integrity is maintained by a clear understanding of both – and asking yourself why am I behaving the way I behave? And why am I representing myself the way I represent myself?"

View our Round-up: Brand Loyalty – Why it Matters, How to Measure, and Routes to Success

Where to start with external support

Ian says, “we look at it externally more than internally. If there's a more qualitative survey available on the perception of the brand, through socials, email etc, those can act as indicators that the brand needs to be looked at and perhaps the way that it's being communicated isn't as good as it can be.

So that tends to be the starting point for us of opening the broad box of brand and allowing the rest to stem from that.”

Becky says, “initial conversations should be about insight and understanding. So, the first question I would ask is what's the biggest challenge or opportunity that you're facing today? And why do you feel your brand, or your brand architecture is holding you back?

Arguably that initial brand audit is the most critical piece, but it doesn't need to be a long, 6-month project, it can be as simple as contacting your top five clients and five that got away to ask why you work with us or why don't you for each of your sub-brands."

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