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21.08.19 | Branding

What is brand architecture?

By Amanda Kirkman

Not all brands fit the mould of one brand identity per entity. We have worked on many projects over the years where we’ve had to take into consideration a range of tiers of branding within the one company. The structure of how these brands relate to one another is called brand architecture.

The need for a brand architecture arises when a company has multiple product offerings, services or offers all under the one roof. This can be as simple as two different restaurants owned in one city, or as complex as multiple lines of consumer products with altering audiences. It can be quite difficult deciding which avenue to take which is why professional advice is key to making an informed decision. To help understand the basics of brand architecture, I’ve shared below some of the common types of architecture along with their associated benefits and risks.

Family Branding

Also known as an umbrella or corporate brand, this is a model where the parent brand and all sub-brands are clearly from one organisation. Instead of hiding that products, programs, goods or services are linked – it is promoted. New sub-brands are quickly and easily recognised due to their instantaneous connection and rely on the brand equity of the existing entity. Audiences for sub-brands are often the same.

An example of this would be Apple that has the iPhone alongside the MacBook Pro — both have the Apple logo and are clearly made by the same company. The benefits are that the new brand is linked to the positive equity from the existing brand, however, you run the risk of alienating customers that have already made up their mind about a specific brand, (for example Apple hate can run deep).

An additional risk to new items is the potential to damage an existing brand, such as a Tesla car catching fire or the cancellation of the Samsung Galaxy Fold launch event. These events have the potential to affect the companies other brands when they are so closely linked.

Apple — Family Branding

We worked with Melbourne based product manufacturer Proper on their brand architecture. Originally launched as an industrial design studio, they had slowly created ten or more unique brands and products that all sat within the same category but were completely unique to each other in both name and aesthetic. We helped them rebrand and implement a completely new strategy, bringing all their products under the one family brand. This simplified processes instantly increased the awareness between their product lines and has seen them grow from strength to strength.

Endorsed Branding

Also called sub-branding, this style references a parent brand as an endorsement to an individual brand. The aim of the endorsement is to add credibility to the sub-brand. Examples include Nestle’s range of products, GPT shopping centres, and Marriott hotels. This can be done through a consistent tagline or simple cobranding.

The difference to family branding is that endorsed branding will use a parent brand that can at times be hidden. For example Kit-Kat, Milo and Nesquik are all under the Nestle parent brand — but you have to look that little bit closer to notice that Nestle logo at the top of all of these items.

The benefit of this style of branding is that it allows for your own product or service to compete in one market without alienating your existing audience. The risk of such unique sub-brands is increased production cost and marketing spend developing each of the individual brands, and an unclear ‘obvious’ endorsement by a parent brand means new products have to find their own feet.

Nestlé — Endorsed Branding

House of Brands

This style of architecture is used mostly by consumer product companies including Unilever, P&G and Coca-Cola Amatil. Unlike Nestle in the above example, you have to look in the very small fine print to find (if it’s even there at all) a link to the parent company.

It commonly occurs in instances where larger companies have acquired smaller ones. It provides protection amongst the brands if one has a PR disaster and allows for expansion amongst brands that both compete and don’t compete. Coca-Cola Amatil owns Fanta, Cascade, Mount Franklin and Powerade alongside all their Coca-Cola products.

Coca-Cola Amatil — House of Brands

My favourite example of this is within the car industry. People have such brand loyalty when it comes to cars — often owning the same model of vehicle all their lives, but I wonder if they would be curious to know that the Volkswagen Group owns Audi, Bentley, Skoda, Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Porsche and Ducati? Or that Lexus is owned by Toyota? Again — Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Maserati and Alfa Romeo are all owned by a company called FCA.

Volkswagen Group — House of Brands

House of Brands Hybrid

The hybrid references the parent brand in a subtle way without directly using it. Google does this beautifully (in my opinion) by using the parent brands colour palette and a similar clean graphic style amongst its programs. This allows for the programs to feel ‘Google’ without being over branded. This is especially effective as there is a large amount of small scale digital applications for Chrome Browser, Google Drive, Google Ads and Google Docs to name a few. (Google is also owned by Alphabet but that’s another story…) Amazon also uses this architecture as Prime Video, AmazonEcho, AmazonKindle and Audible all have subtle nods to the Amazon brand through either colours, fonts and graphics.

We utilised this particular brand architecture when we rebranded the Hunter Institute of Mental Health to Everymind. We knew when we began the rebrand that the research institute produces a range of programs and resources. We wanted to link each program such as Mindframe and Life in Mind to Everymind whilst keeping them unique and linking them back to the parent brand. This was done through utilising the same typeface for each brandmark, consistent primary colour and logomark from a restricted set of graphic shapes. Previously they had a completely unique range of brands, leaving their audience unaware they were even responsible for other great programs and research.

What about my brand architecture?

Now that you have a solid understanding of brand architecture take a look at your own business. Have things gotten out of hand with a house of brands causing chaos and confusion both internally and for your audience? Is one product or service negatively impacting another? Do you just some help planning for the future?

Talk to us about creating a solid, structured brand strategy for your business.


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