What is brand architecture?July 22, 2014
Brand architecture is the way of a set of brands owned by the same organisation work together.
There are essentially four different brand architectures in common use:
- Monolithic or Corporate — the brand is the corporation, such as IBM or British Airways
- Separately Branded — each brand has a separate identity, such as Coca Cola, Sprite, and Fanta
- Endorsed — the owner brand endorses the sub-brand, such as Wrigley's Spearmint Gum, Wrigley's Juicy Fruits
- Parent or Private label — the owner brand covers a number of otherwise unbranded or minimally branded products
Monolithic is the oldest and simplest form of brand architecture. When the Société Française de Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux (French company for non-allergenic hair dyes), registered in 1919, changed its name to L'Oréal six months later, it established itself not only as a beauty company rather than a chemical company, but also became the archetype for deliberate monolithic or corporate branding.
L'Oréal is no longer a monolithic brand. In addition to its L'Oreal range, it also owns The Body Shop and Maybelline. These separately branded ranges were originally independently owned companies. In purchasing them, L'Oréal recognised the particular brand values and brand personality that made them so successful. Separately branded lines are not always the result of mergers and acquisitions: many companies operate two lines targeted at different parts of a market. For example, Smart was launched in 1998 as a new product-line by Daimler, which also created and owns the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Endorsed branding is a way of introducing new lines under the auspices of an established brand. Cadbury's (now itself a separate brand of Kraft) has a number of endorsed brands including Cadbury's Milk Tray and Cadbury's Roses. Cadbury's Dairy Milk, although technically an endorsed brand, is usually just referred to as 'Cadbury's chocolate'. Once a brand is established, it may continue as an endorsed brand, like Cadbury's ranges and Wrigley's gums, or become its own brand. Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod are all now commonly talked about as if they were separate brands, helped by the commonality and distinctiveness of the 'i' prefix.
Parent and Private Label brands have opposite histories but the same architecture. Nikon and Canon are strong parent brands in the Single Lens Reflex 35mm camera market, and these products are numbered rather than separately named, retaining the prestige of the manufacturer, although both companies have endorsed brands for their, respectively, Coolpix and Sure Shot/ Power Shot compact ranges. Private label, originally known as 'white label' brands were originally introduced by supermarkets as essentially unbranded, budget ranges for the ultra-cost conscious shopper, and to improve sales of higher end products, since research showed that people are more likely to buy when they are able to make a price/brand comparison, and will generally choose the middle of a range of three. Over the past fifteen years, private label brands have grown in strength, and consumers will now typically choose between a brand-leader and a private label product, rather than between a brand-leader and a lesser-known alternative brand.