What Is Brand Architecture?

Let’s say you have a brand, with its full identity created and you want to develop another brand, then another one, then another one etc.  What will be the relationship between them?  Do you create a connection between all brands, do you create separate identities? How will the brands be connected or differentiated from one another? This is called brand architecture: managing the brands in your portfolio by specifying brand roles and the nature of brand relationships.  There are four main types of brand architecture:

  1. Monolithic brand (or Branded house): This can be applied when the portfolio of products and services are broadly in line with the overall brand proposition: there is a single master brand, one trademark (followed by descriptive names for each product/service), one system (promise, personality, visual and verbal identity) used for all the products/services the corporation develops. Example:

Virgin: Virgin music, Virgin radio, Virgin flying company, Virgin railways, Virgin telecommunications.

General Electric: GE Transportation, GE Healthcare, GE Appliances

  1. Endorsed brands: these are individual product brands, linked together by an endorsing parent brand. Although the product brands have their own identities, there is a clear connection between them and the parent brand: there is a link between the higher level brand promise and the product brands. They are called “endorsed brands” because the parent-brand endorses the product with its reputation, the endorsing parent brand plays a supportive and linking role.

Example: Polo by Ralph Lauren, Courtyard By Marriott, Sony Playstation

This type of brand architecture is commonly used when a parent-brand buys a brand that has a history and a reputation with its audience that the parent-brand wants to keep.

  1. House of brands (or freestanding brands): separate corporate identities for each brand: all brands have separate names, personalities, audiences, and sometimes they compete with each other. They are designed to stand apart and be independent from the master brand or the other house brands. It is common for the consumers not to be aware of the parent-brand.

Example: Procter & Gamble is the parent of a number of freestanding brands: Pampers, Ariel, Duracell, Gillette, Venus, Lenor, Oral – B, Fairy, Max Factor – these are independent brands, addressing different audiences.

  1. Sub-brand: there is a corporate trademark and sub-brand trademarks: an overlying corporate brand and separate sub-brands beneath the corporate brand. Each of these brands may have a distinct brand promise, position and personality. For example: Apple iPad.

These are the more commonly used brand architectures but there is no one-size-fits-all model. You can also find a hybrid model: a combination of the first three (monolithic, endorsed, freestanding). In our next article, we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of using each type of brand architecture.