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B2B Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture is the systematic and structural organization of brands (plural) within a single business portfolio. In the business to business branding realm, the existence of such brand portfolios is most often the result of some version of growth by acquisition. The resulting scenario is familiar: portfolios that resemble a NASCAR jacket, with its chaotic collage of logos.

A Business-Strategic Discipline

Clients often come to us assuming that brand architecture is essentially a neat-and-tidy operation, a way to reconcile and homogenize a discordant variety of brand identities within a common, harmonizing visual framework. From that point of view, brand architecture’s immediate (or sole) beneficiaries are marketers, designers, and brand managers, tasked with regulating, developing, and deploying assets for various tactical applications.

In fact, the real business value of brand architecture is in maximizing individual and aggregate brand equity; it is leveraging stronger brands to lift weaker ones, imbuing the latter with value. Brand architecture enhances the capacity and mobility of businesses to cross the boundaries between categories or geographies and thus enables them to reposition themselves. Brand architecture is a business-strategic discipline.

Branded House

There are three standard brand architecture models applied in such scenarios: the Branded House, in which a corporate master brand (like GE or FedEx) is the sole or major endorsing asset and is applied to everything from strategic business units to products. In its purity, this model tolerates few, if any, sub-brands or co-brands.

House of Brands

At the other end of the spectrum is the House of Brands, a framework in which a variety of autonomous brands operate independently of each other (and of any master brand). P&G, with its plethora of consumer retail brands, is a good instance of this model, which often resembles the chaotic collage but is actually predicated on thoughtful market segmentation. In this model, the presence of the master brand is more often than not, invisible.

Hybrid Model

In between these extremes is the Hybrid model, in which master brands and sub-brands are closely integrated (into Co-Brands), as is typical in the car industry (e.g., Ford Focus) and the hospitality category (think Marriott properties like Courtyard and Residence Inn).

Brand Architecture: Simplifying and Restructuring

In reality, it is a very rare case when a business exemplifies any one of these models in their purity (at least that is true of the two extremes). Put another way, most businesses have Hybrid architectures and much brand architecture work is about simplifying and restructuring these. Because businesses and markets are complex and dynamic, brand structures must be as well.

BrandingBusiness: B2B Brand Architecture Experts

BrandingBusiness is expert at business to business brand architecture construction. We have over 30 years of combined experience in it. We think about it. We write about it. We do it. And we’ve done it for some of the largest, most complex businesses in the world: Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of scientific literature; ABM, the global integrated facilities services company; Merrill Lynch; and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.

Need help with your b2b brand architecture? Contact us now or call us at (949) 273-6330.

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