Brand architecture describes the way sub brands sit in relation to the parent brand within the broader organisation, their relationship to one and other and are used together. It provides a structure in which the brands sit.
Brand architecture generally falls into one of four categories: ‘Branded House’, ‘House of Brands’, ‘Endorsed Brands’ and ‘Hybrid Brands’. Let’s take a look at each structure with some examples:
Branded House: Examples of ‘Branded House’ (also known as ‘Product Dominant’) brands include Apple and Google, with each sub brand usually adopting a derivative of the main brand, such as Apple iPad, Apple iPhone or Google Cloud and Google Maps etc.
A Branded House structure normally occurs when the master brand is prominent, well regarded and established, and enjoys customer loyalty. These are circumstances under which a consumer will happily adopt the sub brand because of the standing and trust of the master brand.
House of Brands: An example of ‘House of Brands’ is Unilever, which in Australia has sub brands that include Lynx, Lipton, Dove Streets, Continental and Bushell’s. In this situation the master brand has a lower profile, and in some cases might not even have a visible presence or be known to consumers, instead just operating from an organisational perspective.
The diversity of these sub brands, most of which are well-known to consumers, need to deliver on their own message and benefits to consumers, so the master brand is not as important.
Endorsed Brands: ‘Endorsed Brands’ offer a compromise between Branded House and House of Brands structures. It allows the sub brands to have greater flexibility in terms of messaging, positioning and appearance while still drawing on the prominence and equity of the master brand.
Examples of Endorsed Brands include Nestle Milo, Sony PlayStation, Bingle Underwritten by AAMI and Polo by Ralph Lauren.
Hybrid Brands: As the name suggests, ‘Hybrid Brands’ are usually a mixture of brand architectures, and often occur as a result of a company changing brand architectures or when acquiring new brands.
The rationale is that the company preserves its existing brand names which are known and accepted by customers, while also setting the foundation for a possible future change to another brand structure.
Hybrid brands can take on the style of the parent brand to subtly associate the sub brands without overly referencing the master brand. Examples of hybrid brands include Amazon with its sub brands ‘A9’, ‘amazon.com’ and ‘IMDb’, all of which employ the same colour palette and similar styling cues to the master brand. Microsoft employs a similar approach with its ‘Office’, ‘Windows’, ‘XBOX’ and ‘bing’ sub brands.