Welcome to the first post in our series about brand architecture models. This article explains what they are and why they matter. In addition, it includes constructs and visuals to help you establish a proper brand hierarchy that aligns with business objectives and informs future extensions of your brand.

The next four posts will go live later this year and explore different brand architecture models, including:

What is a brand architecture model?

The definition of brand architecture often encompasses everything from market positioning to tone, messaging, design, and more. 

For the purposes of this series, we’ll be focusing on brand architecture models—diagrammatics that map and describe the proper hierarchy, positioning, and relationships of core brands and sub-brands relative to one another.

Brand architecture models also help properly reflect and convey established or future business offerings and entities to your consumer base.

Why do brand architecture models matter?

Brand architecture models should be viewed as solid but flexible frameworks. Think of them as a platform or jumping-off point in creating dialogue around mapping out your unique brand constructs. 

In some cases, the exercise of modeling your brand architecture can help reveal business gaps and opportunities in the marketplace and inform business direction at large. That said, the true purpose of brand architectural models is not to describe internal business or legal constructs. Rather, your model should place your consumer at the center of your thinking.

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Sub-brands should be developed to define, simplify, and clarify your outward-facing brand position, perception, and differentiation among the people you hope will consume your products or service lines. Creating unnecessary or ill-defined brand layers can confuse consumers—and even your internal team. 

Failure to plan your brand architecture before deploying new brands risks diluting whatever equity you’ve built up around your core brands as consumers strive to sort out why it matters to them. Or worse, they don’t bother to sort it out at all and look elsewhere to meet their needs.

Here are three factors to consider when creating brand architecture models:

Brand layers and complexity can be costly. Mapping out clear and thoughtful brand models not only promotes clarity and simplicity in the eyes of your consumer but helps mitigate unnecessary or overlapping marketing costs overall.

Consider the term “consumer” broadly, e.g., employees, buyers, product users, patients, stakeholders, donors—in essence, anyone your organization seeks to convince or convert to your services or products.

Measure twice, and cut once. Brand architecture models help you consider, upfront, the value of creating a sub-brand in the first place.

Cost of developing brand model architectures

The creation of a new subset brand can be costly on several fronts—from the development of ground-up positioning and audience definitions, identity, messaging, brand awareness building, creative campaigns, and content creation deployed across multiple marketing channels to the people or outside resources required to support and manage a new subset brand alongside existing brands. It pays to count the costs, and brand architectural models help you do just that. 

Furthermore, when those costs and expenses are measured against a submarket’s potential value, size, and forecasted returns, the question must always be: Is it worth the investment?

Coupled with market research, brand architecture models can help spur discussion around the value of new brand development, even whether to retain or modify legacy brands.

In the end, unless there is a clear case to create a new sub-brand, always look first to leverage and build the equity of investing in your core brand. 

Avoid confusion: the hidden cost

Without modeling your brand architecture to clearly understand the actual value and differences between your subset audiences, you risk your brands cannibalizing one another in a given market and confusing your consumers at large. 

Often, internal teams are created around subset brands. Suppose your brand architecture model is not strategically sound and defined, eventually. In that case, misalignments can become exacerbated, spurring strife over vague, improper, or inadequate budget distributions and even confusion around target markets and territories.

Sorting these issues out retrospectively can be a slow, painful, and costly process.

If you’re curious about how a brand development project can help you reach your business goals, let’s talk.