How To Think About Brand Architecture In A Digital Age

posted by Chris Valentine

When a company decides it’s time to rebrand it’s rarely out of desire, but rather necessity. 9 times out of 10 a rebrand is required because the existing brand architecture hasn’t been respected.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of diluting a brands architecture and essence, not treating a brand and its sub-brands cohesively, instead of treating them as separate entities. Often this causes not just confusion for potential customers but also confusion for employees.

The digital age has brought a whole new set of tools to help develop and maintain killer brand architecture, so let’s look at some techniques.

Defining Brand Architecture

Before we dig into brand architecture in the digital space, let’s consider what brand architecture is at its core. Think of brand architecture as the foundations of how a parent brand treats and interacts with its portfolio of sub-brands. These different relationship types can be broken into three different schools of thoughts:

House of Brands: a house of brands, also known as an umbrella brand, is when a parent brand manages a portfolio of sub-brands that don’t incorporate or trade off the parent brands name. Often the parent brand will absorb an existing brand into their portfolio, so this strategy is chosen to preserve existing brand equity and consumer recall of the sub-brand.

Patent brand: Volkswagen-Audi Group

Sub-brands: Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda

Branded House: A sub-brand is the more transparent of the two, it’s when a large brand leverages its equity and consumer recall to prop up the image of their new or existing product lines and offerings, existing as their own individual brands.
Parent brand: Google
Sub-brands: Google Maps, Google Images, Google Translate, etc.

Entering the Digital Space

The different approaches to brand architecture have their positives and negatives for each situation, though when it comes to translating this to the digital space little needs to be changed; what digital brings to the party is a swathe of new platforms to strengthen and reinforce that architecture within.

The digital landscape lives and breathes interaction, it’s the fuel, digital allows you to set your brand architecture in stone. Outside of the digital space your brand architecture is open to interpretation and is often mangled as the architecture is passed from person to person like Chinese whispers. Through your website and social media presence, you’re able to control this perception from the source and either, as an umbrella brand, give sub-brands their own individual personalities and hide the parent company, or for a branded house, increase the sub-brands presence by piggybacking off the parent brands larger success.

Simplification is Key

The old adage of Keep It Simple, Stupid, rings true for digital brand architecture, though many brand strategy specialists fall on their sword at this stage. At the onset of digital advertising, revolution brands splintered their product and brand portfolio into individual websites and social media accounts for different locations and departments. This is insanity and achieves nothing but build confusion, dilute the brands key messaging and make it difficult for consumers to build an online relationship with the brand.

There’s a reason Apple has one Instagram account, Google has one website and Airbnb have one app. They localise the brands key messaging into one channel.

How Digital Is Driving Brand Architecture Trends

When it comes to considering the digital landscape in relation to your brand architecture it’s best seen simply as a platform to strengthen your architecture, though we’re also seeing it drive trends within general brand architecture practices.

Because brands are largely driven on social by vanity metrics (likes and follows) we’re entering an era of mass consolidation. En masse we’re seeing brands consolidate their sub-brands within a single website or social media account. For example, we recently saw Coca-Cola consolidate its brand line-up (Diet, Zero, Life, etc.) into a singular online platform, where previously Coca-Cola had separate websites and social media accounts for each of their sub-brands. Placing their eggs in so many different baskets fractured their market reach and crippled their metrics, so combining them into one platform allowed them to focus purely on one outlet and use it to grow market share.

Author Bio:

Jack Shepherdson:

With a love of advertising and branding, Jack Shepherdson is uberbrand’s Digital Coordinator. Experienced across the digital landscape, Jack specialises in producing digital campaigns and projects.

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