The key questions of brand architecture

There are five types of question:

  • What to call new products? Should they be given a descriptive name or a brand name? When Lafarge invented a revolutionary, fluid and therefore extremely smooth concrete, should it have called it simply fluid cement, or Agilia? In the latter case, how should the link be made between this so-called daughter brand, Agilia, and the so-called parent brand, Lafarge? Should one say Lafarge Agilia or Agilia by Lafarge? Does the same rule apply for all daughter brands? How should it be expressed on the packaging of cement sacks, on the products themselves, on distributors’ shelves, or on the stands at trade shows?
  • How many brand levels to adopt? Should there be only one brand name within the company? This is the choice for most Asian groups. This means naming the products in a descriptive manner in order to have one single brand. Thus, we talk about Samsung televisions, Samsung mobile phones and Samsung digital cameras. In the same way, there are Braun coffee machines, Braun razors, Braun electric toothbrushes and Braun hairdryers. Conversely, for decades Philips razors have been known by the name Philishave, and we talk of the Apple iMac and now the iPod.
  • How much visibility to give to the corporate name, group name and the company name itself? Should everything be brought together under this one name, as Siemens and Axa have done, or should the name be given a role as a guarantee of daughter brands, as 3M and Danone have done? On all 3M products (such as Scotch and Post-It) we find a visible 3M signature. Conversely, you have to turn the Evian water bottle round to find the Danone Corp logo on the label at the back. As for Procter & Gamble’s products and brands (Ariel, Tide, Dash, Always and so on), it takes a sharp eye to spot the name of the local subsidiary in the small print. Pharmaceutical laboratories answer these questions in different ways, depending on whether they operate in the prescribed products sector, or in over-the-counter (OTC) medication, or even manufacture generic medicines (Moss, 2007).

Within groups, should the brand be situated at the corporate level (Accor), or at the divisional or business unit level, as with the Accor Casino or Accor Hotels brands, alongside the well-known product brands (Formule 1, Motel 6, Red Roof, Etap, Mercure, Novotel, Sofitel, Suite Hotels and so on)?

  • More generally, should there be a different name for the company and the commercial brand? Thus, France Telecom is still the name of the institution, and Orange is now the only commercial brand, now that the Equant (which was dedicated to businesses) and wanadoo (previously the only international France Telecom brand dedicated to the internet) brands have been suppressed.
  • Should the same architecture apply around the world? For example, in the country of origin, in Europe, in the United States and in Asia? These are necessary, even crucial questions, which need to be answered in order to make the continually renewed product offer easy to read, while at the same time building the brand’s reputation through this offer.

The term ‘branding strategy’ is used for decisions on:

  • the number of brand levels to be implemented (one, two or even three?);
  • the role of the corporate in the product value communication: should it be absent, strongly present, or hardly present?
  • the relative weight of these brands, and the graphic arrangement of their coexistence on all the documents, packaging, and products, but also industrial sites, offices, and business cards of salespersons and managers;
  • the degree of globalisation of the architecture. There are a few typical responses to these questions: these models are called branding strategies. They are discussed in detail below.

First of all it is necessary to return to the key questions of brand architecture. Brand architecture is therefore a strategy: it may be ideal, or may lead to losses of efficiency, even to paralysis. In any case, what is expected is a coherent and well-founded response, even if it must change as competitive conditions evolve, rendering the previous choice of architecture null and void, or inefficient and too expensive. In fact, groups never cease to change their brand architecture, as the examples below illustrate.

In 1990, l’Oréal Paris, which had previously limited itself to endorsing its brand ranges worldwide (Elnett, Elsève, Studio Line, etc) by discreetly signing them, overturned this state of affairs, henceforth giving l’Oréal Paris a key role, under which all these so-called star brands had to fall into line, thereby displaying a community of values and communications style.

In the B2B sector, Henri Lachmann undertook the reverse change when he took over from Didier Pineau Valenciennes as managing director of the Schneider Electric Group. The latter was responsible for taking Schneider from a fragile status as ironmongers to that of a global high-tech company specializing in industrial electrical equipment, thanks to the acquisition of companies famous throughout the world (such as Merlin Gerin, Telemecanique, Yorkshire Switchgear, the Italian company Modicon and the American Square D).

Pineau Valenciennes’ goal was to achieve a unique corporate brand as quickly as possible, which would also play the part of a commercial brand: as its competitors Siemens, ABB, GE and Legrand and Hager do, Schneider Electric became the keystone of the whole offer. This involved the progressive disappearance of the specialized companies such as Telemécanique and Merlin Gerin, relegated to the rank of daughter brands, then to names of ranges.

Taking over management of the company, Lachmann had a different vision. It was necessary to do the opposite, revitalising the daughter brands to worldwide recognition, since they were the capital of the emerging company Schneider Electric. This resulted in an architecture with two brand levels (that of the corporate name and that of the daughter brands).

In 2005, all products manufactured anywhere in the world by Unilever, a leading group in mass-market products, had to carry the U logo in a highly visible and identifiable way. Until then the company had been hidden, or at least not identified on product packaging, except for the legally required mention of the legal name of the local subsidiary (such as ‘Lever Industan Ltd’ in India).

This emergence of the corporate brand is a fundamental tendency, but Unilever’s competitor, Procter & Gamble, still hides its identity on its packaging. It is true that the company has had to cope with a particularly persistent and unpleasant rumour (Kapferer, 1987).

In 2006, Veolia, the world leader in environmental services (water and waste treatment, energy, delegated public transport) decided to remove its three trade brands, through which it had communicated since their creation: Connex for transport, Dalkia for energy and Onyx for waste treatment, substituting them with the unifying name Veolia: so the brands became Veolia Transport, Veolia Energy and so on.

Clearly brand architecture is not a technical or tactical problem, but a strategic one. The choice of one leads to a commitment that lasts several years, and it may become a source of cost cutting or of expensive inefficiencies. What is under discussion is not a formal problem of graphic organisation, but the concomitant construction of turnover, growth and a real brand capital, a source of competitive advantage. Brand growth implies increased complexity, and therefore the risk of loss of image coherence, and of dilution of the brand capital.

« Previous Topics
How Execution Kills A Good Idea: Easycar
An Extension-based Business Model: Virgin
Is The Market Really Attractive?
Next Topics »
Type And Role Of Brands
The Main Types Of Brand Architecture
The Flexible Umbrella Brand

Strategic Brand Management Related Practice Tests

Strategic Management Practice Tests
Brand Equity In Question What Is A Brand? Differentiating Between Brandassets, Strength And Value Tracking Brand Equity Goodwill: The Convergence Of Finance And Marketing How Brands Create Value For The Customer How Brands Create Value For The Company Corporate Reputation And The Corporate Brand Strategic Implications Of Branding What Does Branding Really Mean? Permanently Nurturing The Difference Brands Act As A Genetic Programme Respect The Brand ‘contract’ The Product And The Brand Each Brand Needs A Flagship Product Advertising Products Through The Brand Prism Brands And Other Signs Of Quality Obstacles To The Implications Of Branding Brand And Business Building Are Brands For All Companies? Building A Market Leader Without Advertising Brand Building: From Product To Values, And Vice Versa Are Leading Brands The Best Products Or The Best Value? Understanding The Value Curve Of The Target Breaking The Rule And Acting Fast Comparing Brand And Business Models: Cola Drinks From Private Labels To Store Brands Evolution Of The Distributor’s Brand Are They Brands Like The Others? Why Have Distributor's Brands? The Financial Equation Of The Distributor’s Brand The Three Stages Of The Distributor’s Brand The Case Of Decathlon Factors In The Success Of Distributor's Brands Optimising The Dob Marketing Mix The Real Brand Issue For Distributors Competing Against Distributor's Brands Facing The Low-cost Revolution Should Manufacturers Produce Goods For Dob's? Brand Diversity: The Types Of Brands Luxury, Brand And Griffe Service Brands Brand And Nature: Fresh Produce Pharmaceutical Brands The Business-to-business Brand The Internet Brand Country Brands Thinking Of Towns As Brands Universities And Business Schools Are Brands Thinking Of Celebrities As Brands The New Rules Of Brand Management The Limits Of A Certain Type Of Marketing About Brand Equity The New Brand Realities We Have Entered The B To B To C Phase Brand Or Business Model Power? Building The Brand In Reverse? The Power Of Passions Beginning With The Strong 360° Experience Beginning With The Shop The Company Must Be More Human, More Open Experimenting For More Efficiency The Enlarged Scope Of Brand Management Licensing: A Strategic Lever How Co-branding Grows The Business Brand Identity And Positioning Brand Identity: A Necessary Concept Identity And Positioning Why Brands Need Identity And Positioning The Six Facets Of Brand Identity Sources Of Identity: Brand Dna Brand Essence Launching The Brand Launching A Brand And Launching A Product Are Not The Same Defining The Brand’s Platform The Process Of Brand Positioning Determining The Flagship Product Brand Campaign Or Product Campaign? Brand Language And Territory Of Communication Choosing A Name For A Strong Brand Making Creative 360° Communications Work For The Brand Building Brand Foundations Through Opinion Leaders And Communities The Challenge Of Growth In Mature Markets Growth Through Existing Customers Line Extensions: Necessity And Limits Growth Through Innovation Disrupting Markets Through Value Innovation Managing Fragmented Markets Growth Through Cross-selling Between Brands Growth Through Internationalisation Sustaining A Brand Long Term Is There A Brand Life Cycle? Nurturing A Perceived Difference Investing In Communication No One Is Free From Price Comparisons Branding Is An Art At Retail Creating Entry Barriers Defending Against Brand Counterfeiting Brand Equity Versus Customer Equity: One Needs The Other Sustaining Proximity With Influencers Should All Brands Follow Their Customers? Reinventing The Brand: Salomon Adapting To The Market: Identity And Change Bigger Or Better Brands? From Reassurance To Stimulation Consistency Is Not Mere Repetition Brand And Products: Integration And Differentiation Specialist Brands And Generalist Brands Building The Brand Through Coherence Defining The Core Identity Of The Brand Confirming The Presence Of Brand Core Facets In Each Product Identifying The Role Of Each Product Line In The Construction Of The Brand Graphically Representing The Overall System Of The Brand Checking The Coherence Worldwide The Three Layers Of A Brand: Kernel, Codes And Promises Respecting The Brand Dna Managing Two Levels Of Branding Growth Through Brand Extensions What Is New About Brand Extensions? Brand Or Line Extensions? The Limits Of The Classical Conception Of A Brand Why Are Brand Extensions Necessary? Building The Brand Through Systematic Extensions: Nivea Extending The Brand To Internationalize It Identifying Potential Extensions The Economics Of Brand Extension What Research Tells Us About Brand Extensions Avoiding The Risk Of Dilution Balancing Identity And Adaptation To The Extension Market Segments Assessing What Should Not Change: The Brand Kernel Preparing The Brand For Remote Extensions Keys To Successful Brand Extensions Is The Market Really Attractive? An Extension-based Business Model: Virgin How Execution Kills A Good Idea: Easycar Brand Architecture The key questions of brand architecture Type And Role Of Brands The Main Types Of Brand Architecture The Flexible Umbrella Brand The Aligning Umbrella Brand (masterbrand) Choosing The Appropriate Branding Strategy New Trends In Branding Strategies Internationalising The Architecture Of The Brand Some Classic Dysfunctions What Name For New Products? Group And Corporate Brands Corporate Brands And Product Brands Multi-brand Portfolios Inherited Complex Portfolios From Single To Multiple Brands: Michelin The Benefits Of Multiple Entries Linking The Portfolio To Segmentation Global Portfolio Strategy The Case Of Industrial Brand Portfolios Linking The Brand Portfolio To The Corporate Strategy Key Rules To Manage A Multibrand Portfolio The Growing Role Of Design In Portfolio Management Does The Corporate Organization Match The Brand Portfolio? Auditing The Portfolio Strategically A Local And Global Portfolio – Nestlé Handling Name Changes And Brand Transfers Brand Transfers Are More Than A Name Change Reasons For Brand Transfers The Challenge Of Brand Transfers When One Should Not Switch Analysing Best Practices Transferring A Service Brand How Soon After An Acquisition Should Transfer Take Place? Managing Resistance To Change Factors Of Successful Brand Transfers Brand Turnaround And Rejuvenation The Decay Of Brand Equity The Factors Of Decline Distribution Factors When The Brand Becomes Generic Preventing The Brand From Ageing Rejuvenating A Brand Growing Older But Not Ageing Managing Global Brands The Latest On Globalisation Patterns Of Brand Globalisation Why Globalise? The Benefits Of A Global Image Conditions Favouring Global Brands The Excess Of Globalisation Barriers To Globalisation Coping With Local Diversity Building The Brand In Emerging Countries Naming Problems Achieving The Delicate Local–global Balance Being Perceived As Local: The New Ideal Of Global Brands? Local Brands Can Strike Back The Process Of Brand Globalisation Globalising Communications: Processes And Problems Making Local Brands Converge Financial Valuation And Accounting For Brands Accounting For Brands: The Debate What Is Financial Brand Equity? Evaluating Brand Valuation Methods Brand Valuation In Practice The Evaluation Of Complex Cases What About The Brand Values Published Annually In The Press? Strategic Brand Management Interview Questions