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The importance of brand architecture and hierarchy

Kate Elizabeth — 2 November 2018


When a brand manager begins to map and develop a brand hierarchy, it is important to consider your audiences and your product or service offering.

Similar value offerings

If you have multiple products all aimed at the same audience, it makes sense to have them all sit within the one brand.

Samsung does this very well for its mobiles, TVs and air conditioners, for example. The audience is the same - consumers who believe in quality, appreciate the service network that comes from an established brand and like innovative technology - so they can position them all under a single brand.

Different value offerings

If, however, you have multiple products aimed at different audiences, and therefore different value offerings, you might consider building these under separate brands, so there is no confusion about what you do and who the customer is.

Unilever owns both Dove and Lux, both producing beauty soaps and shower gels. Lux is a more generic, less aspirational brand than Dove, and therefore has a different audience. Building these two brands as separate allows Unilever to have a presence in different sections of the market, delivering products to two audiences, who are unlikely to switch to the other if one ceased production.

Brand hierarchy examples

Single master brand

Universities often have a strong master brand and similar value offerings to cater to their audience, but different product categories in this one brand.

Faculties, for example, usually belong to the master brand and are named to provide consistency across the organisation. Monash University used the same visual identity framework for their 2018 Open Day and colour was used to differentiate the faculties in directional signage.

Monash University built a strong and consistent brand identity for their audience, with enough flexibility to be genuinely useful for campaigns and signage.

Science Information Technology Pharmacy

Instantly you can see they all belong to the one Monash brand, but the colour ensures there is enough differentiation to demonstrate width and depth of the offering and the brand, and of course, provide strong directional solutions.

Sub-brands and product brands

Company structure and ownership also influences brand hierarchy and architecture, of course, particularly following mergers and acquisitions when the contract often includes brand structure and naming conventions.

One of the best examples of this is, of course, chocolate.

Mondolez International owns the Cadbury brand among many other chocolate brands. Cadbury has many sub-brands (Cadbury Creme Egg, Cadbury Dairy Milk) while also being a product brand.

Mondolez grew their chocolate portfolio by acquiring Toblerone. It has its own identity, own branding and a separate value proposition to Cadbury so it made no sense incorporating it into their existing brand structure.

This brand hierarchy illustration looks at the way master brands, sub-brands and product brands can all work in concert. Each brand has their own identity, and you can see some of the brands are sub-brands and others product brands.

Understanding how to build your brand architecture, or make a change to brand architecture is a skill brand managers, and indeed the entire executive team, should have a confident handle on.