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Getting your house in order

whole first floor

From tea to Twiglets, when it comes to understanding your brand it’s essential to get your house in order. Time to talk brand architecture…

Recently we’ve been working with some interesting organisations looking at how to introduce a tone of voice with enough flex to play out across their portfolios. During our many discussions, brand architecture has often raised its head. When a lot of people hear these words, their go-to place is logo lockups and other design guidelines. But architecture is so much more than that. Essentially a strategy for how you organise your assets, a good brand architecture enables you to add new products and services while maintaining customer loyalty and increasing sales.

When a lot of people hear the words ‘brand architecture’, their go-to place is logo lockups and other design guidelines. But architecture is so much more than that. Essentially a strategy for how you organise your assets, a good brand architecture enables you to add new products and services while maintaining customer loyalty and increasing sales.

Random house?

Most brand architecture strategies fall into one of two approaches, a house of brands or a branded house. In a house of brands strategy, the company name is not identified at all. Instead, product brands drive purchases (think Proctor & Gamble). A branded house strategy has one unique brand name that motivates purchases and offers value (think Sony or Apple).

In themselves, these two approaches can be broken down further. A house of brands commonly consists of either Product Brands, where the company name plays no bearing, or Endorser Brands, where the company name serves to validate the product with its own credentials.

A branded house commonly consists of either Masterbrands, where there is one unified brand name known to consumers, which typically covers more than one category, or Source Brands where the company name is well known but takes a back seat position and the products brands are the heroes. However, it’s not that clear cut because increasingly many organisations are blurring the lines between these approaches, using a hybrid house approach that suits their own makeup best.

Theory done, I wanted to get my head round brand architecture in the real world, so I thought I’d take a look at some well known products and track back how they sit in their organisation’s brand architecture.

Who knew Flatbreads, Twiglets, Oddities and Cheeselets could cause such a headache?

Time for tea?

But first, a cup of tea and a biscuit. Twinings. A good place to start. By the look of the packaging it would be fair to assume there’s no Endorser Brand parent company so it could well be independent. A nice easy independent Branded House, with one Source Brand and a range of brand products. Not so fast. Turns out Twinings is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), which also owns Silverspoon and Allied Bakeries. Within these brands (all of which are Endorsers or Masterbrands) there are both sub-brands (under Silverspoon there’s Truvia and Sweetness and Light) and products (Silverspoon caster sugar, icing sugar and more). Some are bolder on the endorsement, some less so. I was already in a brand quagmire and sinking fast.

Marking it down as an overly complicated glitch of an example, I moved onto my biscuits, but went through the same rigmarole. Belvita can be traced back to United Biscuits, as can Jacobs, Go Ahead, Carr’s and McVities. Unpacking Jacobs in itself into subsequent Master, Endorser and Source Brands was brain-frying. Who knew Flatbreads, Twiglets, Oddities and Cheeselets could cause such a headache?

Digital marketing agency Ervin and Smith provide a useful guide to the models of brand architecture and how to audit your own brand strategy. Their process challenges you to ask four key questions of your brand portfolio to categorise your brands. These questions are:

  • Which brand name motivates the purchase?
  • Which brand name makes the product valuable?
  • Who will the customer call if something goes wrong?
  • How do customers know they are buying the item they want?

Answer these questions and you can work out whether your brand is in more of a ‘driver’, ‘value’, ‘accountable’ or ‘identifier’ role.

The key to a successful architecture is clear. Keep it simple.

Applying these questions to Jacobs and its brand products I gradually became unstuck, building up a picture of the architecture of this hybrid house and how the brands relate – or don’t so much – to each other.

My conclusion? Brand architecture is complicated and will take more than a post to explain fully. But the key to a successful architecture is clear. Keep it simple. Set it out at the start, constantly assess its relevance and make sure everyone you work with understands it too. Because it’s with this continued clarity across your portfolio that your consumer loyalty will develop.

Now who’s for a cup of Masterbrand tea?

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