What is Brand Architecture? Let’s first say what it is not. It is not simply a packaging exercise. It’s not just a clustering of brands or sub-lines. Great Brand Architecture isn’t a retroactive exercise in organizing current offerings.
At the heart of it, Brand Architecture is a strategic, clearly documented organization of the brand’s current and future portfolio offerings with the intent of driving clear, simple choices for the consumer while paving the way for new innovation. More than that, it gives a roadmap for brands to make clear choices on where they will and will not play.
Great Brand Architecture results in trial, repeat and clear direction for innovation.
Though, in just about all of our conversations with marketers related to architecture there tends to be a big sigh of frustration. Most of us recognize that our architectures are not optimal nor used to their fullest potential for one reason or another. For most of us, architectures tend to be a purely paper exercise that collects dust after never being fully bought in by the organization.
So what makes Brand Architecture so difficult – and even more than that, how and why should I dust it off?
Why is it so difficult? There are plenty of reasons why Architecture is never fully leveraged, but here are the top that come to mind:
1. It’s not focused enough. Many architectures have multiple variables playing a role in their architectures (occasions, demographics, tiering, needs, etc). When brands have more than 1 or 2 vectors, it becomes very difficult for the consumer to shop and even less clear how the organization should be driving innovation.
2. It’s not fully bought into the organization. Architecture is less tangible, for the internal organization, than a new piece of copy and typically has less collective ownership than a Brand Equity Pyramid. As a result, Architectures tend to simply be a chart on PPT slide that falls short of clearly aligning tough choices and implications for future growth.
3. It focuses too heavily packaging. Packaging innovation is just one of the many benefits of having a strong architecture, but if it’s the primary focus, it will lack the meat to really make the architecture hunt.
The most actionable Brand Architectures tend to have these 6 elements. How does your Brand Architecture stack up?
1. Simple for consumers to navigate. If you can’t explain how your brand is organized, the consumer can’t either.
2. Globally Relevant. The world is getting smaller and smaller. Brands that show up consistently around the world are much more able to tell a cohesive story that drives their business.
3. Reflective of Consumer Needs and Behaviors. Brand Architecture that drives trial and repeat is externally focused, rather than focused on internal technology and language.
4. Aligned with Company Goals and Strategies. Brand Architecture should provide ample room for growth and/or expansion to meet goals and strategies.
5. Consistent with the Brand’s Equity. Capturing how you intend to stretch the brand across categories or drive depth within a category are critical components to a solid Brand Architecture.
6. Inspirational for Growth and Innovation. Great Brand Architecture casts a vision for areas where the brand can innovate and grow.
Why should I dust it off? Clearly aligning on and documenting Brand Architecture is one of the most underutilized strategies brands use today. If done well, Architectures will not only organize your brands but they will guide future innovation, drive simplicity at shelf and build momentum for your organization. To build a strong architecture:
1. Leverage outside inspiration. Check out how other brands in and outside of your category are bringing their architecture to life.
2. Ensure multi-functional team members collectively own the architecture. Make sure this isn’t just one person (or agency) leading the process – to truly drive throughout the organization it’s a team exercise including marketers, consumer and product researchers and agency teams.
3. Leverage outside help to facilitate the process. We find it extremely helpful to have unbiased experts in the room to facilitate the process and overcome roadblocks between agencies or team members. Whether you use the Garage Group or another agency, leveraging an outside group will enable a truly holistic architecture that pushes the team beyond the paper exercise and into what an Architecture is really meant to be.
The Garage Group helps corporate teams take an entrepreneurial approach to building strong architecture directions that drive trial, repeat and innovation strategy.