How to Build a Better Brand Architecture
Creating a brand architecture can often become an academic exercise in organizing the brand’s offerings to fit internally driven strategies and activities. This approach can look great on paper but may not necessarily best serve the growth or future innovation needs of the business.
So how can we unshackle ourselves from this traditional—and often limiting—way of thinking? Like most things in business, the answer lies in keeping our focus on the consumer.
The Importance of Keeping Consumers at the Forefront
Brand architecture is generally thought of as a strategic framework that is used to organize and express the relationships between offerings within a brand or across a portfolio of brands.
While this definition is technically accurate, it’s also incomplete and oftentimes leads to the consumer getting lost in the process. When we fail to consider how consumers think about, move through, and ultimately shop a brand and its category, our efforts can result in an architecture that doesn’t translate to “real life”—confusing the consumer and potentially stunting brand and business growth.
Redefining Brand Architecture as a Consumer-Led System
By redefining brand architecture as a system that helps consumers navigate and understand how a brand and its offerings meet their needs and fit into their lives, we can arrive at a more forward-thinking and impactful way to build this all-important foundational element.
Thinking about brand architecture as a consumer-centric system helps to:
- Transform brand architecture from an organizing exercise into a tool that helps map out consumer-driven growth for your brand and business.
- Provide a structure that mirrors how people want to engage with your brand.
- Simplify and clarify your brand’s offerings to ensure they deliver relevant experiences, drive brand meaning and meet your consumers’ most relevant needs and motivations.
- Guide consumers through your brand’s experience in a way that helps them make decisions—and ultimately find the product or solution that best meets their needs.
Critical Questions to Jumpstart Your Brand Architecture System
It’s essential to understand the needs and wants that drive your consumers’ behaviors and interactions. Knowing how they experience your brand (and the category in which it plays) can open new ways of structuring, positioning and linking your current offerings—as well as help identify missing or new opportunities.
To do so, step into your consumers’ shoes and begin to dig into how your brand’s architecture influences their overall journey and experience. Actively visualize them starting to shop your brand—whether it’s a service, in a traditional retail store or online.
Now, ask yourself how your consumer might answer these four important questions…
- What is this brand about? Do I really understand it?
- What do I need from this brand? Can it fulfill my need?
- What are my choices from this brand?
- What is the specific product or service from this brand that will meet my need?
As you think through these questions, can you see your consumers being able to answer them easily? Can they move through your brand and seamlessly get to their purchase? Zeroing in on these questions can help you identify any places where you may need additional consumer insight and understanding to holistically flesh out your brand’s architecture system.
4 Foundational Principles for Creating a Consumer-Centric Brand Architecture
Based on my rich experience helping Seed’s clients create consumer-led brand architecture systems, here are four helpful principles I like to use when tackling such projects. Give them a try next time you are working on your business’ brand architecture.
- Consumer at the forefront: Set the strategy for how people will navigate through the brand and understand the offering.
- Simplify and clarify: Structure the architecture in a way that makes it easy to engage with your brand.
- Meet consumers’ needs: Position your brand’s offerings to help consumers make decisions and meet their needs.
- Look to the future: Use architecture to maximize the potential of your brand by mapping future offerings and innovations for smart growth.
While brand architecture is a strategic exercise in managing your brand, it can also be a great tool for guiding plans and anticipating consumer needs. Thinking of your brand’s architecture as a system will help you map and define how you want the brand to be seen, understood and experienced by consumers. It can even serve as inspiration for your retail and business partners, internal stakeholders and associates!
Do you need help developing a consumer-led brand architecture that’s sure to foster enduring relationships, drive brand loyalty and establish a competitive edge in the market? Reach out—I’d love to help!
Written by Cindi Jones. Cindi is VP, Strategy at Seed Strategy where she uses her multi-faceted experience in strategy, innovation, advertising and research to help clients discover powerful insights, tackle their toughest challenges and generate meaningful growth.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.