Is It Time to Revisit Your Brand Architecture?
Note: This is the second article in a series devoted to discussing brand architecture. Check out our first article to learn about the importance of keeping your consumers at the center of your brand architecture, and how to effectively do so.
Brand Architecture Should Be Foundational Yet Flexible
A strong brand architecture is a key foundational element for any brand, but that doesn’t mean it should be set in stone once it is developed. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As a key business- and brand-building tool, your brand architecture should be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains in sync with consumer and market needs. But knowing when—and how—to do so can be easier said than done.
How to Know When It’s Time to Revisit Your Brand Architecture
While there is no definitive answer for finding the just-right time to reexamine your brand architecture, you can get a good feel by remaining vigilant of the environment your brand plays in including the market, category and even your own organization. As part of the process, you may find it helpful to ask yourself questions like…
- Do my consumers fully understand my brand’s offering and range? In their view, does it make sense and fit with the brand’s promise?
As we discussed in our previous article, it’s critical to put your consumers and their needs at the center of your brand’s architecture. Look at your architecture through their eyes: is it easy for them to navigate through and understand how your offerings can meet their needs?
- What are my direct—and indirect—competitors up to? Have they recently introduced new products or moved into new adjacencies?
It’s essential to regularly monitor your competitors’ activity in order to ensure you stay ahead of the pack. Have they changed their brand positioning or architecture? Is someone leveraging an emerging technology to stand out in the category? Has a competitor launched new offerings or expanded or stretched their brand in ways that are intriguing to the consumer? Brand architecture can be used to effectively determine new threats and opportunities as well as gauge the appropriateness of brand stretch or expansion, helping you match your competitors’ moves—or better yet—beat them to the punch.
- Has my company acquired a new brand or product line? If so, does the organization have a solid strategy and plan for where these new offerings fit?
If your company made a recent acquisition, there may be a need to determine if some of the new offerings will fold into your brand or be related to it in any way. Brand architecture is imperative to determining the relationships between brands, sub-brands and acquired products so they all fit together with a clear brand and business strategy, and most importantly, make sense to partners and consumers.
- Are there any internal factors that would warrant taking a fresh look at my brand’s architecture?
Common corporate pressures like cutting costs or increasing sales, category share, profit margins, etc. can have a significant impact on category/product management and a brand’s architecture. Using brand architecture to provide rules and roles for the offerings within a brand can give the organization much-needed guidance for things like growth, potential value tiering and consistency.
To further illustrate the point, here are some “real world” issues we’ve heard about from our clients that indicated it was the opportune time for them to reevaluate their brand architecture:
“Our brand has always been about a single form, and we’ve played around with different healthful benefits. Competitors are eating our lunch because they are stretching into multiple forms AND categories…”
“The buyer at our largest customer is questioning why they should carry all 154 of our SKUs. She is really challenging why we have so many and thinks we’re hard to shop.”
“I just got out of research and our own best consumers had no idea that accessories and customizable options are part of our brand.”
“We are bringing a bunch of products and innovations into the brand from when we bought that startup. I think we should just create a bunch of sub-brands to make it all fit together.”
“R&D has so many ideas. And we’re being pressured for growth. I am just not sure which ideas are right to grow the brand…or even fit with my brand.”
“Every business unit is executing this brand in a different way.”
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, then it’s likely time to reassess your brand architecture.
Tips for Getting Started
Based on our experience helping clients build and refresh their brand architectures, we’ve put together some helpful principles businesses can leverage to guide their efforts.
1. Make sure you start with a strong and healthy brand before revisiting the architecture.
It’s vital to have a strong brand with clearly conveyed equities and established brand values to serve as the foundation for the revised brand architecture. Without it, you risk arriving at an architecture that may not match your brand or make sense to your consumers.
2. Understand your current brand architecture.
You almost certainly already know your current brand architecture backwards and forwards, but devoting the time and brain power to doing a formal and thorough audit of your current architecture—documenting all of your products and sub brands and how they are structured/positioned—can help you think about things differently and see areas where it may currently be falling short. Having this documentation also provides an important reference to your original starting point that you can turn back to as you start exploring and iterating potential changes.
3. Clearly define your brand’s objectives.
Spell out the specific goals and objectives of your brand architecture refresh. Are you looking to simplify your brand portfolio, better target specific customer segments, or adapt to changes in your industry? Understanding your objectives will guide your decision-making process and help ensure you arrive at a successful outcome.
4. Look to your brand’s business strategy as the guiding point.
Are you looking to bring in new consumers? Increase penetration with current consumers? Enter new markets? Your strategy can—and should—serve as your north star for any efforts to shift your brand architecture.
5. Analyze market and consumer trends.
Keep tabs on industry trends and changes in consumer behavior and be certain to factor those elements into your refreshed architecture to ensure it stays competitive and fits with where the market is going.
Remember that a brand architecture refresh is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process that should adapt to evolving market conditions and customer preferences. It’s important to stay agile and be prepared to make adjustments as needed to ensure your brand remains relevant and competitive.
Do you need help in determining how your brand architecture may need to evolve to benefit your consumers, brand and business? 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, brand-building 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.