Time to Review Your Brand Architecture

Brand architecture challenges are the branding equivalent of pulled muscles. They cause pain and frustration, but they don’t create enough of a problem to take you entirely offline to focus on the fix.

They’re more of a distraction, and when your marketing plan is in full swing, and you’ve got campaign deadlines to hit, they’re always pushed aside for another day. Next quarter. Next year. Never.

That’s until coronavirus gives us the mother of all downtime to step back and have a long hard look at how the portfolio is working and how many extra brands we have that we don’t need. (That’s a hint).

So, the question is, what should you do and how do you go about it? Well, I’ve got some thoughts that might help act as a guide on how to deliver and well rounded objective audit of your portfolio:

Is the structure coherent?
Does it make sense from the outside in, not the other way around (which is the rationale we see used quite frequently to justify weird-looking structures)? This is the key question. Who has it really been created for? Is it for customers or an internal audience? Sometimes the easiest option is to brush the challenge under the carpet, which has an analgesic effect for a while and masks the pain. But it always wears off eventually, and you need to address the underlying issue. So, take a brutally objective view, separate the emotional from the practical and be honest!

How many ‘brands’ are there really?
Again - a bit of honesty needed here. How many of these products are brands and how many are just a set of identities? As we’re continually telling our clients; in B2B terms, you have to work pretty hard to justify multiple brands under the mother brand (this is where the recognisable equity usually resides). And how many of them cannibalise each other? There is often quite a bit of crossover within these portfolios - particularly if two sets of brands or portfolios have been merged through an acquisition. In these cases seize the opportunity to merge two product groups under one name. Easier said than done, I do realise, but your customers will thank you for it.

You’ll also probably already know which ones are bringing the value, and which ones are just along for the ride. It can be quite useful to map them into your Boston Box groups: stars, cash cows, question marks and dogs to help you make objective decisions.

Research your Customers
Depending on budgets, you could spend a little bit of money asking your customers. What do they know, or understand about the brands? Are they aware of any sub-brands? Or do they only really recognise the mother brand? It’s also really effective and revealing to consider the true extent of your customer’s journey. Where does it start? (here’s another hint - online, about six weeks before you think it does). And where does your brand fit most powerfully into the journey?  Using this downtime to get under the skin of this process will be hugely revealing and massively valuable.  I’m amazed at how many of these decisions are made around a meeting room table, rather than by using consumer data or understanding to back them up.

Review your Literature and Comms
This relates somewhat to your customer journey and is a valuable exercise. How coherent are they as a suite, and how do your on and offline worlds complement each other? Business cards and email footers tend to be the most revealing here. They silently signal to the outside world which brands, products or services you consider to be the most valuable. Remember, there is a world of difference between how customers navigate your brands and products through literature v’s website. Literature tends to be a passive navigation - perhaps with the aid of a salesperson. Online is likely to be more active, where the customer wants to find specific detail, and that’s driving their behaviour. If your analytics is set up correctly, you can gain a lot of insight into how customers are using the site, and which brands have the traction.

Keep it Simple
It’s easy to get lost in this stuff. Sometimes you end up speculating to a ridiculous extent about what customer type A is more likely to do than customer type B. The key is to recognise it and don’t go down the rabbit hole. A good rule of thumb is to challenge yourself with “how can I make it simpler”.  I don’t think there has ever been a scenario where a potential customer has the desire to make the sales process more complicated than it needs to be. This is often down to the perspectives of the individual protagonists; where decisions might make sense internally, but from the customer’s point of view, it adds complexity and friction to the process. When this happens, you know you need to change it.

We sat down and chatted more about the thorny issue of brand architecture in our podcast, the Good Round Up. Have a listen below...

We’re a strange collection of designers, strategists and developers who salivate at the prospect of solving these types of problems. So, if you’d like a guided brand architecture audit, please give us a shout.