Brand architecture describes the way a company’s brands are structured and related to one another. A company may have a single brand that appears on all its products, it may have brands that are used with and subordinate to the main brand, or it may have an individual brand for each products in its product line. Brand architecture is an important concept, as it affects the way the company and its brands are perceived by consumers.
If a company has a single brand that appears on all of its products, it is known as a corporate brand. Sometimes a corporate brand is also called a family brand or umbrella brand. A corporate brand identifies the company as the maker of each product in its line. The company uses the same brand and same logo on all of its products, and it is obvious to the consumer which products the company makes.
Some companies will use the corporate brand on all of its products, plus another brand for each individual product. These individual brand names are known as sub-brands. The name of the product includes both the corporate brand and the sub-brand, so that the product is linked to the company in the mind of the consumer. The sub-brand is sometimes called an endorsed brand.
In the case of an individual product brand, each product in the company’s product line has its own brand identity. The corporate name is not used at all in the product name. Proctor & Gamble™ uses this strategy, branding products like Crest® toothpaste and Jif® peanut butter without invoking the corporate name at all. The consumer may not even be aware of the identity of the parent company behind these brands.
Choosing which type of brand architecture to use is a critical decision for a corporation. Using a corporate brand makes it easier to introduce new products to consumers who are already familiar with the company, and may engender more consumer loyalty. Adopting an individual branding strategy eases new brands into the company’s product mix in the event that another company is acquired, and allows a company to more easily integrate new products that are outside the scope of its core business. The strategy of the sub-brand bridges the gap between corporate branding and individual branding. The selection of a brand architecture is not easily changed, so companies must consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of each option.