As an entrepreneur with a small team, building a strong brand is key to success in a highly competitive service-based industry. But how do you structure your brand architecture to effectively communicate your company’s values, mission, and services? We’re breaking down what you need to know about brand architecture and sub-branding to make informed decisions that will help grow your business.

Brand Architecture

Brand architecture refers to the organization and hierarchy of a company’s brand and how it communicates its different offerings. There are three main types of brand architecture: monolithic, endorsed, and freestanding.

Monolithic brand architecture is also known as a “branded house” model. In this structure, the company’s primary brand identity is used for all products and services. For example, Virgin Group uses its iconic Virgin logo for all its diverse offerings, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Galactic. This model can work well for companies with a strong, established brand identity that want to leverage that identity across multiple offerings.

Endorsed brand architecture, also known as a “house of brands” model, is the opposite of monolithic architecture. In this model, the parent company creates separate, standalone brands for each product or service it offers. These brands may have their own logos, slogans, and brand identities. The parent company’s name may appear in a smaller font or as a footnote, indicating that it endorses or backs the brand. For example, Unilever owns many brands, including Dove, Axe, and Hellmann’s. Each of these brands has its own identity, but they are all endorsed by Unilever.

The freestanding brand architecture model, also known as a “hybrid” model, is a combination of the monolithic and endorsed models. In this model, the parent company creates separate brands for each product or service it offers, but each brand is also associated with the parent company’s master brand. For example, Procter & Gamble owns many brands, including Tide, Pampers, and Gillette. Each of these brands has its own identity, but they are also associated with the P&G master brand.

So, which model is right for your business? The answer depends on your company’s goals and the nature of your products or services. Monolithic architecture can work well for established companies with a strong brand identity, while endorsed or freestanding architecture may be more appropriate for companies with diverse offerings or those that want to create multiple brands for different target audiences.

Once you have determined the type of brand architecture that best suits your business, you may also need to consider sub-branding. Sub-brands are secondary brands that are created to complement or extend the parent brand. They may be used to target a specific audience or to differentiate a product or service from others in the market.

Sub-brands can take many forms, including brand extensions, product lines, and brand variants. Brand extensions are new products or services that are introduced under an existing brand. For example, Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke and Coke Zero as brand extensions of its original Coca-Cola brand. Product lines are a group of products that share a common theme or purpose, such as Apple’s iPhone product line. Brand variants are variations of a product or service that are marketed under a different name or brand identity. For example, Tide’s Free & Gentle detergent is a brand variant of the Tide brand.

When considering sub-branding, it is important to ensure that the sub-brand is consistent with the parent brand’s values and mission. Sub-brands should also be carefully managed to avoid brand dilution or confusion. It can be tempting to create too many sub-brands, which can lead to cluttered and confusing brand architecture. It is also important to ensure that sub-brands are well-supported and have the resources they need.

Have you ever considered your company’s brand structure or brand expansion strategy?