Brand architecture is the formal name given to how an organisation organises its brands and sub brands. It can also be thought of as how the main brand relates to its sub brands. There are three main brand architecture structures:
Monolithic (common identity)
Each product or service uses the same name and visual system throughout. A clear example of this is EasyGroup, where the umbrella brand is EasyGroup and each subsequent sub brand is of the form Easyx (x being the descriptor of the sub brand product or service, such as in EasyCar or EasyJet).
Monolithic brands are clear at communicating a consistent, singular brand (and therefore positioning) across all products and services. The brand maximises its visibility through reach, because it is reinforced across all of the orginisation’s activities. This can help the brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace. However, if one product or service gets a bad name, it can affect the rest of the organisation through association.
Endorsed (common identity as a sign-off)
Every product or service has its own identity and incorporates the main brand logo. For example, Virgin is the main brand which is represented with a typographic logo using the name Virgin. Virgin’s media brand, Virgin Media, has its own identity which incorporates the main Virgin brand logo.
Endorsed brands have the advantage of being flexible, so each one can be adapted to its marketplace, taking competitors into account. A disadvantage is that it’s all too easy to create confusion within the brand as a family which can have a negative effect on credibility and therefore trust.
Individual (separate identities)
Every product and/or service has its own individual identity that bears no visual resemblance to the main brand. P&G has many individual brands, each of them having its own visual identity. You would not know, by looking at them, that any of these individual brands has anything to do with P&G.
Individual brands can carve out their own visual identity in their marketplace. Because they stand alone, if one of them gets into trouble, it doesn’t have a negative effect on the main brand. However, by having individual brand identities, they will never add up to reinforce one, big brand, and so they will always command only a fraction of the overall marketplace.
There is no right or wrong brand architecture for an organisation to follow. Rather, brand architecture is usually something that gets adopted, based upon past relationships and associations between the organisation’s various products, services, shareholders and customers.