Remember in first grade when you had to create a family tree? You start at the top of the tree with your great, great grandparents, work downward to great Aunt Rudy and Uncle Alphie, and eventually to the bottom – you! Everyone on that tree is related by blood, yes, but everyone is still unique.

Think of a company’s brand architecture as their family tree—they are all connected, but likely look a little different from one another.

Now that you’re reminiscing about the woes of your last family reunion, lets dig deeper into the importance of a consistent brand architecture and all of the possible brand family layouts.

What is Brand Architecture?

Simply put, brand architecture is the relationship between brands within an organization and how they interact with one another.

No matter how many products or services you offer, think about how your target audience will recognize each of them. Brand architecture helps you define what that relationship is, and helps your brand stay organized internally. It’s a road map for brand identity, development and design, and increases flexibility for product or service expansion in the future. From a messaging and communications standpoint, an organized brand architecture helps you reach your target market for each product or service that you offer.

And no, your brand is not too small to benefit from brand architecture.

Different Types of Brand Architecture

Sub Brand

Sub brands are related to a parent brand, and both support and benefit from that parent. Sub brands tie back to the parent brand’s qualities, values and message, while also have their own unique qualities.

Apple, for example, has multiple technological products. While these products may not have Apple in their name, they are branded as Apple and promote the parent brand. Apple is not a product itself, but each sub brand takes advantage of Apple’s brand equity, and releases different products to cater to many consumer segments.


Branded House

The branded house offers a very logical path to brand extensions, as the master brand is always present.

Take FedEx, for example. Each brand offers a different (but complimentary) service to the master FedEx brand. The credibility of the master brand is shared, and each brand helps build equity for FedEx.


House of Brands

This structure separates the master brand from brand extensions, and detaches each extension. So, the master brand can have competing brands underneath them.

An example of a house of brands is Proctor and Gamble. P&G has dozens of products underneath the parent brand. Each brand extension is separate from one another – you don’t associate Vicks with P&G or with Pantene. (Or maybe you do?) Each brand, including P&G, is responsible for their own brand equity. That way, if Bounce had a brand crisis, no other brands would be impacted.


On the back of your Crest Toothpaste or Pampers Diapers, in the fine print, however, P&G is listed. But, how often do people read the fine print?

Hybrid or Endorsed Brand

The hybrid or endorsed brand model packages brands under a master brand. Each brand extension has its own identity, but is still associated with the master brand. The master brand equity can be used, or each brand extension can develop its own independent strategy.

An example of an endorsed brand is Marriott. There is flexibility in naming under an endorsed brand – you can choose to include the master brand in the name to build equity, or like the Sheraton, branch off.


Large vs. Small Companies

There is a myth that brand architecture can only benefit large companies. When you have a vision for where your company is going, no matter your size, part of that vision should be brand architecture.

Think – do you want your two brands to be related to each other? Does your new brand detract from your original brand? Is your new brand strong enough to go out on its own? Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Brand architecture is always external facing, not legal or organizational. What would make the most sense for your customers? #Research
  2. The bottom line is clarity and messaging. If you don’t have clarity of your architecture, people will not understand what your unique value proposition is.
  3. Keep it simple. Stick with one brand architecture, but use two structures MAX per company. Conduct an extensive amount of research to fully understand company offerings and strategy when choosing an architecture.
  4. The dominant brand is the one that you most intend to build over time. Building a core brand should be your highest priority.
  5. When an existing brand can be used, new brands should not be created.


Marketing is the act of expansion – getting to as many people as possible through as many channels as possible. Branding is an act of contraction – ensuring that each company’s brands make sense in relation to one another. While it may seem that marketing and branding compete with each other in their goals, they actually help each other. Brand is the foundation, and marketing is the rocket fuel. Wondering which brand architecture makes the most sense for your business? We can help!

Have you mastered brand architecture? Let’s play #NameThatArchitecture!









Answers: Branded House, Branded House, Endorsed Brand. How did you do?

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