Brand architecture needs to be rooted in consumer behaviour but is too often constructed around internal organizational constraints and objectives, according to Professor Kevin Lane Keller.

Brand architecture is the focus of the first issue of the new, online-only Admap which is published today by WARC. The October issue features six papers from thought leaders in the UK, US and Asia who share their knowledge and expertise on the topic.

In it, Professor Lane Keller (EB Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College) argues that the development of an optimal brand architecture is one of the most important brand management considerations today.

Brand architecture involves how a firm chooses to brand its products and services, but it cannot be simplified to just naming, logos and identity guidelines, he says. “It’s more strategic and fundamental than that,” Keller states as he sets out three steps for marketers to follow.

The first involves determining what the brand can eventually mean and stand for and its potential market footprint. These are “big picture” considerations which must not only consider the brand’s potential, but also “the reality of consumer beliefs and aspirations about the brand at the same time”.

Having defined the brand portfolio, along with the boundaries and desired meaning of all brands, the second step is then to define a brand extension strategy to help each brand achieve its potential.

“By leveraging an existing strong brand, brand extensions offer tremendous growth opportunities,” he observes. At the same time, however, marketers may be vulnerable to highly relevant, well differentiated brands in other categories.

But customers have become accustomed to “elastic” brands which have product offerings in multiple categories, he notes; the challenge then is “to truly deliver on the brand promise in each and every category”.

Finally it is necessary to specify the brand elements and positioning associated with all the different products and services associated with a brand.

This may involve “dialing up” or “dialing down” brand elements – logos, graphics, colours etc – to communicate the closeness between products and services in a brand family and thus the associations and meaning they share.

Or a sub-brand can ride on the coattails of the main brand while also signalling consumers to expect something different. Lane Keller advises marketers to sub-brand selectively – “only when there is a distinctive, complementary benefit that needs to be highlighted”.

Ultimately, the message is, keep it simple, keep it clear and deliver on the brand promise.

WARC subscribers can access the six articles as well as a deck summarising the key thinking and advice from all authors. There is also a Q&A with Erich Joachimsthaler, Founder and CEO, Vivaldi, who discusses why brand architecture is even more important in the digital age.

Sourced from WARC