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10 Tips to Inform a Successful Brand Architecture Strategy

Charles Scarlett-Smith
25 November 2020

Brand Architecture is one of the most hotly debated, political, and, surprisingly, gut-informed elements of an organisation's overall marketing strategy. And there are good reasons for this.

Internal politics is one of the hardest hurdles for any shift in brand architecture strategy, and just because a brand portfolio is bloated, it does not mean that there is an excess of dud brands that can simply be cut and forgotten forever.

Marketers are the most fervent guards and caretakers of brands, especially those they have helped to build. Bias inevitably creeps in, and understandably so, it is hard to let go of a brand that has taken years to develop, even if it is hindering the long-term growth of the business. This conversation only gets messier when two brands in a portfolio have similar offerings, are of roughly equal size, and in some cases previous to the merger were competitors1.

Brand Architecture decision making in Action
Brand Architecture decision making in action: T-Mobile Acquired Sprint in April, 2020. One of the highest-profile mergers of the year.

A brand portfolio audit will come often hot on the heels of a macro investment, cost-saving initiative, or strategic change in the business; i.e. mergers with or acquisitions of brands with similar offerings, a strategic shutting down, or reorganisation of existing product/service lines.

Making an objective business case for a brand architecture strategy that is rooted in hard data, and prioritises business growth, will ground the conversation, and allow for macro decisions to be enacted with confidence.

Here are 10 tips to help guide the conversation from subjective to informed.

1. Don't get lost in the weeds.

  • A good brand architecture strategy all ties back to the growth of branded business value.
  • Logos and identity synergies are an enabler, not THE strategy.
  • Ensure strategic narrative ties success to Branded Business Value.

2. Ensure you have buy-in from all departments.

  • Full and ongoing execution of strategy is often dependent on support and sponsorship of your Steering Committee.
  • Strategy delivery will likely be limited if marketing is the only voice that is heard.
  • Ensure your steering committee represents the strategically important areas of the business, are influential within the C-Suite, and experienced in delivering or sponsoring change in the business.

3. Consult and socialise heavily during strategy development.

  • Then remove democracy at the execution phase.
  • Brand architecture programs can be political and sensitive
  • To avoid execution blocks ensure the chain of command is clear and mandated execution is non-negotiable.
  • Secure early top-down endorsement and sponsorship for your strategy - Start with the CEO or Head of Corporate Strategy if you can.

4. Remove subjectivity and emotion at every stage.

  • Underpin your process and decision making with business strategy alignment rationale, customer testing and brand and business value generation financials.

5. Be patient!

  • Especially when you are pursuing a Masterbrand strategy across home and growth geographies.
  • When operating across multiple geographies consider the relative life stage of your Masterbrand in growth/challenger vs. home/dominant markets.
  • Varying migration speeds may be required when plotting a value-generating path over the short, medium and long term.

6. Strategy is activation.

  • Don’t stop at strategic recommendations – ensure complete activation guidelines are developed, mandated, embedded and governed.
  • Underpin your activation guidelines with a Branded Business Value narrative.

7. Keep the business updated.

  • Make sure that you are communicating your progress throughout the brand architecture activation.
  • Build ongoing senior leadership performance tracking and reporting into your plan.
  • Include Business and Brand Value metrics in your scorecard.

8. Reduce the risk of a strategy unravelling.

  • Unless the strategy is effectively embedded and governed on an ongoing basis there is a risk the activation of the strategy may unravel over time.
  • Be ready to call on your Steering Group if required.

9. Ensure your execution is effective.

  • Make certain your strategy, activation, and governance guidelines are embedded across the business at key decision points where brand architecture is up for debate.
  • Ensure you have a voice at key cross-business meeting points across organic and inorganic growth pipelines. M&A teams are important partners.

10. At all stages remember Tip 1!

  • The greatest cross-business-support and executive sponsorship will be achieved if your strategy and management are underpinned by the growth of branded business value.
  • Stakeholders will find it difficult to argue against what is right for the business.

About the Author

Charles Scarlett-Smith
Marketing Director
North America

Charles has been with Brand Finance since 2017, and now sits as the Marketing Director for Brand Finance North America.

Charles has a proven track record in marketing, communications, and client-account management of some of the world’s largest brands.

Since joining Brand Finance, Charles established a communication base in North America where he has built media presence and generated revenue by growing the Brand Finance brand.  Charles acts as Brand Finance’s spokesperson for North America, with multiple appearances on TV, radio and in print.

Charles’ responsibilities have a global focus, as he works with the London team to further improve global marketing and communications strategies.

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