Top Brand Architecture Models: Which One is Right For You

Brand architecture is essential to the survival of every business. You can use this approach to organically expand your brand's offering, develop your brand identity, and build your brand equity. We understand that establishing a brand architecture can seem daunting. Here, we have compiled a list of different types, shown examples of brands that do it right, and explained how to choose the right model for you. Let's get started.

What Is it?

Brand architecture refers to how a company organises its brands, sub-brands, products, and services. Brand architecture is a fundamental element of every strong brand. It refers to a client-facing, organisational strategy applied to brands in order to coordinate a brand portfolio, maximise brand equity and market share, and support new launches or struggling brands.

Brand architecture is a structured collection of names, symbols, colours, and brand voices informed by your company’s overarching brand identity (mission, purpose, promise, values, personality, expertise) and consumers.


What Are Brand Architecture Models?

Brand architecture is largely attributed to the work of Dr. David Aaker, who coined house of brands, branded house, and hybrid architecture models.

There are four main brand architecture models, all with unique advantages:

  • House of brands
  • Branded house
  • Hybrid
  • Endorsed

Each model will highlight the links between brands in different ways and offer brands varying levels of freedom concerning marketing and brand development. Architecture models establish a hierarchy that can explicitly influence consumer loyalty and brand awareness. This can be beneficial for brands that want to profit from the association with a strong parent brand. However, this can work against a brand, too. Negative press for a parent brand may also bring trouble for sub-brands.

Advantages of Using Brand Architecture Models

A good brand architecture model can:

  • make branding and marketing efforts more cost-effective
  • offer a workable framework for marketers
  • make decision-making on new products or expansion into new market segments simpler
  • give target audiences greater clarity when interacting with brands and increase both awareness and loyalty
  • help stakeholders to understand your brand and products
  • streamline changes as the business develops
  • increase brand equity
  • clarify your brand positioning

Brand architecture can also minimise damage in the case of adverse events that can topple more unsteady brands. Certain brand architecture models can isolate damage to one brand in the portfolio, while others are more vulnerable to widespread damage if a corporate brand finds its reputation damaged.

In terms of revenue, brand architecture can organise and consolidate a company’s brand portfolio, allowing it to effectively cross-sell products and services so that, when one brand thrives, all other brands can profit.


Why is Brand Architecture Important?

Having a strong brand architecture means that no matter how many products or services you offer, your target audience will recognise them all. Put simply, without clarity in your architecture, your target customers will have a hard time understanding what your unique value proposition is.

A strong architecture also ensures that your brand stays organised internally. By including brand guidelines in your company’s architecture, creative teams are able to create deliverables more quickly – they know precisely what phrases, fonts, colours, and images to use.

Chiefly, an organisation’s architecture serves as a guide for brand identity, product development, and design, as well as increasing flexibility for future product or service expansions. Organising this architecture enables brands to target their communications, build independent brand equity, leverage efficient marketing strategies and grow organically.


4 Types of Brand Architecture

1. House of Brands

The House of Brands architecture model involves one parent brand that owns a varied portfolio of individual brands. These different brands may operate in similar industries to each other, as seen with Procter & Gamble, or they may vary widely, as with Unilever. Each brand owned by the parent brand (also called an umbrella brand) will be distinct in its own way, and will have its own branding, marketing, and promotional rules.

The House of Brands model is beneficial in that it offers companies the chance to take up more market share by owning multiple brands in the same category. A brand within this framework conveys its own message and distinguishes itself from others within a defined market segment.

The House of Brands structure also protects brands against a downturn in business or consumer backlash. If one brand in their portfolio falls on hard times, it may not affect the others.

Consumers may not be aware of the parent company that owns all of these separate brands. When they are, it can help brands owned by the company to draw on its heritage, popularity, and expertise to attract consumers and drive sales.

3 House of Brands examples:

  1. Procter & Gamble
  2. Unilever
  3. General Motors

House of brands architecture model example: Procter & Gamble

2. Branded House

Unlike a House of Brands, consumers are always aware of the master brand in a Branded House. There is complete synergy between each brand in the company’s portfolio.

The master brand owns a range of sub-brands that all use its logo or brand name in their respective product names, such as iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV+, which in this example, are owned by their monolithic parent company, Apple.

These sub-brands act as brand extensions to the master brand. As such, a Branded House approach can be a cost-effective brand architecture model that allows sub-brands to use the same branding and marketing strategies as the master brand.

This type of brand architecture model helps the master brand, in this case Apple, build brand equity and expand its market share. Consumers may be attracted to a simplified buying experience with a Branded House model, as they know the master brand identity and its brand promise will apply to all of its sub-brands and their products.

3 Branded House examples:

  1. Apple
  2. Virgin
  3. FedEx

Branded house architecture model example: Apple

3. Hybrid Brand

The Hybrid model lies in between the House of Brands and Branded House model. A Hybrid Brand model can rise out of an acquisition or a merger. Consider Microsoft and how it targets multiple types of customers with different sub-brands, names, colours, types of imagery, logos, promises, positions, and personality traits.

Some brands in the Hybrid Brand model will be more strongly associated with the parent company than others. For instance, Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero all have very strong links to their parent company, Coca-Cola. However, other brands in the Coca-Cola portfolio include Costa Coffee, Innocent Drinks, Appletiser, and more, which all stand as distinct brands from Coca-Cola.

The benefits of a Hybrid Brand architecture model include all of the benefits for the Branded House and House of Brands model – and more.

For instance, a struggling brand can benefit hugely by being included in a parent company’s brand portfolio, and existing brands in the portfolio can enjoy the perks of increased brand awareness and a stronger position in the market by associating with the parent brand.

Additionally, brands have the freedom to develop their individual branding and marketing to suit their product.

3 Hybrid Brand architecture examples:

  1. Marriott
  2. Amazon
  3. Alphabet

Hybrid brand architecture model example: Coca Cola

4. Endorsed Brand

The endorsed brand architecture model helps new brands enter the market with an advantage: the opportunity to grow with the support of the parent company’s (also known as an endorser brand’s) brand equity and reputation. It also allows these brands the freedom to develop their branding and marketing strategies independently, meaning they will remain a distinct brand, but will always have the support of the parent brand.

Brand management can be more difficult in the Endorsed Brand model, as all brands, while remaining independent, have to align with the parent company’s values and brand promises. With a more convoluted brand management set-up, market decisions can take longer.

3 Endorsed Brand examples:

  1. Nabisco
  2. Nestle
  3. Virgin

Endorsed brand architecture model example: Nestlé

How to Choose Your Brand Architecture Model

You might be thinking: Which brand architecture type best suits my brand? A company’s unique brand positioning determines the right model, and in order to understand which brand architecture model would suit your organisation best, it’s necessary to ask several essential questions about your current operation.

Consider which markets your products and services target, how healthy your current market share is, and which market areas you might be able to expand into in the future.

You should also think about how many individual products or services you offer; you may not need unique branding for each product or service and could streamline your branding and marketing by opting for the branded house model, for instance.

The relationship between your brands can also be important. If you’re embarking on a completely new brand venture, you may be at risk of alienating or confusing your audience. The endorser brand model may be suitable to best manage your audience in this case.

Whichever model you choose, it should always work to add value to your brands.


Brand Architecture Strategy with Studio Noel

If you’re new to brand architecture, our teams have the insight you need to help you analyse your current place in the market and identify the right brand architecture model for you.

If your business has evolved over time and the architecture that worked at the start of your journey is no longer suitable, or the brands you have acquired need an extra push, our brand strategy expertise will help you review, reorganise, and refresh your portfolio to secure you success for years to come.

Get in touch to see how we can help you maximise your brand’s success.

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