Understanding Brand Architecture: A Beginner's Guide



What is Brand Architecture?

Brand architecture simply means that way that you organise your brands, products or services. Will you put everything under one brand or will you create a number of brands that help your customers better understand your offering.

Branding is inherently all about identifying and building relationships. The brand architecture choices you make will help to shape the relationships that your customers have with your organisation and it's offering. A strong brand architecture is one that fits the needs of your organisation. It will offer clarity, support your desired positioning, associations and perceptions. It will also help you to deliver authentic and consistent experiences and deliver more value to your customers.

Your choice of brand architecture also sets a foundation for things to come. It can enable and guide your future growth and in some cases it can be used as a filter for potential opportunities or expansion that you may be considering.

In this article we will explore four archetypal brand architecture models and give you an understanding of the basics. To read about how different brand architecture models have been used to deliver strategic business advantages check out our article on The Art of Strategic Brand Architecture.


The Four Types of Brand Architecture

To explore the different brand architecture models I'm going to ask you to imagine you are the founder of a growing honey enterprise that goes by the name 'Bee's Knees.' Your thriving honey empire is buzzing and set for expansion. You have a range of ideas you plan to bring to market, from food items to skincare to beauty products. The question is, how are you going to brand your new products. What brand structure will deliver the highest yield, short term and long term, as well as setting you up to capitalise on future opportunity and provides a solid foundation for long term success.

Below we'll explore four possible brand architecture models and also demonstrate in simple term how these decsion might impact the branding of your products.


Option 1. A Master Brand (or Umbrella Brand) 

The Master Brand model puts everything under one brand. Companies like Google or Apple embody the master brand approach.  For 'Bee's Knees' this would mean all products, from honey variations to honey-infused teas or skincare lines, would carry the 'Bee's Knees' name. The look and feel of your products will be highly consistent and your distinctive brand assets, for example your bright yellow brand colour would be used consistently, communicating to your customers that the values, qualities and attributes that they expect from 'Bee's Knees' can be found in all of your products - no matter the category.

Pros: Leverages existing reputation; simplified marketing efforts.
Cons: Potential for brand dilution with diverse offerings; may limit flexibility.


Figure 1: The Master Brand approach. This model presents all products under one brand, regardless of the unique characteristics of the product or the key drivers of choice in each category.


Option 2. A Branded House

A branded house provides clear family ties between each brand while building some unique characteristics that customers can use to distinguish between sub-brands. Brands like Virgin and Microsoft use a branded house architecture. For 'Bee’s Knees' this model would see the development of a strong parent brand that is used to deliver a number of sub-brands such as 'Bee’s Knees Teas' and 'Bee’s Knees Beauty' that all clearly tie back to the parent brand.

Pros: Brand extensions benefit from parent brand equity; integrated marketing potential.
Cons: May restrict innovation; requires balanced resource allocation across sub-brands.


Figure 2: The Branded House approach. This model connects all products to one parent brand, however it also allows for some of the unique characteristics of the product or the key drivers of choice to impact the branding in each category.


Option 3. House of Brands

In this model we build a series of independent Identities that are developed specifically for the product and the category. This model is employed by companies like Unilever and Nestle. This model allows for every brand to directly focus on the unique value it delivers and enhance its connection with key drivers of choice. If your honey is all about sweetness, then let's call it “Sweet and Sticky” and focus clearly on that, if your beauty product is design to give you a healthy glow then 'GlowFlow' Honey infused skincare will tell that story. As far as your visual identity goes, each brand can be totally independent allowing for creative freedom and maximum impact. A House of Brands a very effective way to support each product individually but it means the whole is often no greater than the sum of its parts.

Pros: Precise market positioning; mitigates risk across diverse product lines.
Cons: Higher costs to build multiple brands; lacks the synergy of a shared identity.


Figure 3: The House of Brands approach. This model allows each brand to showcase the unique characteristics of the product and connect as authentically to the customer and the category


Option 4. Hybrid Model

There are many ways to build a hybrid model that effectively gives you the best of both worlds. Brands like Coke and Disney operate in this way. They choose to leverage the strength of key brands across a range of products while choosing to deliver other products independently. For 'Bee’s Knees' this may offer more a flexible structure with some products acting as a 'branded house' and others being launched independently. A consistent brand may used for two of our three product groupings with one more targeted brand developed to showcase individual qualities. For example our core range includes  'Bee’s Knees Delicacies' and 'Bee’s Knees Remedies' while we independently launch 'Health Nectar' as a premium unrelated offering.

Pros: Balances strong parent brand with niche targeting; strategic use of resources.
Cons: Potential complexity in management; some risk of brand overlap.


Figure 4: One of many Hybrid approaches that are possible. Here we group some products, and separate others to showcase their unique characteristics.


Choosing the right brand architecture for 'Bee's Knees' as it grows is a strategic decision. The ideal model should align with the company’s goals, market dynamics, and what customers expect from the brand. Each option offers unique advantages and challenges that significantly impact the brand’s success.

Ready to discuss your brand architecture? Let's find the perfect fit for your business goals. Contact HIVE for a strategic consultation.



Wayne’s experience spans three decades and multiple disciplines across brand, advertising and communication design. A traditionally trained graphic designer with a passion for problem solving and business, Wayne founded Hive in 1995 and now spearheads our strategic efforts with an emphasis on empathy and clarity of purpose. Away from the office Wayne enjoys family life (and the odd round of golf) on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.


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