blog agencia branding arquitectura-de-marcas nestle nestle chocolate
blog agencia branding arquitectura-de-marcas nestle nestle chocolate
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Brand Architecture: Starter kit for complex decisions

Normally, as a corporation grows, so does the number of brands it owns. In itself, this is neither good or bad. The key point is to have a solid structure that organizes these brands. For this reason, in this article we are going to review a key concept: brand architecture.

Words by: Little Buddha

Image by: Nigel Young

The term may sound a bit intimidating, perhaps because the word “architecture” has a somewhat technical ring to it (how lucky we are that it is not “brand engineering”!). But don’t be scared, the theory is simple: brand architecture is the combination of all the relationships between the brands of an institution. This applies both to the relationships between the corporate brand and the brands of its different business units (macro architecture), and to the relationships between the latter with the brands of the products and services they offer (micro architecture). Broadly speaking, the more brands and relationships thereof, the more complex the architecture will be.

But what do we mean by “the relationships between brands”? Good question. The relationship between two brands is determined by the degree of brand equity that is transferred between them. In other words, the type of relationship depends on the ability of the image of one of our brands to affect the image of other brands we own, either positively or negatively.

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Classification of brands according to their interdependence: Nestlé Example

A useful way to classify the different types of relationships that exist is to do it based on the degree to which a “mother brand” (the corporate brand, for example) is present in our other brands.

When the parent brand is on its own, we call it monolithic (e.g. Nestlé), while the addition of a descriptor makes it a modified monolithic (e.g. Nestlé FoodServices). In cases where the mother brand is only partially present (e.g. Nescafe, Nesquik) we talk about sub-brands, and when the mother brand provides validation (e.g. Savory by Nestlé), the brand is said to be endorsed (Savory) or endorsed (Nestlé). Finally, when there is no presence of a mother brand (e.g. Purina), we have a case of an independent or stand-alone brand.

Looking at the brand identifiers (logos, isotypes, etc.) in the example above, it is simple to recognize the relationships between Nestlé brands. However, it is important to understand that a brand identifier is only an expression of the brand’s positioning. Therefore, when designing a brand architecture, one must go beyond visual and verbal traits, and analyze the cases in which differentiation in positioning creates value.

What brand architecture should you use?

So, what type of relationship is appropriate in each case?

1. Monolithic brand architecture:

The monolithic model consists of the use of a single brand for all products, services and business lines.

In these cases, in order to provide greater clarity to the target audience and thus ensure communication effectiveness, a descriptor is often added next to the name of the mother brand. In this case it is called modified monolithic brand architecture.

When should you use this type of architecture?

  • When the positioning of a mother brand is suitable for the target audience;
  • In cases where you want to communicate a large market presence through a robust portfolio

An example of monolithic brand architecture is Apple and of modified monolithic, the multinational conglomerate Virgin (Virgin Records, Virgin Galatic, Virgin Atlantic, etc.).

2. Independent brand architecture (House of Brands):

In this architecture, each brand functions independently from the parent brand, with each brand having its own identity and positioning.

This type of architecture also involves a large investment of resources as each brand operates as its own company. It is common, in these cases, for consumers to be unaware of the relationship between the parent brand and the sub-brands.

When should you use this type of architecture?

  • When the audience or the value proposition is completely different. In this case, the brand remains almost completely isolated from any influence—positive or negative—that the mother brand may have, and vice versa.
  • When a high-risk product is launched and, therefore, you want to prevent a potential failure from “spreading” to the rest of the institution.

An example of independent brand architecture is P&G, with a portfolio of brands ranging from hair care to laundry detergents and encompassing such well-known brands as Braun, Don Limpio, Tampax, Oral-B…

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3. Endorsed House brand architecture:

In the Endorsed House brand architecture, the corporate brand acts as an endorsement for each sub-brand. Two subtypes of endorsed brand architecture are usually differentiated: strong and weak.

We speak of strong endorsement when there is a greater relationship between the parent brand and the endorsed brand, since the former has a greater presence within the identity of latter.

On the contrary, in a weak endorsement, the parent brand appears in a more secondary way. An example of weak endorsement is Danone or Nestle in the case of Nescafé or Nesquik.

When should you use this type of architecture?

When the brand’s positioning needs to be substantially different and you want to build a brand that eventually has the potential to detach itself completely from the mother brand but needs a push in the beginning.

It is ideal when you want brand equity to flow between both sides of the equation in a balanced way.

Frequently, endorsed brands are used when a company launches an alternative product line (e.g. DoubleTree by Hilton).

From the point of view of pure branding, positioning is the main factor to consider when designing brand architecture. However, an executive who evaluates adding a brand to the company’s portfolio should consider other variables. On the one hand, as we mentioned, there is the risk of a failure spreading. In addition, the launch and maintenance of a brand comes with a substantial investment of resources. On the other hand, a new brand can serve to revitalize a product that had been presumed to be in decline or as a vehicle to venture into a new category in which the company has no presence.


For all this, brand architecture is a simple concept in theory that in practice requires performing heavy analysis and complex decisions. In other words, brand architecture is highly motivating and constantly presents new projects!