Catalyst Branding

Rethinking Branding Architecture to Better Drive Demand

November 15, 2012

I have a good friend and colleague who never met a branding architecture challenge that wasn’t best solved through a masterbrand.  Unfortunately, his view is not unique in the world of branding.

The branding profession has long held that a masterbrand approach is the superior solution for the majority of branding architecture challenges.  Why not?  This approach is the most efficient, most economical, most consistent, easiest to manage and sustain.

All very good reasons, but if the mission is to drive growth by managing demand, these are not the most important factors to consider when selecting the branding architecture right for the future.

There is no question that in some very specific cases, a pure masterbranded system is best.  Masterbrands are perfect for mono-line service offerings that can easily convey distinctive value under a single powerful brand.  In these cases, a masterbrand can be powerful demand driving catalyst.

However, as soon as the organization needs to feature individual aspects within an umbrella offer to drive new demand, a masterbrand becomes an impediment to establishing a differentiated presence in the marketplace.

Look at the big banks today.  For years the branding profession advised these organizations to roll-up acquired entities into a single overarching positioning and brand.  The rationale – consistency, efficiency and brand spend leverage.  The result – homogenized units, struggling to make the best of lowest common denominator positionings while steadily losing ground to more focused, relevant and agile competitors.

Can you name a single, distinctive, demand driving banking brand today?  It’s hard. These once great brands have become mere commodities under all inclusive, diluted masterbrands.

As organizations shift perspective from branding for consistency to branding to drive demand, conventional branding architecture theory must be rethought. 

The most successful organizations realize that to drive demand today, they must effectively orchestrate at least three levels of branding – the brand of their representative in the customer relationship, the brand of the product or line of business and the corporate brand.

Each of these levels plays a very important role in fulfilling the drivers of demand in today’s markets.  The corporate brand helps establish the foundation of trust so critical to the formation of any customer relationship.   The product or business unit brand helps build the competency credibility necessary for relationship development.  The representative brand establishes the sense of empathy or understanding that customers need as they are solidifying their choice.  Ultimately, all three levels of brand combine to convey the sense that the brand can truly help customers in achieving their ultimate objective for the relationship.

Today’s branding architectures must allow each of these levels of branding to fulfill their roles, both individually and collectively.  Conventional, one-dimensional masterbrand thinking won’t satisfy this need.  There’s room for a significant rethink and much new innovation around types of architecture relationships and better orchestration throughout the critical stages of the customer decision-making process.

As we transform our frame of reference to catalyzing demand, the things we’ve done all along often come up quite short.  There’s so much more the branding profession can do to help clients be more successful.  This is just when it gets fun.  Stay tuned.

Posted under: Branding Architecture, Demand Driving Strategy