Brand Architecture is the framework you use to determine how all of your brands, current and future, interact with one another. How do specific brands relate or differ, how are they positioned and named, how are they priced, and how does all of this help you build your business? You can think of Brand Architecture as a “family tree” for your business. Or your “business blueprint.” Or maybe your “ecosystem.” Pick your metaphor—we’ll use “framework.”
As your business grows and the competitive landscape evolves, you will naturally launch new products to stay viable. Brand Architecture helps you figure out how each of these new offerings relates to, or differs from your parent brand, both from a messaging and value proposition standpoint as well as at the branding and visual identity level.
Brand Architecture can help your brewery grow to reach a broader range of consumers and target specific niches without betting your entire business on one move. (e.g. Organic beer is a growing segment. Why not release an organic beer line, which targets a niche group of customers, versus shifting your entire brewery’s business to this concept?)
Like your brewery’s branding and positioning itself, your Brand Architecture should be monitored somewhat regularly; annually at least, or whenever you want to launch a new brand and/or Line Extension. This process is never permanently finished.
A few broad guidelines:
Brand Architecture is public-facing.
While everything we’re discussing in this book will be used as an internal process tool, your Brand Architecture will primarily manifest as a public-facing thing.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of making cool looking Architecture diagrams for internal team (or distributor) presentations. But you should always keep your customers in mind because the goal of Brand Architecture is to make it easy for them to understand the links between your various brands and offerings. This will bring clarity to your entire portfolio.
You should have as few brands as possible.
Your Brand Architecture should be as simplified and streamlined as you can get it. Why? Because managing multiple brands is cumbersome and expensive.
If you think your best chance for success lies in creating an entirely different brand, then go for it. But never default to creating a new brand for an extension because you’re not sure where it should live within your broader architecture.
Any new product you release, whether closely aligned with your parent brand, or completely separate, will need to be supported with as much budget, capacity and vigor as your main brewery brand in order to be successful.
Why focus on my Brand Architecture?
You may be thinking, “Why do I need to worry about this? I just opened a brewery to make beer?” If the last few years in the beer industry are any indication (with breweries now making everything from seltzer, kombucha, cold brew coffee, and all manner of other non-beer items), I would encourage you to think about what opportunities the next 3–5 years could present for your brewery.
Even if you’re not keen on producing any other beverages, your fans may increasingly ask for them. Brand Architecture helps you know when you should keep these different brands separate, and when they can work together to give you an overall boost of awareness and equity.
Here are a few reasons why framing your Brand Architecture can help you grow your business:
Brand Architecture can help you quickly position a new product so that it can succeed without diluting, sacrificing or cannibalizing your parent brand’s positioning.
One of the key benefits of framing your Brand Architecture is the ability to quickly determine where a new product should live within your broader portfolio. This way, your new offering may scale without harming your parent brand’s reputation, positioning or sales. Brand Architecture serves as a way to seek out new business opportunities while protecting your core brand equity.
Identify new opportunities in the marketplace.
Framing your Brand Architecture can help you identify new product opportunities because you’ll be taking an objective, 30k foot view of your brand and your competitive set itself throughout the process.
This allows you to spot cool opportunities for growth in adjacent markets and niche verticals that align with your brand (and in ways that get your team excited).
Save time and money by streamlining marketing and branding efforts (and budgets).
We’ve seen several mid-market breweries struggle with where to put their marketing dollars. Do you put this money toward annual package design needs (new seasonals vs. larger orders for flagships), sponsorships, distributor resources, or field marketing stuff? There could even be a rebrand on the horizon that you need to fund.
Understanding your Brand Architecture can help you more effectively allocate marketing dollars between brands and campaigns.
Present a more compelling and consistent story to your customers so they understand what certain products stand for.
Brand Architecture helps the most important person in this entire equation—your customer. A sound Brand Architecture helps people understand what this new product is, why it’s coming from your brewery and why they should buy it. The amount that your brewery’s brand informs this extension can shift dramatically (as you’ll soon find out). Ultimately, the importance of sense-making for your customers cannot be overstated.
Proactively manage your entire portfolio.
Framing your Brand Architecture lends clarity to your portfolio, both internally and externally. Does it make sense to release our new RTD cocktail under our parent brand? Should we create a new Sub Brand for our annual Barrel-Aged Stout release? Should we create a more developed brand around our best selling IPA, or would that hurt our brewery’s brand itself? Without understanding your broader Architecture framework, you’re left guessing at these sorts of questions.
Build a more resilient and diversified business.
Diversifying your portfolio is a good practice in any business. While we would all like to move past it, the COVID-19 pandemic set a concerning precedent. Closures and sagging sales will be a real threat during any future public health crisis You weathered 2020. Will you be able to do it again?
Instead of focusing on that not-so-positive premise, let’s try to look at this from a more positive perspective. Having a diverse portfolio that can flex between on- and off-premise, and across a variety of categories can help soften the blow from lost taproom and draft sales, no matter what the future throws at you.
Other ways that Brand Architecture can help you manage your portfolio include:
- Knowing how to best use (and extend) your parent brand
- Knowing when to retire a brand (and how to spot an ideal replacement)
- Keeping your brand fresh and relevant
Brand Architecture is a framework for determining how all of your brands, current and future, interact with one another. Navigating these decisions is chiefly an exercise in determining how much your parent brand is, or isn’t, should or shouldn’t be, present on your extensions. And, this begins with an understanding of the role your parent brand plays in Brand Architecture decisions.