Brand Architecture: How Content Marketers Can Clearly Communicate Brand Architecture

Communicating Brand Architecture

As a content marketer, ensuring that content is on brand and in sync with the company’s brand voice is an important part of your daily work. Too often, though, brand strategy and content strategy are out of sync. In fact, just 37% of marketers have a documented content strategy at all, leaving the door open for brand-content misalignment to creep in.

Giving marketers and content creators a roadmap – in the form of clearly communicated brand architecture and message architecture – will help to ensure that your content is perfectly in sync and on-brand. Today, we’ll talk about how to clearly communicate brand architecture and how a digital asset management solution like MerlinOne supports that effort. First let’s take a look at brand architecture and the various brand architecture structures.

What is Brand Architecture?

Gravity Group defines brand architecture as “a system that organizes brands, products and services to help an audience access and relate to a brand.” Good brand architecture allows companies to distinguish different product or service lines and to effectively manage and market subsidiaries while controlling the degree to which they’re associated with the parent company and sister companies in the minds of consumers.

Types of Brand Architecture

FedEx a portfolio of solutions

Screenshot via FedEx

If a company acquires a new subsidiary, the parent company’s established trust and reputation can be transferred to the subsidiary through the use of Masterbrand Architecture or Endorsement Brand Architecture. Both of these brand architecture types involve associating the parent company or master brand with subsidiaries in some way:

  • In the case of Masterbrand Architecture, all divisions, business units, and subsidiaries share the same brand (e.g., FedEx).
  • With Endorsement Brand Architecture, the parent brand is slightly less prominent. Subsidiaries may share some branding elements, such as logo styling, or they may have their own distinct brand identities with an endorsement from the parent brand (e.g., Nabisco, the parent company for Oreo, Ritz, Honey Maid, etc.).

Nabisco brands

Screenshot via SnackWorks.com

On the other hand, companies wanting to keep the two identities distinct may use a Portfolio Brand Architecture. General Motors is a good example of this brand structure, operating a number of companies (GMC, Chevrolet, Buick, etc.) that maintain their own brand identities with little brand equity from the parent company (General Motors).

General Motors Vehicle Brands

Screenshot via General Motors

You’ll find various names describing the different types of brand architecture (Portfolio Brand Architecture is sometimes called Freestanding Brand Architecture, for example), and there are many hybrid variations of brand architecture that incorporate elements from different types.

How to Clearly Communicate Brand Architecture

Because there may be legal, tax, and licensing implications of brand architecture, communicating it clearly is paramount. For instance, if a parent company is owned by a separate legal entity, licensing agreements may be needed and licensing costs may need to be appropriately allocated to the different subsidiaries in some cases.

In other words, you need to ensure that content creators are using only the proper branding elements in all written and visual content. This is true even for subsidiaries and business units owned by the same parent company. And that means clearly communicating brand architecture to every team member involved in the content creation or marketing process. Here’s how to do that with the help of a digital asset management solution.

  • Develop a visual system to communicate brand architecture. A visual guide provides an easy-to-understand reference for content creators to quickly understand where a particular subsidiary or business unit falls in relation to the parent company.
  • Make use of comprehensive brand identity guidelines. Brand style guides are often used to convey the brand voice and visual branding elements, but effective brand identity guidelines should also include clear and comprehensive guidelines for how to refer to sister companies, distinct business units, and the master brand or parent company in marketing materials. For instance, if a subsidiary’s name should always be accompanied by a clear endorsement (e.g., “Courtyard by Marriott,” rather than simply “Courtyard.”) Brand identity guidelines should also outline the appropriate use of parent company logos, slogans, and the like.
  • Use a DAM solution to restrict access to assets not approved for use. Using a DAM solution, you can easily keep brand assets for each subsidiary or sub-brand distinct. If you have content creators who work only on one product line, for instance, restrict their access to assets approved for use for that product line to avoid confusion and potential licensing issues.
  • Use metatagging to associate approved assets with appropriate brands. Of course, it’s not always possible to keep assets for divisions and sub-brands distinct, particularly if you have content creators who produce content for multiple sub-brands. Metadata is your friend in this case (and in all cases!). Develop a consistent metadata tagging system that with brand association baked in, such as required metadata fields in your DAM that force users to select a brand from a drop-down menu. Doing so ensures that all assets are assigned to their respective brands, enabling your content creators to filter their results to assets approved for use for a particular brand. Download our white paper, Metadata: Making digital objects searchable, for more insights on making smart use of metadata.
  • Use version control to give creators access to the current iterations of brand assets. What happens if the company is acquired and now requires assets to have parent company branding? Keep your creative and marketing teams on the same page by leveraging your DAM’s version control functionality. Version control ensures that your team members always have the most recent iterations of every digital asset, meaning required branding changes and other elements can’t be missed. Download our white paper, The Importance of Version Control in a DAM, to learn more about how version control can improve brand consistency.

MerlinOne CTA Version Control in a DAM White Paper Download

Brand architecture is the foundation of your brand strategy. When your content marketers aren’t in sync with your brand architecture and brand strategy, branding and messaging becomes inconsistent. Keep your content marketers and other creatives on the same page with a robust digital asset management solution like MerlinOne. Schedule a demo today to find out how MerlinOne’s robust features, like version control, access control, automated workflows, and built-in content distribution tools can help you ensure that all marketing efforts are in perfect sync with your brand.

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