Optimal brand architecture ensures that the brands that exist in an organisation’s portfolio are consistently adding value to justify the costs required to sustain them. Given the changes thrust upon us by COVID-19, many organisations and marketers are struggling with the management of their go-to-market strategy and brand portfolio to best meet the evolving interests of their shifting audiences.
Organisations need to ask themselves one critical question: Is our current brand architecture, the way in which our products and services go to market and the inter-relationship between them, still fit for purpose, or, does it also need to evolve.
Brand architecture is always most efficient when it is aligned to and reflects your business strategy, giving relevance to how your brands can meet your objectives. This is never truer than now as we move into the post-COVID world, where the needs of the market and targets segments are swiftly evolving. Or, in the words of Simon Sinek, “It doesn’t matter how much we know. What matters is how clearly others can understand what we know.”
Ultimately, an optimised brand architecture structure is the anchor by which all brand decisions can be made. But in a world in flux, where internal business perspectives and external customer perspectives have shifted, where is the best place to start this brand architecture process?
It’s essential as a starting point to map out your existing brand architecture as it currently stands. Our publication, An Introductory Guide to Brand Architecture can help you understand the various brand architecture models that organisations adopt.
Taking stock of your current situation is an important early step in the brand architecture review process. Many organisations grow organically over time: brands are acquired, brands extensions introduced, innovation and NPD is a constant.
Mapping your current brand portfolio will enable you to understand the interrelationships between each of your brands, establish whether any of your brands overlap or cannibalise each other, and determine the relevance of each of your brands within the marketplace.
Since the onset of the coronavirus, many organisations have shifted their processes and sought access to new markets. Some have acquired incremental additions that over time have created complexity and confusion, where certain brands may be competing due to overlaps in service or product offering. And in a period of declining marketing expenditure, there may be increasing duplication of effort across the business that is bringing unnecessary cost and inefficiencies.
It is only by taking an inventory audit of the existing portfolio can these factors become apparent, which is why this is such an important step in the organisation of your brand architecture.
Brand research is also an essential step in the brand architecture review process. It not only identifies current market perceptions of your brand, but it will also inform the perceived impact of potential architecture alternatives. Researching your market can uncover the differentiating factors that can influence future decision making and de-risk the evolution of your portfolio structure.
Given the turbulence of markets recently, your existing brand research is likely outdated and not representative of the state of play through which you are likely to base your tactical and strategic considerations on.
Even short term, cost effective brand research can help measure the immediate impacts of the apprehension in the market, which will provide insights and analytics to prompt more extensive brand research to help identify and then address your unique situation post-COVID. Just last month, BrandMatters completed a quantitative research dip of over 500 SMEs across Australia for Vero’s SME Insurance Index COVID-19 Pulse Check, providing insights that helped hundreds of brokers understand the changing nature of the current climate and the impact these pressures are having on their key clients.
The complexity level of your brand architecture will depend on your current business model, the number of brands housed within your organisation, and the capacity to pivot and flex as required.
In an environment where the market is evolving by the fortnight, it is important too that your architecture is built with flexibility in mind. An architecture framework that has been designed for today should include the capacity to incorporate mergers, acquisitions, brand collaborations or extensions, pivots and new target markets.
In this COVID-19 world, if you are changing markets, channels or products your existing brand architecture is going to be implicated. Asking whether your existing brands should stretch to new markets, or could you serve the same or new markets with less brands? For businesses looking to pivot their core offer and brand away from displaced markets or towards more lucrative COVID markets, how do you inform such decisions? How do you mitigate risk and maximise opportunity?
The question we’re being asked by clients is “If I move my brand into that more lucrative market, can I do it credibly, or am I hindering my own brand as it’s simply a bridge too far?
Future proofing your brand architecture with an inherent flexibility is crucial. It is more than likely the short-term tactical decisions you have made during COVID-19 pandemic were made to stem declining sales, as opposed to strategically reposition your entire organisation. But all organisations face different pressures, the number of changes in go-to-market strategies and brand portfolio organisation reflect this.
In response to these challenges, BrandMatters is assisting organisations across multiple industries in re-evaluating their brand architecture to ensure they are match fit for the post-COVID context.
We’re offering a comprehensive productised solution that enables organisations to map their suite of products and services, and inform decision making in the management of these portfolios.
If your organisation needs assistance in evaluation of your brand architecture, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.