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B2B brand architecture and naming research

Circle is an expert in B2B brand architecture and naming research. We’ll help you to take a customer-centric view by identifying:

  • How prominent each brand in the architecture is
  • The level of positive sentiment felt towards each brand
  • What each brand ‘means’ to the target market (and the resonance of this)
  • The relationship the target market sees between the brands
  • Reactions to different potential brand architectures

Based on these insights we’ll then make clear recommendations on the optimum brand architecture and naming strategy.

Over the last decade we’ve helped dozens of world-leading B2B brands to choose the optimum brand architecture and naming strategy. Brands like Ericsson, Wiley, Old Mutual and Vodafone. We couple this extensive experience with an intimate understanding of the principles of brand architecture in B2B markets and a suite of smart techniques which probe far beyond the superficial.

The result is research which makes a real difference.

Our guiding principles

The name is the most static element of a brand as regular change would lead to confusion in the market and erode brand equity.

However, sometimes there is a need to evolve. A name change might
be needed to support a change in positioning or it might be a necessity following a merger or acquisition. Often this change will take the form of a revised brand architecture where the relationship between different brands in the family will be adapted and there are three main strategies in this respect.

Under a Master Branding strategy one corporate brand is used often with service-line brands underneath. For example, conglomerate GE brands all of their services under the GE label and appends simple service descriptors to differentiate between their offering to different markets, e.g. GE Healthcare, GE Power & Energy, GE Transportation.

An alternative is a House of Brands strategy. Here the corporate brand is positioned as a holding company for many separate brands which have no explicit link with each other or the parent brand. For example, marketing giant WPP has hundreds of separate brands sitting in the group, but each brand operates autonomously, e.g. Ogilvy, Burson Marsteller, Landor.

Finally, an Endorsed Brand approach sits in-between a Master Branding and House of Brands strategy. Here a ‘divisional’ brand takes centre stage but the power of the parent brand is used to add credibility and/or convey particular associations, e.g. scale, trustworthiness. For example, United Technologies uses this approach with their brands (Chubb, Kidde, Otis and others) by adding the group name as a suffix, e.g. Chubb, a United Technologies company.

Most companies will adopt one of these strategies, but some may use a mixed or hybrid approach, e.g. using a sub-brand to endorse a parent brand rather than vice-versa.

So how do you choose which strategy is best for you? Well, every situation is unique and the best strategy will depend on your goals. However, there are three broad guidelines which often apply across situations.

First, the brand architecture should reflect the level of market recognition of and sentiment towards each brand. If one member of the brand family has a particularly high profile and/or is especially well-loved then it’s wise to ensure that the brand architecture benefits from this strength.

Second, the brand architecture should make sense to the target market. It needs to:

• Be organised in a way which is easy to navigate,
• Ensure that each brand adds value and plays a clear, distinct role
• Ensure that brands support each other, e.g. no contradictory associations

And it should also make sense to your organisation:

• Enables different market segments to be targeted
• Future proof – future acquisitions can be easily integrated
• Appropriate for the risk of brand ‘contamination’
• In line with commercial strategy, e.g. plans to spin off brands

Third, and most importantly, the brand architecture should recognise that a brand is more than a name and logo. Rather, it’s what these signals mean to an individual – the feelings and beliefs they bring to mind when encountered, and the impact this has on behaviour. As such, the ‘best’ brand architecture is the one which is most likely to trigger positive feelings and beliefs, and lead to the desired behavioural outcome (usually a buying preference).

Read Case Study

Matchtech Group

Since its formation in 1984, Matchtech Group has grown into a leading player in the recruitment market. This growth had been driven by creating, and latterly acquiring, several brands each of which was focused on a particular market niche. Adopting this ‘house of brands’ strategy brought a number of benefits, especially the opportunity for each brand to build a stronger identity and position itself as a specialist. However, Matchtech Group’s management team also saw the potential downside. Maintaining several distinct brands multiplied marketing costs, reduced group cohesion, may have caused confusion and failed to leverage the power of the parent brand.

In this case study we see how Matchtech used research to guide decisions on the optimum brand architecture.

Read more

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