How can businesses build a successful brand architecture — one that not only meets their needs today, but that’s also designed to accommodate change and growth in the years to come? While every organization will have its own specific roadmap, most strategies involve following a four-step process of research, planning, execution and ongoing assessment.
Research includes data on target customers, competitors, and the market itself. An early priority for research is establishing the target markets and target audiences around which all later decisions on branding and marketing (and even product development) should be based.
> Pro tip: In addition to customer surveys and targeted research, companies must keep a close watch over their own business performance, and make sure they’re allowing an honest appraisal. For established businesses that haven’t yet conducted a brand audit, this should be the first step.
Planning is the process of leveraging the data and insights discovered in the research stage to build out an action plan — one that realistically makes the best use of available and anticipated resources. This usually includes articulating each component’s role based on its unique selling proposition (USP) and target market, and then integrating them all in a comprehensive diagram, complete with action items and due dates.
> Pro tip: Some questions to ask here include, what brands should be associated closely together, and which may perform better as independent entities? How closely should sub-brands associate with one another? Does research show enough crossover to warrant cross-promotion campaigns?
Execution involves implementing the plan — in other words, transforming strategy into action. Ideally, this coincides with the launch of the brand or product, but it may also be a process of rebranding, or of adding an improved infrastructure plan to an existing brand.
> Pro tip: Care should be taken to ensure that each department clearly understands its role and expectations. Build in regular meetings or check-ins with team leaders. Some experts recommend boosting buy-in by adding incentives to encourage competition among key stakeholders.
Ongoing assessment is the process of continuously reviewing the performance of the brand architecture plan, and making any necessary course corrections. Nobody can really predict where the market will go, so it’s essential to plan for the need for unanticipated growth or adaptation.
> Pro tip: Some common questions to ask: Is each brand, sub-brand and commodity performing as expected? If not, why not — is it the fault of the campaign, or a failure to understand or reach the target market? Is it a misunderstanding of the research? If these questions prove difficult to answer over an extended period, it’s probably time to call in the help of a third-party expert.