Brand Architecture: The Beauty of Keeping it Simple

brandarchitectWhat does Apple Inc. do better than most businesses? The truth is they do a lot of things better than other companies, but their marketing genius is world renowned. The tagline for the Apple II personal computer was “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs believed in keeping his marketing designs simple and sleek, starting with brand architecture.

What is Brand Architecture?

Brand architecture refers to the structure of brands within one entity. There are many different names, services and products associated with Apple Inc., but they are all built around that one simple, yet strategic, word. Now when a consumer hears iPad, the brand image they associate with it is Apple.

Jobs believed in visceral marketing. He wanted names that spoke to his audience, but without giving away any secrets. He developed a brand architecture that had distinction, but was simple enough to lead consumers back to that one defining label.

Virgin Group

When Richard Branson and Nik Powell decided to open their own record store, they were business virgins, hence the name. Branson has dipped his toes into a lot of pools, but his brand architecture never got murky.

  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Books
  • Virgin Connect
  • Virgin HealthMiles
  • Virgin Unite

You get the idea. Like Jobs, the Virgin Group has managed to maintain many brands all built around one simple word.

Mastering the Art of Brand Architecture

There are no hard and fast rules. A content marketing guide can give you the basics, but most agencies develop a proprietary style of brand architecture. That’s what makes them stand out. As with most things, though, simple is better.

There are four characteristics to keep in mind when developing simple brand architecture.

  • Empathize with the target customer – Organize the brand portfolio based on what is important to them.
  • Distill the brand names – Remove everything that is unessential. The brand is the public face of a company and product, but the public tends to be forgetful, so make it easy for them.
  • Communicate the brand ideals clearly and honestly.
  • Use the power of design to distinguish each brand, but tie it back to one central corporate label. That allows you to develop brand engagement with the public, so as the company expands into new horizons, the name and that loyal fan base go with it.

When Simple Doesn’t Work

The exception to the simple brand architecture rule is when the master brand offers no value to the individual brands. GM is a good example of this concept in action. Its brands, like Chevrolet or Buick, maintain their own separate identities and tying them back to the parent company serves no purpose.

“Simple is as simple does.” Forrest Gump may have been on to something. When you are creating your own style of brand architecture, it is a good phrase to keep in mind. The simpler your design is, the more effective the brand engagement.

Darla F spends her time writing and tackling artistic projects like painting. Her first novel was published in 2009 and she is working on a second and third, while still creating engaging content for her clients.


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