A brand architecture is an integrated system of names, symbols, colours and other visual elements that caters directly to the consumer’s thought process. A well-thought architecture helps brands create brand clarity, have a well-identitifed brand positioning and paves the way for a smoother product expansion strategy. The Brandberries has exclusively interviewed Aakriti Goel, Strategic Planning Director for Middle East and Africa at Cheil, to get her take on why brand architecture is a critical strategic pillar for brands.

BB: The rules of organizing brands today are evolving, some emerging forces – on top of which is technology- have changed how consumers engage with brands. Why brand architecture is a critical strategic pillar for brands?

AG: Have you heard of this theory called Smashable Brands? Back in 1915, Coca Cola presented a unique challenge to a designer: to come up with a bottle design that will be recognizable as a Coke bottle even after it’s been smashed to pieces. The result is one of the strongest brand images in history – the uniquely curvaceous shape, who’s smallest part, isolated from the whole, still lives and breathes Cola-Cola. This was later coined as a term by Martin Lindstorm and molded a new definition of consistency in brand strategy.

But what was once an aspirational branding term has now become an inescapable reality.

100 years later, digital disruption has and continues to forcibly smash brands into millions of pieces, fragmenting them across multiple channels. In an age of micro-segmentation, micro-targeting, information overload and digital fragmentation, and when brand perception has taken on a heightened role in customers’ decision making, only a very solid brand architecture can collect these fragmented pieces and give the brand a clear and loud voice in order to stand out.

BB: The purpose of brand architecture is to establish the ‘guidelines’ that ensure brands fit together in coherence, in other words, brand architecture structures brands within a company. When should brands revisit and optimize their brand architecture ?

AG: If your brand’s architecture has not been revisited in the past 5 years, it is high time you wake up and realize that the world is changing and your brand may be left behind.

More than ever, Industries are undergoing massive disruption. Competitors are revamping strategies. Customers’ needs are changing. The days of growing merely through incremental market share gain are over.  Your brand architecture needs to keep pace with these changes.

Legacy brand architecture systems may have served well under old paradigms but they are no longer truly supporting the current strategies and go-to-market approaches. House of Brands, once favoured as strong brand architecture, such as P&G, would probably not be an effective strategy today. I will elaborate on this further down in the article.

So, one needs to constantly look within to see what aspects of brand architecture are redundant and look outside to identify the gaps one needs to fill.

BB: Brand architecture is commonly used to organize your brand assets to ensure that your consumers clearly understand the depth and breadth of your product portfolio. How can brands decide on which type of architecture is the best? How can brands have a forward-thinking model into their brand architecture strategy?

AG: First of all, no decision regarding brand architecture should be made without getting to the core of your business strategy. Your brand is the display window of your business, not a separate entity. The biggest mistake most companies make is choosing the trendiest brand architecture rather than that which truly addresses their needs. ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!’

Second, you need to build a dynamic brand architecture – one that guides the current portfolio of brands but can evolve with the market trends. Just because something works now doesn’t mean it is going to work in the future, so always be prepared for a drastic change at any time (But doesn’t mean you need to embrace every possible change).

Third, in this increasingly digital world, simple is better. Apple has one website. There is one URL. Virgin had one brand, one face, one attitude! Brands are like children, they require constant care, nurturing, and attention to thrive. So careful thought needs to be given if infrastructure investments across a multitude of brands truly serves your strategy.

BB: Brand architecture strategy, when done right, creates clarity out of chaos. Can you provide a short brand architecture checklist for brands to take into consideration ?

AG: At the risk of oversimplifying it:

  1. Take Stock of your current range of product and services. Do each of them have a unique role?
  2. Think Beyond your own portfolio of products, considering all the ways in which you can add value to your customers while still being sincere and true to the brand.
  3. Tidy Up and only keep brands that have a compelling and meaningful ‘reason for being’.

BB: A sound brand architecture strategy brings clarity to increasingly complex situations. What’s the difference between brand architectures developed for consumer brands and those for business brands ?

AG: The fundamentals remain the same.

BB: One of the considerable facts that affects a brands architecture is M&As ( mergers and acquisitions). Can you please shed some lights on what happens to brand architecture during M&As ?

AG: Brand architecture and M&As is very much ‘A Chicken and Egg Situation’.

In an ideal world, the foundation of an M&A should stem from a desire to stretch or recalibrate the brand, and hence generate a need to tweak the brand architecture.  

Unfortunately, what actually happens is that the brand is put on the backburner during the M&A process and all attention is given to sorting out the figures and contracts. As a result, brand architecture becomes a rushed afterthought – forcefully fitting brands into a compromised and still evolving architecture as the companies are merged together. No wonder then that a staggering 70-90% of M&As fail – the cause? A lack of market adoption and internal cultural integration.

Mergers and acquisitions are actually a great opportunity to either wipe the slate clean and start a new brand story, or amplify the narrative you’ve already got in place (if it is worth it).  And hence should always begin with choosing the right brand architecture and implementing a strong strategy for evolution.  

BB: One of the classic examples of ‘house of brands’ type of architectures is P&G, where the emphasis is primarily on the stand-alone product brand. What’s the implications of such an approach on the corporate parent brand ?

AG: Traditionally, the ‘house of brands’ model has allowed the corporate parent brand to enjoy flexibility – individual products or companies are able to focus on what they each do best independently without limiting, or otherwise compromising, the broader group’s businesses growth trajectory. This has allowed the parent brand to be present in different market niches, targeting different audiences without the risk of a crisis with one brand being ‘contagious’ to other brands, as the connection between these does not exist in the mind of the consumer.

Obviously, this flexibility and freedom comes at the cost of being resource intensive.

Greater access to information by the consumer has caused the lines between ‘house of brands’ and ‘branded house’ to blur. House of brands are being accused of a lack of transparency. A good example of this was the outrage caused when the seemingly independent coffee shop Harris & Hole was discovered to be part owned by Tesco.

In an ever increasingly transparent world, I believe that “house of brands” will no longer be able to enjoy the freedom that traditionally came from disassociation, and that eventually, the model itself will cease to exist.  

BB: If you’re to list 3 brands in the middle east with the best brand architecture strategy, which brands you’d mention ?

AG: Majid Al Futtaim

Before 2013, you would have probably visited Carrefour, Ski Dubai and Vox Cinemas without ever realizing a linkage between the brands. The new brand strategy, threaded together with the iconic symbol of ‘M’, helped unite a diverse group of companies and bring Mr Majid Al Futtaim vision to life – creating great moments for everyone, every day!


While not as blatant as Majid Al Futtaim’s new brand identity, Puck’s adoption of a ‘Master Brand’ strategy resulted in massive growth and love for the brand. Puck went from being seen as merely the ‘Blue Jar Cheese Brand’ to being mum’s ally with a range of dairy products that allowed every mum to create mealtime joy.


In the early 1990s Samsung worked hard to reposition the brand from a cheap manufacturer to a brand of superior class and quality. And even today, despite the complexity in their internal operations, they have been able to communicate a unified front for consumers – admiration for one product creating a massive halo effect for other products.