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The Strength of Brand Architecture

By: Sheri L. Koetting
Posted: October 31, 2013, from the November 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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By use. This organization is common for brands offering products across several beauty regimens—such as products for the face, body, hair, hands, feet, etc. Brands that use this architecture typically layer this level of organization on top of other systems, such as benefit or key ingredient.

By efficacy. Extra Strength, Professional Grade, Plus, Pro-Level and other such terms are a common methods of showcasing a product with a more potent formulation or efficacy. This adds an additional level of complexity to your brand architecture.

For example, should customers search first by the strength of product they want or by a method such as key ingredient or benefit?

By size. Unique sizes and product dispensing features are also a great way to breathe life into hero products.

However, use caution. If these spin-offs aren’t positioned as simply enlarged or reduced versions of the product you’ve come to know and trust, you are adding (possibly unnecessary) complexity.

Translating Strategies Into Practice

Although these types of organization can help to bring clarity to your line, each of these attributes also ultimately becomes another story on your packaging and promotions that customers must understand.

When done correctly, strong brand architecture sets the foundation for your core brand value and clarifies the strength of your product offering. Putting these stories, and stories-within-stories, in the correct order for your brand helps your design team make decisions as to what copy, features and benefits are most helpful to consumers.

A strong architecture also helps determine what content can be communicated with graphics such as symbols, color and imagery instead of by words alone. For this reason, MSLK recommends taking a fresh look at your brand architecture before getting involved in any packaging or website redesign projects.

The goals and objectives set during this stage ultimately influence how consumers will navigate your line to choose the product that is right for them. In addition, the decisions made will help you navigate other brand-related decisions, such as future product launches and line extensions, with ease. For this reason, every brand should have an established brand architecture and should review it and update it regularly.

Sheri L. Koetting is the co-founder and chief strategist of MSLK, a marketing and design agency based in New York. MSLK specializes in helping beauty brands find their voice in today’s crowded marketplace through 360° brand positioning—from overall brand strategy to brand identity, packaging, retail experience, websites and social media campaigns.