A group of us ‘brand builders’ have been assigned the arduous task of unpacking the concept of perfection regarding different aspects of branding. I think it’s safe to assume some of my peers will also start by pointing out that the notion of perfection can be a double-edged sword in any field of life. I don’t think anyone will find that idea I’ve just introduced innovative. Most of us know that striving for flawlessness tends to lead to disappointment and can even make us overlook and undervalue great outcomes.
However, there’s also a different side to the concept. If the desire for perfection is held in a healthy way (which is relatively uncommon), it becomes the driving force that allows us to expand our thinking. A significant number of humanity’s achievements have been accomplished by the inspired minds of these sort-of-balanced perfectionists. But this can only happen if someone has truly made peace with failure and can let go of the attachment proper of an unbalanced perfectionist – one who obsessively tries to make things better without measure. Only when the concept is approached with equanimity can we acquire the flexibility required for creative thinking, which leads to a more grounded and authentic search for excellence.
Perfection and brand architecture
Brand architecture (BA) exists for good reason. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a structure or system that allows companies to organize and hierarchize the subsections of their core brand. Any company you can think of that has different product lines or different branded services is – advertently or inadvertently – implementing some form of BA.
Some good examples of companies with impressive and robust brand architectures are Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company, and Starbucks. They all have a portfolio of branded products organized following a carefully crafted structure. The benefits of a consciously implemented BA go way beyond order and clarity. A robust architecture can introduce cross-selling strategies, help boost underperforming items by attaching them to stronger brands, and even create bonds between organization members.
Regardless of whether a business sells education courses, natural supplements, or condiments, brand architecture can help provide order, clarity, and impact to its offering. Creating a system that includes unifying visual and contextual elements like names, symbols, and colors can assist in the formation of more memorable deliverables. Even when there’s just a handful of products in the portfolio, BA can improve how they are approached, marketed, and communicated.
There are only a few mainstream brand architecture types, each cleverly crafted to suit companies with different needs: the house of brands, the endorsed brand, the sub-brand, and the branded house. These “types” are described as the go-to models, which might lead someone to assume there are no alternatives, and these four variations are the only way of implementing BA. The risk implicit in widely accepted frameworks is that it tends to limit our thinking. We have to realize brand architecture is nothing more than a principle that can be adapted to custom-fit specific needs.
“A robust architecture can introduce cross-selling strategies, help boost underperforming items by attaching them to stronger brands, and even create bonds between organization members.”
In general terms, it also makes perfect sense that people tend to adhere to the standard so frequently. A concept that’s been tested and verified tends to make us feel more confident and bold, especially when those who have tried it first are successful corporations. It’s also much easier to use a model someone else came up with than develop a new one. But it’s important to realize that these pre-conceived options, efficient as they may be, are nothing more than examples of how a powerful principle can be implemented.
If everyone were to see it this way, the future of brand architecture would be full of unique models. In recent years, we’ve started to see how forward-thinking companies and brands are already executing more unorthodox and creative architectures. A good example is Facebook with its (controversial) acquisition of Whatsapp, Instagram, and several other platforms and digital services. Although the brands weren’t necessarily organized following traditional models, it’s evident that the platforms have been strategically integrated to benefit from each other’s features and trajectories.
Perfection is in the eye of the beholder
The perfect brand architecture is the one that fully adapts to the unique blueprint of a business. Established models don’t tend to take into consideration the nuances of specific circumstances. The real breakthrough lies in going beyond the limitations of these standard solutions and realizing that, in most cases, the “perfect” brand architecture must be custom-built. Because it should adapt to a company’s specific needs, it has to be envisioned by an “architect” with a profound understanding of the business it will serve. It might initially feel hard to imagine, as the fear of leaving the models behind might still be present. But once it’s overcome, the vision will expand to the point where a truly unique architecture can crystalize; one that creates clarity, strengthens the company’s identity, inspires new offerings, and brings exponential growth.
As Brandingmag reached its 10th anniversary this year, we’re putting together an original series that envisions a perfect future for branding. Ten articles will explore ten different sides of branding, each one through the eyes of an expert on the subject. Join our celebration and stay tuned for the next installment in the “Branding’s Perfect 10” series.
Cover image source: Rostislav Uzunov