Is unification of brand architecture always a good idea?
No, definitely not. There can be all sorts of reasons why not, but roughly speaking there are two main categories of considerations:
1. From a perspective of market segmentation and potential, brands with unique differentiation can communicate much more clear and direct with their key audience, resulting in higher engagement and conversion. If this translates to higher margins, one should be careful in considering unifying such a brand to fit one’s brand architecture.
2. From a perspective of risk management, if products or services within a brand architecture speak to different categories, unification should be carefully considered. We’ve seen this various times when product recalls from a company were associated with other divisions of the same company, negatively impacting their reputation.
How increased transparency is influencing the quest for unification
Clearly visible is the increased transparency that’s been driven by more digitalisation, and a societal, customer-driven quest for more understanding on who is behind a brand. This becomes very clear when one looks at the tremendous rise of the relevance of non-financial performance reporting, currently laid out in many ESG-regulations (Environmental, Societal and Governmental). Although it’s not yet clear which reporting-framework will prevail here, this development implies that it will become increasingly difficult to keep brands separate, as people demand more transparency from organisations and have more powerful (digital) tools to help them investigate potential connections.
It’s about more than products and services
Traditionally, we’ve seen brand unification in sectors where organisations have wanted to demonstrate their global presence. We’ve seen this trend for example in the telco, banking and logistics sectors (companies like HSBC, ING, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Fedex). In the tech sector we also see this amongst the Big Four (Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft), as they work on simplifying their brand architecture, driven by the need to communicate understandably and in the case of Facebook, perhaps the desire to create the impression of an organisation so intertwined, that it would be difficult to break up?