Approaches to Brand Architecture

How much leverage a company gets from their brand is largely dependent upon the which of the two primary types of Brand Architecture they utilize.

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Let’s talk for a few minutes about brand and brand architecture. Brand, as we know, is a term which refers to all the externally and internally focused language, position, and imagery for a given company. At its core, a company’s brand is its reputation. How much leverage a company gets from their brand is largely dependent upon the Brand Architecture they utilize. There are two primary types of Brand Architecture: Umbrella Brand Architecture and Product Brand Architecture Systems.

Umbrella Brand Architecture

Photo Credit Muffet
Photo Credit Muffet

Umbrella Brand Architecture is the most identifiable. It is one brand that creates a single powerful image, often paired with descriptive names for products, services, divisions, or locations. In this architecture, marketing is most efficient, offering economies of scale linked to the variety of products and markets that the brand covers. Put another way it allows “increase[d] advertising efficiency by providing an umbrella for several brands that reduces the need for separate brand budgets.”[i]  One brand, one unified effort, all money and energy expended strengthen the whole brand. In this type of architecture, reputation is linked inextricably with size and power. “Masterbrands are a company-wide brand force, composed of a central set of associated meanings and benefits, whose scope stretches from the company’s strategic core, throughout its people and partners, enveloping its customers, and beyond to its outer perimeter of influence.”[ii]

Photo Credit Cart208Fall12
Photo Credit Cart208Fall12

Product Brand Architecture

Product Brand Architecture is favored by decentralized companies targeting diverse markets. This architecture makes sense when the sub-brands have distinct markets that are not directly related to each other. This style of brand architecture is the most costly, in both time and money, to execute for the parent brand. In a limited resources situation, it is also the least effective. These brands are separately run, ideologically disparate, and often compete against each other for internal and external visibility as well as market share.

Photo Credit Jessi Modi
Photo Credit Jessi Modi


The Best Brand Architecture?

Which is right for your company? The answer is … it depends. It depends on your goals, on your market, and on your business itself. But it should be a choice, not an accident. So consider your options and make your choice.


[i]       Smith, D.C., and Park, C.W. (1992): The Effects of Brand Extensions on Market Share and Advertising Efficiency, Journal of Marketing Research, 29, 296-313.

[ii]      Upshaw, Lynn B. and Earl L. Taylor, Ph.D. (2000): The Masterbrand Mandate: The Management Strategy that Unifies Companies and Multiplies Value, page 2.


Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She was recently named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Possessing expertise in both front- and back-office operations, Tisha conceptualizes, develops, and implements initiatives to foster brand effectiveness like no other. With over 15 years of experience in branding and marketing, Tisha has successfully led large financial institutions and health care companies down the path of renaming their business.

Where Tisha really shines is in the work that isn’t done. Sometimes a name change for a business isn’t in their best interest and after meeting with Tisha, they are able to find the true value and equity that has always been in their brand. Tisha has a special knack of being able to communicate the value so that the CEO/Business owner can see its luster and then with a little polishing, make it shine company wide.

Tisha is best known for developing long lasting branding campaigns that speak to the heart of the business, the brand, and the community. True brand, no matter how big or small, has longevity. Creating branding campaigns that have longevity, that have a laser-like focus, is where Tisha thrives.

Tisha received her M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, from where she also earned a B.A. in Political Science. She enjoyed a distinguished academic career punctuated by enthusiastic and successful participation in competitive speaking events, and holds numerous awards for her skill in public speaking. Tisha is widely recognized for her ability to capture an audience’s attention with her straightforward and engaging speaking style.

When not working, she enjoys golfing, baking, reading, and hiking with her partner, Mike, and their two dogs, Chloe and Jackson. She’s also an active member of Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce, and is a very proud supporter of the Oregon Ducks. Tisha lives in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Reader Interactions


  1. Aayna says

    The concept of brand architecture is quite new to me. I was not well versed with this terminology. Thanks for giving me a good subject to ponder upon. Much appreciated!!

  2. Fatima says

    Brand architecture always depends on the product line and should be chosen accordingly. Thanks for sharing the underlying concept behind each architecture.

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