Brands today need to be relentlessly relevant: they need to engage, surprise and connect while seamlessly fitting into customers’ lives. In our experience, the brands that are successful in seamlessly engaging along the customer journey have adaptive brand portfolio and architecture strategies.
But let’s back up first and look at the broader context. The key challenge with brand portfolio and architecture has always been to hit the sweet spot between two competing tensions; the need to have as many brands as necessary and as few brands as possible. The sweet spot sits in the middle where you have the right number of brands to capture market opportunities and prioritize investments while presenting the offering to the market in a truly customer-centric way.
Hitting the sweet spot has never been easy, and now we face new complexities, which are having an impact on companies’ brand portfolios and architectures. In this article, we’ve outlined the new complexities we’re seeing and how having adaptive brand portfolio and architecture strategies can help you manage them.
What are the new complexities we face today?
1. Companies are stretching their offering across verticals, resulting in complex portfolios that must be thoughtfully managed.
For example, AT&T’s acquisition spree stretched them beyond telecom into entertainment, media and advertising. This kind of growth requires businesses to carefully sort out the value, role and relationship of each brand in the portfolio. It is no longer simply a question of a house of brands or branded house, but a careful assessment of each brand’s role, resulting in more hybrid models.
2. Our increasingly automated world is changing how customers search, select and engage with brands.
Search has become reactive, customers move through filtered search engines, retail platforms and other platforms. Increasingly customers start their search at the product or service level, not navigating through a traditional hierarchy. Customer choice has become more passive. The selection is increasingly pre-determined by AI and Chatbots.
3. Customers’ needs are not static.
They expect brands to talk to them via multiple channels, deliver across more touchpoints, and in more contexts, with more partners than ever before.
4. Brand architecture plays a role in customer-related decisions across the business.
Much like a business strategy, a brand architecture now sits at the heart of many decisions impacting operations such as: go-to-market channel strategy, branding & marcom, sponsorship & partnership, back-end data integration, front-end UX design, and product development & launch process. For instance, the portfolio strategy should drive the R&D strategy rather than allowing the R&D strategy to determine how the company goes to market.
What is an adaptive brand portfolio and brand architecture?
An adaptive brand portfolio and architecture strategy enables a brand to:
- offer an integrated experience that is hyper-relevant and contextualized
- leverage the right brand from the company’s portfolio, at the right time (i.e. upsell and cross sell)
- communicate relevant brand partnerships and appropriately define how the brand will show up on third party platforms
- be guided by flexible guiding principles instead of rigid rules which must be applied dogmatically
Most importantly, adaptive brand portfolio and brand architecture strategies are created from the outside in – the starting point is always the customer’s point of view.
This shift in perspective helps companies become more customer centric. Marriott is a great example. They have a portfolio of brands that play different roles, depending on where someone is in their journey. One often starts their journey with an exploration of options on the BonVoy app or website and may select Westin as the most relevant brand for a particular occasion. During their stay, relevant experiences from the Heavenly Bed to the Westin Workout are featured and highlighted at the right moment (a push notification from the app might say “we hope you enjoyed a great night’s sleep in your Heavenly Bed”) and elevate the most relevant brand for each use case.
By having an adaptive portfolio and architecture, each brand in the Marriott portfolio can play their individual role and put the customer at the center of the experience across more touchpoints.
There is no golden ticket to managing the multiple brands across multiple markets and operational complexities. It requires a shift in thinking from managing a static to adaptive architecture. To do this, companies need to adopt flexible principles; influence decision making across the business; use data to their advantage; use CX and touchpoint design to influence how the architecture adapts in context.
By continuously managing the portfolio, understanding the importance of the customer and the world they live in, companies can build a strong brand portfolio strategy and adaptive architecture and become more successful.
We build portfolio and architecture solutions that drive impactful growth for our clients. If you need help creating clarity from the chaos then get in touch today.