To help manage a visual identity system strategically, institutions of higher education often call upon a brand architecture model. This model provides a hierarchy, starting with the top-level brand for the institution as a whole, then addressing other entities, from schools and colleges to support offices to affiliated organizations. The five categories within the UW–Madison brand hierarchy are: Core brand The core brand is the top tier of the brand hierarchy and it represents the institution as a whole.
The visual identity for the core brand is the institutional logo and it should be used on any projects that encompass the full university, such as institutional websites, television spots, annual reports, or strategic plans. Core brand extension A core brand extension is an overarching entity that advances the overall mission of the university and aligns very closely with the core brand. At UW–Madison, core brand extensions are schools and colleges. Secondary brand extension A secondary brand extension is a UW–Madison administrative office, support unit, or academic department that supports the overall mission of the university.
Sub-brand A sub-brand is an entity, such as the Wisconsin Alumni Association or a school/college alumni group, that is linked to UW–Madison’s core brand for strategic and economic reasons. Its visual identity may incorporate key elements of the core brand (such as theW crest, or official typefaces or colors), but does so in a way that establishes a more independent visual identity. Independent brand An independent brand is an entity that presents its connection to the UW–Madisonbrand in an understated manner for a variety of reasons.
For example, an entity may exist through an equal partnership among multiple universities. The entity may rely upon an external funding source that must be prominently acknowledged. Or an entity’s mission may differ significantly from UW–Madison’s core missions. The Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery is an example of an independent brand. Brand architecture Brand architecture is the structure of brands within an organizational entity. It is the way in which the brands within a company’s portfolio are related to, and differentiated from, one another.
The architecture should define the different leagues of branding within the organization; how the corporate brand and sub-brands relate to and support each other; and how the sub-brands reflect or reinforce the core purpose of the corporate brand to which they belong. According to Rajagopal Brand architecture may be defined as an integrated process of brand building through establishing brand relationships among branding options in the competitive environment. The brand architecture of an organization at any time is, in large measure, a legacy of past management decisions as well as the competitive realities it faces in the marketplace.
Types of brand architecture There are three key levels of branding: §Corporate brand, umbrella brand, and family brand – Examples include Virgin Group and Heinz. These are consumer-facing brands used across all the firm’s activities, and this name is how they are known to all their stakeholders – consumers, employees, shareholders, partners, suppliers and other parties. These brands may also be used in conjunction with product descriptions or sub-brands: for example Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup, or Virgin Trains. Endorsed brands, and sub-brands – For example, Nestle KitKat, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Sony PlayStation or Polo by Ralph Lauren. These brands include a parent brand – which may be a corporate brand, an umbrella brand, or a family brand – as an endorsement to a sub-brand or an individual, product brand. The endorsement should add credibility to the endorsed sub-brand in the eyes of consumers. §Individual product brand – For example, Procter & Gamble’s Pampers or Unilever’s Dove. The individual brands are presented to consumers, and the parent company name is given little or no prominence.
Other stakeholders, like shareholders or partners, will know the producer by its company name. A recent example of brand architecture in action  is the reorganization of the General Motors brand portfolio to reflect its new strategy. Prior to bankruptcy, the company pursued a corporate-endorsed hybrid brand architecture structure, where GM underpinned every brand. The practice of putting the “GM Mark of Excellence” on every car, no matter what the brand, was discontinued in August, 2009.  In the run-up to the IPO, the company adopted a multiple brand corporate invisible brand architecture structure. 2] The company’s familiar square blue “badge” has been removed from the Web site and advertising, in favor of a new, subtle all-text logo treatment.  Strategic Considerations Deciding what strategy to pursue in structuring the company brand portfolio depends on the answer of a number of strategic issues. According to the article Brand Architecture: Strategic Considerations, the issues to consider include: §Audience Diversity What are the target segments for your brand? Is the brand focused on just one audience or must it appeal to many? §Brand Elasticity How far can each of the brands stretch to cover different products and markets?
Harley Davidson made a classic blunder applying their brand to wine coolers. §Product/Service Offerings How are other brands in the portfolio positioned and targeted? Are some of your brands complementary, competitive or incongruent? §Competitive Context What are competitive branding practices? How do customers view the marketplace? Do your brands help you stand out and grab market share? §Brand Equities Do you have brands with a particular following or a unique heritage or equity must be carried forward? §Geographic Needs How consistent are needs/preferences across cultures and markets? Strong local brands might not work in other countries.
Not every brand can “travel”. §Organizational Structures Who is accountable for branding practices and standards? What are the political realities behind brands in your portfolio? §Ownership Does the organization have legal control over its brand? You’ll have less leeway with licensed brands. §Sources of Growth What businesses and brands are expected to drive future growth for your company? Are they helping you pursue your strategy? §Purchase Criteria How do people buy your products? Do they ask for products by brand name or do they ask for a generic name or your company brand name? Do your brands make buying easier?
How much do people want or need your brands? §Brand Performance How do brands perform against desired attributes? Is their positioning clear and effective? §Brand Role What is role of brand in fulfilling the business model? How important is the brand in driving awareness or creating loyalty? §Channels What channels and distribution methods are available and how are they used across the brand portfolio? §Company Specific Issues What considerations are specific to your company or industry? What might be technically correct might not be feasible in the reality of your company. Sometimes theory has to bow to practicality.