The branding strategy at once time were seems to be concentrated only on consumer markets. These B2C industries were the standard by which all other commercial entities measured their branding strategy. But the exponential growth of B2B business all over the globe initiates the development of corporate branding strategies fro B2B companies. Today’s complex marketplace, sophisticated channel marketing, and highly segmented audiences have muddied the waters on long-embraced branding strategies. Yet, these same forces have also increased the necessity of a firm brand structure on which to stretch your corporate skin.
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. The bottom line is that brand architecture remains an invaluable asset to all businesses, but it must be organized with the appropriate goals in mind. To be effective, businesses must structure their brand architecture to create clarity for the customer, order for the organization, and long-term brand equity as products change.
Traditionally, there have been two primary approaches to branding:
- product-centric branding: Product-centric branding has long been the strategy for the consumer packaged goods industry, and for good reason. In this industry, the goal centers on market share and shelf space. Product branding is benefits-driven and allows for competing products, greater market segmentation, and more shelf space.
- corporate-centric branding: Corporate-centric branding is the game plan of, primarily, strong global corporations for whom shelf space is not an issue, but recognition rules the day. Branding your corporation is promise driven. The organization itself is the primary product. You are branding a way of doing business, or a customer experience, that your audience will come to trust.
For the high-tech, B2B industry, however, these traditional approaches don’t make complete sense. Each of these strategies has their place, but there is a growing trend toward a new branding strategy that is a graceful blend of the two. This tiered-branding approach, which is similar to an endorsed brand, is a logical and effective strategy for the high-tech marketplace. In order to fully understand why this new approach works, however, we need to take a quick look at the first two.
Today, there is a third branding strategy gaining traction in the market that is something of a hybrid of product-centric and corporate-centric branding. This tiered-brand architecture takes advantage of a strong corporate brand, but shifts the messaging away from a commodity based offering and highlights a value offering.
A tiered brand architecture is similar to an endorsed brand, but it is solutions-driven rather than benefits- or promise-driven. In a traditional endorsed brand, a strong master brand is linked to a smaller product sub-brand in order to legitimize that product. A tiered brand strategy utilizes the same structure, but with a subtle difference. The corporate brand plays a primary role and is guided by the same promise-focused messaging found in a straightforward corporate-centric strategy. However, this corporate brand is not linked to an individual product brand, but rather is teamed with a broader umbrella brand representing bundled products that work together to meet specific needs in a market segment. Microsoft Office is a perfect example of a successful tiered brand. Microsoft has a solid corporate brand position as a market leader that can be trusted.