Strategic Planning

How to Develop Your Brand Architecture

Brand ArchitectureBranding is a bit of a mystery for many small to mid-market (SMB) companies. There are many opinions and methods as to how best approach it.

Top creative agencies have their own “proprietary” methods for crafting a brand strategy. They have to, in order to position themselves against competing agencies. They use cool-looking graphics: circles, triangles, and flow charts to illustrate attributes, values, personality traits, and promises.

Many companies never bother to craft a brand strategy, instead allowing the market to brand them, for better or worse. Deep down, marketers know they should be putting more effort into branding, but many don’t know where to start.

The good news is, if you were to break down most agencies’ proprietary branding methods, you’d find many similarities.

If you’re one of the 90% of companies that don’t have the budget to hire top agency talent for your branding, don’t worry; with a little elbow grease and a good plan you can create your own brand strategy. Solving the branding black box just takes a little learning and a strong commitment.

Brand Architecture Is Your Brand Strategy Foundation

The key to your entire brand strategy is your brand architecture. Your brand architecture sets the foundation for all the other components of your brand, and aligns your brand personality traits, brand means, brand messaging, brand promise, brand story and your visual and operational requirements into a single unified structure.

Brands play on our emotions, so your brand architecture should uncover the specific emotions around which you might build your brand.

To create your brand architecture, follow this five-step process:

1. Start by listing each of your product/service features. Then, list the benefits of each.

    • A feature is an element of what something does or what it is. For example, a car’s features may include a ski rack and an upgraded stereo system.
    • A benefit is a positive result that the feature delivers.

2. Now focus on the benefits. For each one, determine whether it’s functional or emotional.

    • A functional benefit is directly related to the functionality of the feature. Example: An upgraded stereo provides higher-quality sound.
    • An emotional benefit is one that evokes a feeling or emotion. Example: An upgraded stereo might make the user feel like a rock star.

3. Next, review each feature and benefit individually, and determine its level of importance to the market. Assign each to one of three categories:

    • Expected: These are basic and expected; a customer won’t buy without these features or benefits. Every product/service in this category must offer these features.
    • Adds value: Not expected, but most customers probably won’t purchase based on this factor alone. Nevertheless, it helps differentiate your product/service from those of your competitors.
    • Will buy: Customers will choose you over your competitors based on this feature/benefit alone – it’s just that valuable.

4. Now, rank your features and benefits. Brands play on our emotions—even B2B brands. The strongest brands are built around emotional benefits. Use this ranking system:

    • Features that are expected = 1
    • Features that add value = 2
    • Features that will buy = 3
    • Functional benefits that are expected = 4
    • Functional benefits that add value = 5
    • Functional benefits that will buy = 6
    • Emotional benefits that are expected = 7
    • Emotional benefits that add value = 8
    • Emotional benefits that will buy = 9

5. Few brand architectures are built around features, but by including them in the rankings, we emphasize the importance of focusing on benefits and, more specifically, emotional benefits that cause people to desire your offering on a visceral level. The final step is to identify the emotional benefits that will become the core of your brand strategy.

    • Typically, you should focus on the highest rankings for the architecture of your brand. Evaluate all of those with a ranking of 6 or higher. You might decide to include a few functional benefits with the emotional benefits.

Carefully consider the functional or emotional benefits you select for your brand architecture. You’ll spend a lot of resources to convey these to the marketplace, so test them among your team and your market if you’re unsure.

After you’ve decided on your brand architecture, you can begin thinking about the other components of your brand strategy: your brand personality traits, your means, your promise, your story, and your visual and operational requirements.

Check out our comprehensive brand strategy tookit if you’d like more detailed guidance.

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