Brand Architecture Basics: What Is a Masterbrand?

In Building a Brand by DistilityLeave a Comment


Our blog posts What Is Brand Architecture? and How to Choose Your Brand Architecture? cover brand architecture basics and our post What Is a Sub-Brand? features the sub-brand brand architecture. This post moves on to an often over-looked brand architecture structure — the masterbrand brand architecture. The other two primary brand architecture types (endorser and freestanding) are featured in other blog posts.

Masterbrand in a Nutshell

A masterbrand brand architecture is comprised of a top corporate brand with your products and services fitted beneath this solitary brand. To be successful:

  1.  The use of one single brand to unite all your offers needs to work for your audience and your team, and
  2.  You and your team need to be committed to a consistent masterbrand strategy, verbal and visual system for all of your offerings.

What Is a Masterbrand?

The masterbrand brand architecture features one trademarked brand (usually the corporate brand and descriptive names for all products and services). The descriptive names are not trade-marked and due to their descriptive nature are likely not trademark-able. The master corporate brand has a distinct promise, position, personality, visual and verbal system. All individual products and services use the same system. When introducing a new product, it uses the same tagline, same colours, and a descriptive name. This is very different then the sub-brand architecture, where every new offer could have a unique name, tagline, visual and verbal system.

Masterbrand Brand Architecture Strengths

  • Maximizing brand awareness by focusing brand marketing on a single brand strategy and brand image.
  • Efficient customer communication. Your products and services are offered using descriptive names which make it easier for your customer to understand your solution.
  • Lowers brand marketing costs. By using descriptive names, the need to trademark product and service offerings is eliminated and the creative costs for separate and distinct logos, imagery and the like are eliminated.
  • Makes brand transitions easier for mergers and acquisitions or any later rebranding.

When Not to Use a Masterbrand

A masterbrand brand architecture is not appropriate if your products and services do not naturally fit together or compete.  This can occur if:

  1. Your primary audience for your products and services are not aligned, or
  2. Your products and services do not fit together under one brand promise, personality and position.

For example, a masterbrand strategy may backfire for a luxury brand that introduces a low-budget product line. Customers will be confused. “Is this a luxury or budget brand?” they would wonder? Confusing your customer is not good for your brand and is not good for business.

Why Is a Masterbrand Not Used More?

A masterbrand brand architecture is efficient, economical and highly effective for the majority of businesses. But it isn’t as sexy or exciting as creating a new brand. For the product development team, a masterbrand may be boring as they may be excited to create a new brand for their new product. For the marketing team, a masterbrand may be seen as constraining and holding back out-of-the-box brand marketing ideas. This leads firms to create sub-brands for internal reasons, rather than external customer ones. Eventually the firm becomes a victim of “over-branding” — the exciting product launches are over and the company website is clogged with too many names, taglines, logos and different designs. Customers are confused, expenses are high, and nobody is happy. After a huge spend, these firms then have to go through an “un-branding” process to return to a masterbrand.