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The hybrid brand architecture is a mixture of two or more brand architectures: masterbrand, sub-brand, endorser brand and freestanding brand. It is typically used when a firm is changing brand architectures, or acquiring existing brands through mergers or acquisitions. In such cases, the firm has to preserve older product names and designs to keep customers happy, or to avoid confusion, while paving the way for future offers.
Microsoft: A Hybrid Brand
Microsoft uses multiple brand architectures, but very deliberately. It has masterbranded offers, like Microsoft Health, Microsoft Project and Microsoft Internet Explorer, all of which use descriptive product names so that ‘Microsoft’ stands out. It has sub-brands like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Surface. It has endorsed brands like XBox and Bing, which target more fractional audiences, but remain linked to the parent brand. And in some cases, Microsoft has freestanding brands that it has acquired: Minecraft, Skype and Nokia.
The hybrid brand architecture approach works for Microsoft because it is centred on masterbrand and sub-brand strategies, which leverage the corporate name. But since Microsoft is a sweeping conglomerate, its conditional use of endorsed and freestanding brands lets it market to more disparate audiences, with varying degrees of corporate tie-in.
Why the Hybrid Brand Architecture Works
A hybrid brand architecture works because it allows for the peaceful coexistence of old and new products, or the merger or acquisition of different types of brands. For firms that are primarily masterbrands, introducing a trade-marked sub-brand can help when:
- Descriptive product names would be too long
- Descriptive names would confuse the audience
- A major innovation justifies its own name like iPod or Laserjet
For firms using the sub-brand or endorser brand architecture, introducing a descriptive masterbrand name can help when:
- There is a corporate initiative to market, like a loyalty program
- A descriptive name will work just as well as a new trade-mark
- There is no time or budget to create a new trade-mark
When to Avoid the Hybrid Brand Architecture
Try to steer clear of hybrid brands whenever possible. They are a compromise. They are only appropriate in certain situations where the business case requires a mix. To learn more about the hybrid brand architecture and brand architecture best practices, follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.