ritson

Of all the aspects of brand management that are important but undervalued, brand architecture must surely top every marketer’s list. Most companies have more than one brand, but an amazing proportion of firms rarely give enough thought to how many of them should actually exist and the manner in which these brands should, or should not, be combined or kept apart when presented to customers.

At first sight the topic of brand architecture appears relatively unimportant. Surely there are more vital questions than an organisational chart. In reality, getting this part of your brand strategy right has enormous implications for profitability, operations, marketing impact and ultimately the overall success of the company.

It has been an interesting week for the topic of brand architecture. Three of the biggest companies on the planet have just made significant structural changes to their brand architecture and each move tells us a lot about the focus and long-term ambitions of the companies in question.

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Over at Google, it’s a time for focus and killing. Three years after a house of brands was created with the Alphabet corporate brand as the holding company, Google – the biggest by far of the brands that populate the Alphabet portfolio – is now cutting back.

AdWords, the advertising system that Google created 17 years ago to monetise search is being renamed Google Ads. Meanwhile, DoubleClick – the software that monitors both ads and the users that browse them, which Google purchased 10 years ago for $3bn – will now form part of Google Marketing Platform and Google Ad Manager.

The move is important because it signals a significant change in the way Google presents its services to advertisers. A messy, slightly confusing house of brands has been removed and replaced with the architecture known as ‘branded house, different identity’, beloved of most big consulting firms.

Spreading the fixed costs of a campaign across a broader number of brands is a clever way for Coke to keep promoting brands while spending less money.

Google is now the only brand, with the different identities like Ad Manager or Marketing Platform nothing more than product descriptors. This singular suite of offerings should now work together in a more seamless and customer-focused way. Google now has just one brand to track, position, sell, protect and grow.

Google’s move away from multiple brands and towards a single branded-house approach is evidence of the more general trend in marketing towards operating fewer brands. There has been a harmful fallacy among many companies that more brands will make you more money. That’s true, but only if you have the competence and investment levels to run that many brands and only if you look at top line revenues. If you are…