Often a misunderstood term, Brand Architecture is the organization of brands, services and products for customers. Typically, there are three architecture approaches that can be deployed: brand monolithic, brand prolific and hybrid–which is somewhere between the other two.

One of the drivers of Brand Architecture work is portfolio rationalization, which is frequently a product of an economic recession. But rationalization doesn’t have to be reductive in terms of customer experience.

As The Simplicity Company, we believe that less is usually more and now, new tools and experience thinking make it possible to do more with less. So, as we head into the new year, here are five tips to consider to help you make the most of what you have when rationalizing your brand portfolio in 2021.

Streamline for efficiency

Proliferation means portfolios can become inefficient over time. Streamlining for efficiency begins by asking three questions: Does every brand in the portfolio have a clear role? Are roles complementary? And what segments and propositions are covered with two brands that could be successfully covered with one?

Simplify the complex

Customers may no longer fit into the neat buckets they may have previously, challenging the architecture structures brand owners have established in different segments. Herein lies an opportunity to simplify portfolios by stripping out any segment-specific brands whose original segment might now be outdated and focusing on the real stars of the show—the brands to which customers are gravitating.

Replace complexity with what customers are likely to want—propositions delivered by their favorite brands.

Experience your experience

Digital experience levers such as self-segmentation—a customer choosing ‘personal’ or ‘business’ on a bank’s homepage, for example—enables people to make more of their own decisions about how they wish to be served. As a result, brands that were created to help customers make these types of decisions can now potentially get in the way.

Self-segmentation and other digital experience levers can give us different portfolio and Brand Architecture solutions than traditional branding tools alone. Whether a brand still plays a useful role in this context can best be answered by looking outside-in at the customer journey of your brand experience.

Amplify what’s powerful

When rationalizing brands, ensure the brands you keep have the greatest potential. Typically, brands with a simple promise at their heart have tremendous ability to amplify across multiple propositions.

Insight can inform the view on the power and potential of the brands in a portfolio. We use our proprietary framework EyeOpener to understand brand strength and identify the brands that are best equipped to perform a broader role.

Future-ready your architecture

Having established the strength of a brand and its stretch potential, the next question to consider is, is there anywhere for it to go? This might be about occupying a space identified during streamlining that’s currently occupied by another portfolio brand. Or it might be about entering a new space that would otherwise be covered by creating a new brand.

The smartest examples of brand stretch within a portfolio negate the need for new brand creation, act as proof points for the stretching brand’s purpose and proposition and drive future demand.

As an unpredictable year comes to an end, what is certain is more unpredictability ahead. These five tips will help ensure that an exercise in brand rationalization drives the desired efficiencies while leaving you able to further strengthen those brands that make the cut.


James Withey is Executive Director, EMEA.