Why brand architecture is digital at its core and what it means for your career

For this article in my series, we are going to go back to part one, talking about relationships:

Digital builds relationships that other communication channels never did.
A “like” and “follow” may be easily dismissed, but it’s a trusting relationship at its core, and is based on keeping promises.

Digital media is personal at its core, and therefore it’s also social

So digital builds a relationship with the user, and then with the user’s social environment. Why is this important? No other media does that. However traditional brand work is still behind in this regard. It became too fragmented. Digital is accelerating, so being behind is getting worse each day.

You can now lay the framework for your company’s future digital brand architecture. You can define what happens in the decade ahead.

Typical examples of different brand architecture models.

In 2014, P&G made business news headlines when it announced scaling back its brand architecture. The WSJ reported:

The move is a major strategy shift for a company that expanded aggressively for years. It reflects concerns among investors and top management that P&G has become too bloated to navigate an increasingly competitive market.

Simple always wins, eventually

To make sure that’s true, let’s look back a decade. My hypothesis: Brands who have had a strong brand architecture before also came out stronger in changing digital landscapes.

  • Apple has one website. There is one URL.
  • Tesla has one app. One.
  • The New York Times has one name for all its media types. NYT.

They do not compromise.

So why is it so hard to keep things tidy and simple?

Well, it sounds banal, but sometimes simple is too banal. Large companies like it complex, and people in these companies attach “serious” and “professional” to the “hard to understand” and “complicated”.

What is simple, may not seem thought through — what is easy to understand does not justify the costly efforts that ran into developing it.

Ken Segall, former Apple marketing guru and inventor of the brand name “iMac”, discussed this paradoxon in his book ‘Think Simple’:

Can it work?

In part one, I described how media companies like Germany’s ZEIT struggle to design a cohesive brand architecture in the digital age. Surprisingly so, because media companies should figure this out, right?

Well, there’s another media company who managed to keep a complex international service business in line with a simplified brand architecture that remains the same regardless of geography:

Sky

Sky has three main products: Cinema, News, and Sports. Their business is subscriptions, which is very close to the relationship business of ancient newspapers (as we discussed).

So, Sky know how important it is to use digital and social networks to create such relationships. In order to extract complexity from Sky’s regional differences in their offers, they designed one global brand page on Facebook for each of their main categories.

Take Sky Cinema:

There’s one global brand page at http://www.facebook.com/SkyCinema that directs people from their main markets (Great Britain, German-speaking countries, Italy) to the respective country content. All other regions are also collected on the page.

A similar setup has been chosen for their websites, and other digital assets.

So, instead of creating country-driven pages combining all products & services, Sky made smart use of Facebook’s capabilities and launched brand-driven pages.

Get ready

Such a move is only done once in decades, and lays the groundwork for billions of customer relationship touchpoints ahead.

This is the place to be in your career. Are you there?