Brand Architecture And What It Really Means For Business

by Kim Faulkner 3 August 2020

Whilst most discourses on brand architecture consistently tell you that it gives coherence and discipline to how brands should be managed at a macro-level; the business strategy aspect is largely ignored because branding is perceived to be about marketing and not as business strategy design. 

Brand architecture gives clarity to the various branded offerings of a company and explains how these are related (or not as the case may be). Done well, it promotes efficiency, and coherence which could unlock value in the underlying business.

However brand architecture is usually discussed as a function of marketing communications and design. 

 A definition of Brand Architecture describes it as the higher level plan for your brand eco-system, so you can determine how to best build and scale your brand over time.

So while most articles on Brand Architecture explain the different models from monolithic to free-standing, what's missing is how do you decide which is best suited for your business, and how does it work?

At Activiste, we believe that Brand Architecture is also a great a framework for thinking through your business strategy, and how various customer segments and stakeholders are going to access your brand(s) and offerings.

This came to the fore as we have delved deeper into using Brand Architecture as a tool to unlock value in complex businesses. Particularly those which are expanding into previously unchartered territory or which are changing the category they are operating in, in a significant way.

Sometimes the brand architecture for an organization, is the one that it started out with. They tend to roll out new businesses and brands using the early start-up framework. This organizing principle may no longer be applicable when the company grows and this is when you start to see proliferation of sub-brands and an increasingly unwieldy system.

Bank BTPN was an example of an organization which used a “Line of Business” (LOB) framework for their brand architecture. Each LOB had its own P&L and reporting structure and thus control and management of how it would build brands under the Bank BTPN corporate brand.

Brand Architecture embedded image 02

However, two very different customer segments (pension banking and affluent retail banking customers) shared the same corporate brand. The retail banking customers did not want to be associated with a little known pension bank in Indonesia, and no amount of advertising was going to change that. The bank managers then decided that they would counter this, by creating a range of product brands with snazzy names and logos which then led to a plethora of brand names competing for attention in the market place.

Through our work with them, we brought a critical view of what was being branded and discipline to the process of thinking about how the larger business was growing. A good brand architecture should enable your business and organization to build reputation credibly and coherently, whilst growing.

Brand Architecture embedded image 03

To this end, we brought a recognition to the business that each LOB they had created was in fact a segment brand targeting specific segments which were quite different in demographics and psychographics from each other. Whilst they should not all be branded singly as Bank BTPN, (which was largely seen as a pension bank), they could still remain largely monolithic through sub-brands which were called BTPN.

This was borne out then through the creation of evocative segment brands such as:

  • BTPN Sinaya – for the affluent retail banking customers. (Sinar meaning light and Daya being the source of energy in Bahasa)

  • BTPN Purna Bakti – for the pension banking customers who comprised retired civil servants and the military. (Purna Bakti being a recognition of what they had achieved through their years of service).

  • BTPN Mitra Usaha Rakyat – for the micro-financing customers who were largely small businesses operating in the “pasars” (traditional markets) in the cities. Mitra Usaha Rakyat alludes to a partnership with people in small businesses.)

All these segments, as well as the syariah banking customers were serviced by Daya, a unique enablement platform which provides basic enterprise training, business matching and information, health and wellness programs for its beneficiaries who are BTPN customers, as well as volunteer programs for Sinaya customers to make a difference to the nation.

Later as the bank decided to launch a new mobile transaction platform across all customer segments to broaden its customer base, without the physical infrastructure of branches, we created a new channel brand BTPN wow! to appeal to put it into the hands of youth, white and grey collar workers and anyone who wanted to a cashless mode of payment and money management.

The result of this exercise, brought coherence and greater confidence for the Bank BTPN group as it managed unprecedented growth in 2010-2012. The brand architecture allowed the new products and segments to be fitted into a framework which made sense to customers as well as the business community and investors.

Brand architecture as a manifestation of strategy helped the investor community and regulator better understand the value of the company within the emerging economy of Indonesia. Daya as a connecting platform for all the BTPN segment brands gave credibility and resonance to what the bank was saying about how it managed risk in lending to the lower mass market, as well as being an enablement platform for the communities and customers they served.

It provided the emotional connection and proof-point for BTPN’s “Do Good, Do Well” mantra and indeed I used for a Global Compact talk I gave in Singapore in 2011.

Unlocking the value in organisations can come in various forms but the use of brand architecture to articulate group strategy and intent, will become more prevalent as business managers better understand how it can change paradigms and shift thinking within organisations and create clarity for external audiences.


Kim has over 30 years of branding, marketing and design experience in Asia and has lectured and written extensively on the subject of branding, strategy development, marketing and design across the region.