Brand architecture is an organization’s face to the outside world. The way the portfolio is presented, the brand names used, and how they relate to one another reveal the organization’s priorities and its future intent.
It’s time to revisit brand architecture when an organization changes strategic direction or adds important new capabilities. Acquisitions and divestitures are classic triggers for revisiting brand architecture. So are situations where brands are losing relevance or becoming diluted or stretched beyond credibility. The need to operate more autonomously is another trigger. In each of these instances, freeing up sub-brands so they’re no longer subordinated or creating new brands to more directly express their intent without the constraints of the parent or master brand can unleash new relevance and energy inside and outside the organization .
So, why did Google restructure its portfolio, and what does it mean? Google is hugely successful as-is, and they’re so smart. The move left many folks asking why they would move away from the well-known and highly regarded Google brand and introduce Alphabet.
First and foremost, the move was positioned as an organization restructuring. That said, the new structure does have architecture implications: by loosening its connection to some of the brands within its portfolio, Google is encouraging and facilitating innovation. In addition to allowing brands to do different things, it’s also allowing brands to do things differently. And separating the Google brand from the corporate brand insulates the latter from the business and brand risks being undertaken by various parts of the organization.
The new organization structure is not the same as the brand architecture. While moving away from a Google-centric architecture, many of the newly “freed” brands still retain their Google-ness. While each has its own President and more autonomy, these four share the Google brand.
And while YouTube and Android fall within the newly formed Google organization, they are separate and distinct from the Google brand.
From an architecture standpoint, the realignment suggests Google’s ambitions far beyond search, and opens up possibilities for new sources of value creation. The illustration below is just one interpretation of what Alphabet may have in store for us.
Google has been imagining (or re-imagining) the world for quite some time. This version of the brand architecture suggests we might expect to hear more about how to Share & Enjoy and Live Better from Alphabet.
Changing the brand architecture is a way to unlock the value of existing brands in the portfolio and create room for new ones. Google’s move to the creation of Alphabet looks like it will do just that!
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