5 ways range architecture can help your branding

By Nick Dormon

VO5 range architecture

In a faster moving market place than we’ve ever experienced, with copycat brands hijacking previously ‘owned’ spaces and innovation pipelines driving the constantly unsatiated consumer; only the strongest of brands can survive. Great range architecture is, undoubtedly, the foundation on which to build longevity. 

Here we share the 5 opportunities and pitfalls to designing your brand architecture:

1. Shelf blocking- a careful balance

We’ll start with this because it's the most obvious yet most abused. Creating a clearly defined space on shelf through your brand identity helps consumer navigate straight to your brand. But it’s all about balance. Over dominance of brand blocking will swamp variant differentiation thereby confuse and disengage the consumer. Yet often the reality is that over time tactical range and variant additions fracture this coherence. It is therefore vital to maintain the identity’s strategic intent over time.

2. Range differentiation - staying connected

A brand portfolio needs to be designed so that each range sits in its own space yet relates to others. For example in price tiering, each price level will help position the others’ price level through its look and feel. Equally the juxtaposition of a more functional range will help position another as more emotional. It is important therefore not to design ranges in isolation but in the context of the whole. This needs to include the identity, with the graphics and structure of each range, working with other ranges to define their Masterbrand connection and individual differences – so enhancing navigation - particularly important on big ranges.

3. Structural identity – a long-term view

New structural packing requires significant investment and so doesn't happen often. But strong ownable shapes on shelf create presence, communicate brand values and engage the consumer. The challenge is to manage a structural identity over long periods of time and across different project teams. It is therefore essential to set up structural design principles as a guide to sit alongside graphical brand guidelines. And in order to make these principles robust, a long-term product strategy is required, as this will drive future formats that will inform the design strategy.

4. Defensive variants - react fast, but stay on brand

Competitors can launch new variants that change the category dynamic and create a new space in which you need to compete. Rapid response is essential to defend your territory, but all too often the response is to closely reflect the competitors offer in both claims and identity. The danger of this is that your core brand message will be diluted both on that variant and subsequently across your entire portfolio.  It is key to stop and say “how should our brand do this?”  The answer will produce an on-brand proposition and a resulting identity that will be compared with the competition, but in a differentiated and ownable way, and connects with your consumer target.

5. Disruptive innovation - celebrating the core

Range extension helps deliver on more needs for more consumers. They also help maintain continued interest in your brand through regular launches. However there is a big watch-out – don't let the heart of your brand die back from lack of attention. This is especially important on long established brands where the original offer has been eclipsed many times over by newer offers. It is essential to either keep the core of the brand strong by celebrating its heritage or adjusting it to maintain a strong relevance with today’s consumers.

Inspired? See more examples of how we've designed range architectures for brands here:  VO5Carling, Joe’s Tea, Degree. Click here to request a copy of our strategic journal, Absolem.

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