Mar 192015

Brand architecture is more than integral piece of your company’s brand strategy—it directly addresses your company’s business strategy. Brand architecture is organizing structure that specifies the type, number, relationship and purpose of brands within your brand portfolio.

Critical Strategic Questions

  • How does my company brand relate to my product brands? How do they relate to one another?
  • What is the best role for the corporate brand?
  • Does the corporate brand add or subtract value to division brands?
  • Are sub-brands and brand extensions the way to go? What are the other options?
  • Do I have true brands that are delivering value to my company or do I have a collection of names? How can I tell which is which?
  • How many brands does my company need?
  • What brands are strategically valuable and worthy of continued investment?
  • What drives consumer preferences? How do my customers buy?
  • What are the pros and cons of my current brand portfolio structure? How will future decisions impact it?
  • Would a change in my architecture give me an opportunity to dominate a market segment?
  • What do I risk if I make changes? How can I mitigate those risks?

A well-managed portfolio of brands builds value and eliminates market confusion, waste and missed opportunities. The ideal structure for your company’s brand portfolio improves business performance and supports your business strategy.

More on Brand Architecture:

Brand Architecture Structure Choices
Brand Architecture: Strategic Considerations
Does Your Brand Architecture Support Your Business Strategy?

May 252013

brand-jacking-skitchingBrand-jacking is when an existing brand is co-opted and used to promote something else. That is exactly what opponents of genetically modified foods are doing with the Monsanto brand.They’ve grabbed the bumper of Monsanto and are skitching on  its reputation to bring attention and understanding  to their message.

Millions-Against-MonsantoAs a kid growing up in Chicago, we used to grab the fenders of passing cars for exhilarating fast slides on icy roads. “Skitching” is a portmanteau combining skate and hitch. Political causes that are brand-jacking grab onto the power of well-known brands to use their power to efficiently communicate their messages and the get attention in the media.

The nicely alliterative “March Against Monsanto” is just the latest example of this kind of skitching on a brand. Organizers of today’s marches claim over 2 million people participated in over 400 evens in 52 countries according to founder and organizer Tami Canal. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said in media interviews. Brand-jacking off the Monsanto brand brought Canal’s cause enormous attention that would have been hard to obtain without the connection to this chemical boogeyman. Monsanto has long been associated with reviled chemicals like DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange–it was the perfect vehicle for skitching.

Apr 022013

Kotler_Book_Image_Chapter1I am honored to have helped marketing guru Philip Kotler and international marketing expert Milton Kotler set up their new Web site:

The Web site offers their topical and timely thinking on headline issues and promotes their new book just out from Wiley, NY: Market Your Way to Growth: 8 Ways to Win.

Starting today, you can download the first chapter free here.

Always happy to dip an oar for fellow Chicagoans!

Mar 202013

Buyer of distressed brands Apollo Management Group has cheered the hearts of Twinkie lovers everywhere with its$410 million purchase of the snack food favorite.

twinkie brand

Big Twinkie brand relaunch plans have been made, including having Dennis Rodman bring several cases of Twinkies to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to offering giant Wonder Bread size promotional sizes, to taking up giant swaths of shelf space in stores in Twinkie takeovers. Super-sizing Twinkies will surely upset Mayor Bloomberg. And shelf-space is going to prove an ongoing and daunting problem.

Apollo bought the Twinkie brand, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, but another company (Flowers Foods) bought Wonder Bread. Grupo Bimbo bought the Beefsteak brand, and McKee bought Devil Dogs, Yodels and others. In consumer packaged goods, the war is in the store. Where once a Hostess truck could drive up, elbow itself a lot of shelf space, then optimize the mix of products within it, now lots of companies and individual brands are vying for the space. Grupo Bimbo is probably the only company with the size to dominate. The Twinkie brand will have a tough time regaining its former stature, much less achieving growth outside its core of die-hard brand fans. Paying off its $410 purchase price will be tough.

That said, with die-hard fans beings so important, that idea of promoting with Kim Jong-un looks the a winner.

Mar 152013

kfc-china-branding-problemChinese companies made headlines a few years back with lead tainted toys and pet food that sickened cats and dogs. Now a US company is coming under fire in China. KFC is alleged to use excessive growth hormones and antibiotics in their chicken–creating a potential branding problem.

This insightful article by Chinese branding expert Milton Kotler on the blog he shares with his marketing guru brother Philip Kotler points out that dealing with this crisis as a cosmetic branding and PR issue is a mistake. KFC has a business model problem that affects trust. Trust is the core of any brand and it is trust that fuels ROI. BP faced a similar problem.

Oct 182012

Al Qaeda is making headlines again. We had covered the death of the Al Qaeda brand for Forbes over a year ago.


As the presidential candidates argue about what happened in Libya, Stratfor, an intelligence analysis group, has written a great article on the Al Qaeda brand architecture problem. As Al Qaeda fades as a brand, other elements of Islamic jihadist movement will muscle into top shelf position.

Al Qaeda isn’t the only Islamic extremist group with marketing problems. The Taliban must now combat media bias in coverage of their attack on a Pakistani school girl. The Taliban brand is being tarnished by media reports that have “crossed all limits” to paint the Taliban as the “worst people on earth.” Their plan to turn things around? They have selected 12 suicide bombers who will attempt to blow themselves up in the offices of various Pakistani and foreign media news offices. Talk about confusion about goals and utter befuddlement over methods.

Oct 062012

forbes-logo-merriamPlease visit for our article on the demise of the Al Qaeda brand following last week’s drone attack on Al Qaeda’s most visible marketing executive and Inspire magazine publisher/editor.

UPDATE: Found on Jihad Jihad Watch. Seems bin Laden himself was worried about his brand. In documents recovered by the SEALs, he wrote that he was considering changing the name of al Qaeda to “Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad,” meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group. A second option he was considering was “Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida,” meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group. Well, if drone attacks hadn’t killed the al Qaeda brand, it seemed like top management was poised to muck it up on their own.

Aug 252012

In the latest chapter of the Apple vs Samsung Battle, the ruling that Samsung stole Apple’s technology could devastate the Samsung brand–but it may prove just as destructive to the Apple brand.

samsung-vs-appleAlready media wags have been calling the Android phone leader “Samesung.” But Apple could be starting down the path brand ruin. Today Apple has a reputation for being cool and creative, but how cool is it to be the market heavy who stamps out innovation? Apple’s promise “to go thermonuclear” on competitors is not at all cool and definitely is not creative. In winning this round of Samsung vs Apple, Apple might have taken the first step toward Microsoft-izing itself.

On the surface, Samsung sounds like a whiner when it complains about patent law being “manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.” But there is  truth to the complaint. No one likes to see their idea stolen, but there is a difference between protecting an invention and closing out all innovation for an entire category.

Stomping Out Competition Can Hurt the “Winner”

A similar situation 100 years ago damaged the reputation of innovators and ultimately destroyed their business. In 1906, the Wright Brothers patented the general concept of controlling pitch, roll and yaw with U.S. Patent 821393[6] for a “Flying Machine”. So basic was their concept, aircraft could not be flown without it. When Glenn Curtiss invented the aileron, the Wrights threatened to sue. Curtiss countered that the Wrights’ patent was so broad that if someone jumped in the air and waved their arms that the Wrights could sue them and win. Indeed, the Wrights did sue Curtiss (and everyone else) and they did win. Wright patent infringement lawsuits effectively shut down the aeronautical industry in the United States.

The Wrights won the legal battles, but not the war.  The Wright Company earned a reputation for being greedy and litigious, and most devastating of all, for producing inferior products. The U.S. government found Wright aircraft were “dynamically unsuited for flying.” At the start of World War I, the United States could not buy any functional American designed and made planes—they had to buy French. By 1916, the Wright Company was out of business.

Who Will Win the Bigger Samsung vs Apple War?

Apple does not now make inferior products, but will lack of competition cause complacency that puts an end to creativity? Apple is admired now for being cool, but will heavy handed attempts to protect its smart phone monopoly make them into the next Microsoft? Apple prevailed in the latest Samsung vs Apple dustup, but at what cost to their brand in the long term? Their “monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners,” might not be so cool in the future. What Isaac Newton said about visionaries also applies to brands: “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Aug 062012

Nokia’s brand problem is outlined in an insightful article today on Bloomberg. The Nokia brand has been so thoroughly buried by competitors that stores no longer mention it, much less carry the product. Smart phone buyers consider an Android phone vs. an iPhone. Nokia missed the smart phone revolution and compounded the mistake by playing catch-up in a competition that required it to leap frog way ahead. Being the second also-ran with 2011 technology in 2012 while combating an awareness and availability problem, the Nokia brand needs more than an ad campaign–it needs a miracle. Nokia could be as dead as Blackberry or Palm. (Remember them?)


Jun 132012

At a fund raiser yesterday, President Obama disparaged his opposition by saying: ” “you can pretty much put their campaign on, on a tweet and have some characters to spare.”

Obama’s comment shows how far the brilliant marketer of 2008 has fallen off his game. Obama has forgotten what it takes to make a winning brand: YES! You should be able to fit your campaign or brand positioning into a tweet!

There is a lot more to an M&M than ”Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand.” And Nike has a lot more to offer than “Just Do It.” Yet the fact that Mastercard is simply, in one word, “Priceless” says it all. Obama himself owes his election to “Change we can believe in.” Slogans or taglines that can fit in a tweet are a good thing: They convey a positive, unique, and important benefit in a catchy way. Good marketers and good politicians know that’s what it takes to sell product or get elected.

Of course, every winning brand should be able to answer “Where’s the beef?” in a full and factual way, but if your brand can’t be boiled down to a short tweet, you lose. Unfocused, free-ranging complexity that fills dozens of pages of a position papers won’t make it into the customer’s (or voter’s) minds–and if they can’t understand, articulate and remember what your brand stands for, they won’t buy it.

What is the Obama brand’s tweet? He needs to get one fast!

More on Obama’s brand in my latest article for Forbes: “Obama’s Branding Problem”

More on political brands:
Brand Obama: What Now?
Branding the Candidates: Obama vs. McCain

© 2014 Lisa Merriam