<B>Companies, let Aristotle manage your brand!</B>

Roberto Alvarez del Blanco. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

25 February 2004

Aristotle wouldn’t have been so bold as to attempt to manage your corporate brand. But he could have offered some excellent suggestions.

The same could probably be said of Plato, Nietzsche, Sartre or Confucius. All, as experimental philosophers, would have argued that it’s more valuable to organize and manage your brand with a virtuous architecture - one able to specify roles and relationships within the brand portfolio - than to pay the price of opportunism, which leads to brands in the portfolio competing with each other for clients and resources. Some of these brands are so far removed from the core business that nobody knows quite what to do with them.

Some years ago, organizational efforts centered on the acquisition, launching or aggressive extension of brands to expand the portfolio. The approach nowadays is oriented more toward getting the maximum from existing brands, by better management and greater interrelation among them. New dynamics in the marketplace are also forcing reevaluation of the category fit or imbalance of items in the portfolio.

The way these items are structured, managed and perceived to contribute value to the organization – in terms of the links between them – is known as brand architecture. It is the true backbone of strategy, fully aligned to the business’ objectives. Different strategies require diverse architectures, though their goals are to generate clarity, not confusion; synergy instead of hindrances; and leverage of assets over lost opportunities. They also seek to optimize location of resources for building brands, new brand platforms to support the business’ strategic future, as well as the stature and power of that brand.

The initial step of the strategic approach to maximizing brand architecture is crafting a vision of the portfolio and its individual components, from the client’s perspective. I say client’s perspective, since clients determine its success. Remember however that clients experience the brand in a more interdependent than independent way, and their associations change over time.

Building brand architecture

Clients form relationships with brands through direct and indirect experiences, frequently by exposure to other related brands. They adopt the Aristotelian concept that "we can have knowledge of a thing when we know its essence." Each thing, person or place has a distinguishing essence. In the case of a brand, this distinction sets it apart from competitors.

For the brand to be strong and enjoy health and prestige, its architecture must produce a clear vision and provide identity and functionality. That is its raison d’être. Direct and indirect synergies between brands experienced in similar contexts provide magnificent opportunities for increasing the value of individual brands and the totality of the portfolio.

Achieving this requires architecture based on the evolutionary set of relationships among the brands in the portfolio. Here, brand positioning is less important than the way in which it can influence the other components in that portfolio.

Brand architecture should not adopt an internal organizational perspective, nor be based on a reflection of its own structure. While this structure may be modified over time, as the organization adapts to change, architecture perceived by clients should be more stable, since they would not welcome having to repeatedly learn new organizational protocols.

Brand architecture is closely linked to brand identity and organizational strategy. Without a specific understanding of both, it is impossible to develop a distinguished brand architecture. Identity determines the aspirational associations of the brand that must be firm in clients’ minds. It therefore affects (or may even dictate) the brand’s actual or possible roles. If the brand aspires to a prestigious position with significant self-expression benefits, this will clearly define the roles that must be adopted within the portfolio.

Creative and dynamic brand architecture must help the organization gain more from its existing brands and achieve real value from those it acquires. When used strategically, and implemented as a structure for anticipating future business and brand needs, its architecture will become a critical link for business strategy and the way to optimize growth opportunities and portfolio value. This may help your business compete and win in the long term. Strategic consolidation of the brand must also provide significant immediate profits and produce energizers for brand-asset value.

Aristotle, a realistic philosopher, conceived the world as a structure that responds to a gradation of relationships between matter and form. They are degrees of the progressive determination of the undetermined, of the conversion of the possible into the real. Or, as we would say today, of the transformation of the improbable into the probable.

Thus can a poem arise from mere noise, as Michelangelo’s David steps out of a block of marble.

Reflecting, considering its precepts and subjecting brand architecture to Aristotle’s unities of action, time and place provide an aesthetic metaphor that inspires foundations, structures, roles, relationships - even improvement and restoration. Solid logic for building vitality and energy into the brands in your portfolio.

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