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Branding Architecture

Brand architecture is the structure of brands within an organization or business.  It determines how brands within an organization’s portfolio relate to, or are different from, each other.  There are three basic types of brand architecture:  

  • Umbrella or family brand (used across all of the institution’s activities; example = Heinz Ketchup, Heinz Soup, etc.)
  • Endorsed brand or sub-brand (includes parent brand name as an endorsement for a sub-brand or individual product; example = Sony Playstation, Polo by Ralph Lauren. The endorsement adds credibility to the sub-brand.
  • Freestanding or Individual product brand (presented directly to consumers with little or no public connection back to the parent brand (example = Pampers (Procter & Gamble), Dove (Unilever). 

Central & Academic Units:  These core operations will carry the family brand.  Some brand endorsement and/or sub-branding may be developed within the overall university branding architecture. 

Affiliated Organizations:  These typically include the Alumni Association, Foundation and Athletics, as well as operations such as the NIU Convocation Center.  Most are tied to the umbrella brand through endorsement and use of some branded visual and message elements, but also remain somewhat differentiated in look and feel. 

Partnerships: Agreements between and among institutions often call for freestanding brand identity.  Examples include the partnership between NIU and DeKalb School District 428.