“Brand Expressionist” Mark Gallagher over at BlackCoffee recently responded to a marketer’s query at the MarketingProfs Know-how Exchange about the separation vs melding of company name and product name.

A very good/important question when determining company and product naming. Small businesses and start-ups often times neglect to think beyond the short-term, and simultaneously forget that what makes sense now, will not make sense six months from now.

Let us not forget how changes in company and product branding also impact key messaging. The disjunct between company naming, product naming and key messaging not only contributes to existing confusion internally, but generates confusion and more semi-answerable questions when attempting to work with the press.

It’s a difficult balancing act when attempting to focus on product roll-out, winning new customers (often times at any cost) and trying to convince multiple audiences that you have what they need.

But, that just means there is always something to strive for in the world of small businesses and start-ups.

Want to know how to grab the reigns on branding issues?

According to Mark, you start with defining the branding architecture.

I. The architecture should define:

• how each brand and its sub-brands relate to and support each other

• how the sub-brands reflect or reinforce the core purpose of the corporate brand to which they belong.

II. 3 basic types of brand architecture, with great examples, are:

1. Monolithic Architecture: These brands use a single name which acts as an umbrella, encompassing all offerings, regardless of how unrelated.

GE is a good example of this type of Brand architecture: Light Bulbs to Capital, Medical to Jet Engines, GE is the brand.

2. Endorsed Architecture: The endorsement of a parent brand adds credibility to the endorsed brand in the eyes of consumers. This type of Architecture also allows companies a greater degree of flexibility, as each brand can hold a somewhat unique identity while still possessing an endorsement from the parent brand.

Apple computers utilizes this type of Brand architecture: Apple Imac, Apple Ipod, Apple G5, Apple Mac Mini… While each of these sub brands holds some unique brand equity, they are all endorsed by the Apple brand.

3. Holding Company Architecture:
The individual brands are offered to consumers, and the Holding Company brand is never mentioned. Key stakeholders such as shareholders, employees and vendors, know the relationship between the holding company and its individual brands.

Proctor & Gamble’s individual brands include Pampers, Oil of Olay, Bounty, Crest, Tide, Gillette and Duracell (to name only a few). Each of these brands is psychologically removed from P&G.

That said many of P&G’s brands are extended to act like endorsed brands: Crest toothpaste, Crest mouthwash, Crest whitening strips, Crest toothbrushes…

While a monolithic architecture may leverage your existing brand equity, a holding company approach may mitigate your risk while entering into a new venture.