Episode: 495 |
Jonathan Paisner :
Brand Architecture:


Jonathan Paisner

Brand Architecture

Show Notes

Jonathan has worked with B2B Fortune 1000 companies to evolve and implement their corporate brand to adapt for the changing needs of their business. He has held leadership and senior consulting roles at DeSantis Breindel, CoreBrand (now Tenet) and Siegel & Gale, and previously, he created and ran the brand licensing division of A&E Television Networks. In this episode, he shares his expertise in brand architecture. You can reach out to Jonathan on Linkedin or through his company website BrandExperiencedGroup.com.


Key points include:

  • 02:32: Brand architecture as a window to the overall business strategy
  • 11:51: A case example of brand building 
  • 21:06: Securing alignment between teams and departments

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:


  1. Jonathan Paisner


Will Bachman, Jonathan Paisner


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, you can visit umbrex.com. Today’s episode is with Jonathan Paisner. He is an expert on brand architecture. And this we’re gonna talk about Jonathan, welcome to the show.


Jonathan Paisner  00:20

Hey there, well, it was great to be here. I’ve been been a big fan and listener and happy to be a part of


Will Bachman  00:25

  1. And I think you were a founding member of Umbrex. I mean, we’ve known each other for at least I don’t know, seven, eight years, a long time. Yeah. Cindy


Jonathan Paisner  00:33



Will Bachman  00:36

Let’s start by defining terms. What is brand architecture?


Jonathan Paisner  00:41

I think I mean, if you asked a handful of people, they might all have somewhat different answers, I would think about I think of a brand architecture as the way that a company communicates the relationships across the businesses, and offerings in their portfolios. So it could be if they could have a portfolio of different business units or different business divisions, it also could be within a given product set, how they sort of organized the products and capabilities within the portfolio.


Will Bachman  01:18

And backing up even further, how would you find just so we define terms? How would you define a brand?


Jonathan Paisner  01:26

Ah, that is another one where you’ll get a few different answers. So a brand is really, ultimately it is the promise that an organization or company is making to the market, about who they are, what they represent what makes them special. And sort of carrying that through, you know, both verbally in what they and what they say and visually and how they represent themselves with their, the, their logo and their visual identity, and also the experience that they that they deliver to their customers and our clients at the end of the day. So all of that is the brand in my mind.


Will Bachman  02:06

Okay, so brand architecture. Talk to me about which and I love the definition about the relationship between business units or relationship between products. Maybe we can start and I know you mostly do some b2b, b2b work, maybe we can start with some consumer examples just to kind of orient ourselves a bit about what we’re talking about with with brand architecture.


Jonathan Paisner  02:32

Sure, I mean, if you think about brand architecture, and it does become a way that it is kind of a window to the overall business strategy of an organization. And if you think at the, at the kind of corporate level, where are they looking to build the relationship with their customers? Is it sort of product by product? Or is it kind of at a higher, more corporate level? So for examples you might look at, in the consumer world, think about a BMW, right? The BMW cars, they don’t really have names, I mean, they have model numbers, and people who are kind of in the know, and big fans of BMW will know, an x three, two and x seven, or whatever on their model numbers are. But really, the relationship is to BMW with the consumer to BMW. And then at the other extreme, you’ve got something like a glove to get out of the car, the car world,


Will Bachman  03:31

let’s let’s stay in the car world for a minute, because, like Toyota, because Toyota will have the Toyota Sienna, so you’re kind of related to Toyota, you’re like, Oh, I like Toyota. But I also like the Sienna. Right? And then within Sienna, there’s maybe different models of the XL E or the XL or whatever. So there’s sub brands within the Sienna, but you’re probably, so that’s kind of a two tier or maybe, how would you classify that one?


Jonathan Paisner  03:58

Yeah. So I think that that becomes, you know, sort of within the within the CNN, CNN has its own sort of architecture of how they talk about the different the different tiers or the different sort of luxury levels. You know, ideally, those tiers and luxury levels are consistent within the Toyota world, right? So that if you move from a Sienna to a Camry, and it’s an XLS, and an XLS, those are comparable. So that kind of is that next level down of architecture, but that’s right. I mean, I think that you as the consumer, your relationship, you know, GMC is even more diverse, probably than a Toyota portfolio. But the same thing like your relationship is with the car brand, or the product brand as opposed to the manufacturer brand.


Will Bachman  04:45

And then let’s see, I’m not a big car expert, but isn’t it? Is it the Lexus that is I mean, is that a Toyota to or a neat neat? Yes, where they were they’ve kind of hidden the Toyota name like a Toyota Camry, you say Toyota Nissan, Toyota ultimate Toyota Sienna, but but then the the Lexus they’re trying to downplay the Toyota name.


Jonathan Paisner  05:06

Right. And so Toyota when they first launched Lexus, there was this kind of understanding that you had the reliability of Toyota, but they wanted to sort of upscale it. And they didn’t think that they could do that with whatever baggage the Toyota brand had. And so you know, you still Honda do the same thing is a Nissan do the same thing. And so you have the sort of strength, that sort of engineering reliability at the heart of it, but it allows them to segment the market by creating those very separate brands and experiences.


Will Bachman  05:39

Okay. And you had some other examples, teed up, like, it might be interesting to discuss Procter and Gamble versus Unilever. Yeah, different strategies there.


Jonathan Paisner  05:49

Yeah, I mean, those, they’re actually not that different Procter and Gamble. And Unilever makes themselves a little bit more known to the consumer than Procter and Gamble does. But at the end of the day, they’re still I would look at both of those and call those, you know, a house of brands, they have a whole bunch of products, each of the products has kind of a clear kind of positioning, clear value proposition about who they are, what they do, and either targeted towards, and that sort of model can give a company, you know, like, either Unilever or a png, you know, the sort of flexibility to introduce new brands, they can compete with their brands can compete with one another, potentially, and they can, you know, sort of gain more shelf space at the at the retailer. But, you know, you don’t have that same kind of leverage that you might have, if you were all one brand, you don’t have the economies of scale. And in managing a single brand, and building a marketing campaign behind a single brand, you have to build 20 marketing campaigns. And so that those that’s kind of key to some of those trade offs.


Will Bachman  07:06

So maybe before we get into the examples in the b2b world, and talk about your work, and so forth, yeah. Are there different? Like classifications of architectures or taxonomies? Or, you know, flavors? Or four, you’d say, well, there’s kind of, okay, well, there’s five different main approaches, and then there’s variations within them. But is there some way we can have some sort of taxonomy to the to the different brand architectures? Sure,


Jonathan Paisner  07:39

so So though, that sort of png model that we just talked about, or you know, or the GM Toyota model, you know, those are just house of brands model is something that people often talk about, versus at the other extreme, you’ve got your, your BMW, in the b2b world, you might think of an SAP or Cisco Systems, they tend to be more of a branded house where it all comes on under a single brand, Master brand, a single brand that, and then the products tend to be more descriptive in nature, you know, so with BMW, you’ve got your model numbers. But you know, with other other brands, like an S, like an SAP, they might have, you know, very just descriptive names to their products. But at the end of the day, it’s all about SAP. And then in between, they’re whole bunch of different kind of hybrid models in there of companies that have, you know, so Microsoft, for example, will have a number of Microsoft branded products and divisions, but then they’ll also have within their portfolio, you know, they’ve got their whole kind of gaming portfolio, they’ve got the office that has its own kind of set up in architecture, I mean, so it gets, you can have a number of just sort of complicated hybrid models that you are juggling across those two extremes.


Will Bachman  09:09

So maybe now we can turn and give us some, some case examples of Prop projects that you’ve worked on. Because it sounds it sounds very logical after the fact, right? You can look at to and say, Oh, this all makes sense. But imagine that when you’re actually in one situation, now the strategy changes, and you need to change the brain architecture, you run into a lot of trade offs. So maybe walk us through a case example.


Jonathan Paisner  09:38

But before I if I if I may,


Will Bachman  09:42

throw my question out the window and answer a different question altogether.


Jonathan Paisner  09:47

Take my opportunity to pivot on because I mean, just to sort of keep it a little, just just try to play the story out of A little bit I mean, you think about your particularly in the b2b world, you think about what the business strategy that a company has and how the architecture can play into that. If you are, if your strategy is to your technology technology company, for example, and you, you want to do these kinds of roll ups or bolt ons, right, add on new technologies to enable you to broaden your relationship with your customer, and able to gain a greater share of wallet, you know, so they’re, the more kind of brands and names you have. If you’re thinking in a p&g mindset, the more brands and names we have, that’s going to kind of get in the way of this idea of extending your relationship with the customer, because they’re not going to see this sort of seamlessness in their experience, because they’re going to have to move from one brand to the next. Right. So that’s where you get that sort of SAP idea where it’s all SAP. If your model is more about wanting to segment the market and think about different specific areas of the market that you want to go into, whether that’s by geography or completely different applications of your technology, well, then it makes sense to have different brands there. So I mean, again, just wanted to sort of color in some of the benefits and trade offs across that spectrum. Does that sound helpful?


Will Bachman  11:27

It is so yeah, so why don’t you walk us into a case example? And maybe tee it up with? The if it’s one that you can kind of share publicly? What was the situation that you arrived? What were what was the brand architecture currently? And how was the strategy changing? And and what did they call you in to help with?


Jonathan Paisner  11:51

Sure, there’s, there’s one that, and I think it’s cool to talk about this, so I’m just gonna go for it. Because this one is kind of still, it is still evolving. But this is a it’s a hospital system. It’s a company that owns a number of hospitals around the country, predominantly community hospitals and regional hospitals, in some, some regional systems. The company is called lifepoint health. And lifepoint has been operating as this portfolio essentially, in this kind of png world. For years. They have, you know, a couple 100 different service entities, hospitals, basically hospitals, outpatient clinics, you know, and all the rest of it that goes with, you know, sort of the doctor practice groups and specialty areas, but all operating under their own brands in different markets around the country. And so here lifepoint is operating is is kind of managing all these different brands, a lot of that is happening locally, not centrally. But if you think about the management and the branded assets, and making sure the right logos in the right place, that in and of itself is a challenge. But they’re also missing out on other opportunities in order to while they do have this kind of common operating platform that exists in the company, there’s, you know, best practices that they adhere to throughout all their hospitals, in a certain just standards of care standards of behavior that they adhere to throughout the hospitals. That’s not reflected in how they communicate externally, they’ve historically have really kind of kept them kept the ownership and lifepoint in in the background there. But what they lose, in addition to having to manage all these different little branded assets, what they lose is the people that are working at the employees of the company, the potential employees of the company, they they don’t get the don’t feel the benefit that they are working for this large, meaningful organization. They feel more and more that they are part of this community hospital, which is a wonderful thing. But it there could there’s a different kind of emotional connection to feeling like you’re part of this bigger entity. And that and that is a real challenge particularly in in recruiting in the medical field, I mean in any fields. And so what we initially started to work with them on is how do they it was actually separate from this particular issue. This issue came up as we were looking to work with them on how they brand, their partnerships and their joint ventures, but then really started to poke at this idea of all these little standalone brands that they have started to drive us to the solution that took us A number of we began to call it internally, this the blue dots, we started to represent all of their standalone entities, standalone entities, with with a blue.in place of their own logo at the individual Hospital in North Carolina, the individual hospital, Michigan, individual hospital, Tennessee, all having our brands started to represent them in this unified way to present this network system. And so have, since just over the past few weeks, started to roll out this, this more unified system with a new mark in place and this blue dot that we’ve been talking about, but a way to connect their regional and and their super regional systems to this bigger, broader national entity. It gives them some competitive scale, there are several other large national hospital brands that they compete with for some of these kinds of resources, human resources, in particular, and creating this this network system using the visual identity as kind of a key indicator, and you’ve already got these kind of operating models and operating principles below it was that if that was a rambling answer, please help me.


Will Bachman  16:23

So it sounds a little bit better. So it sounds like there’s different stakeholders. So one, or different, you know, customer groups, or that you’re talking to one is the actual patients in some local area. And for those patients, they may not particularly care that much, then they might be even wedded or nightlight, their local, you know, if it’s the community hospital in like Redding, Pennsylvania, and it’s the reading community hospital or whatever, maybe they’re not super psyched about getting it to be rebranded as lifepoint health. I mean, they just have to learn, you know, learn in your name, but they’re kind of already know that it’s not like they’re gonna go shopping and go go to Maryland to that hospital. Right. But for the, but for the for the medical personnel, when you’re recruiting, it’s, it’s a different thing. If you say, Hey, do you want to join, you know, Guy singer, or, you know, like this national well known brand, you’re like, Oh, I recognize that I know, people who go work for this firm somewhere, and has like an, so it’s easier on the recruiting side, and to kind of also to drive, maybe a consistent, you know, excellent operational excellence across the company. So the branding can be important for the employees, as well as for the actual end patients.


Jonathan Paisner  17:47

Right. And for the for the patients, the benefit there is to so the way this particular model rolls out, and it’s so we didn’t take lifepoint health, if they will, they will not be taking lifepoint health, and that will be the hospital that you’ll see down the street. It is really about building these local community, maintaining these local community brands, sometimes they’ll, they might create a regional brand, if necessary, but sort of creating using the an icon that’s going to be common, so that you feel it is still your community hospital. But you also see this connection to a bigger enterprise. And that gives you the sense that there is state of the art care happening here. It’s just it’s happening at the at the community level. So it feeds into that store. But absolutely, there are multiple audiences here. There’s the there’s the patients, and then sort of the broader community that that they need to be that they need to be a part of, let alone investors and partners and kind of the business audiences that they speak to as well.


Will Bachman  18:53

So like the local community hospital, like reading Community Hospital, will that keep its name or it will be reading Community Hospital, like a member of the lifepoint network? Or is it like lifepoint reading or there’s probably


Jonathan Paisner  19:06

it would be, it would still be the reading community hospital, there is a new mark that is being introduced at the at the lifepoint, health corporate level. And the model is that that mark would then be the visual identity, the logo would would be the same logo used at reading Community Hospital.


Will Bachman  19:30

Okay, so you start getting that visual identity. And then, so that does have some impact for the local patient because they start getting the sense that it’s part of this professional, larger, bigger national kind of hot, modern technological thing. It’s not just your local community hospital, but it’s plugged into a national system. So you’re getting the best care.


Jonathan Paisner  19:54

Correct, correct. So that’s it. So this is one and it’s sort of top of mind because this is just starting to roll out now and it will take, it will take years, honestly, to roll it through the lifepoint system, it’s which is much, much slower approach then technology clients that I might work with, or other or other kinds of companies just because of you know, there’s just, there’s a lot of like kind of physical entities to, to manage and changing out. And so it’s it just takes time. And a lot of these hospitals have their own boards the way they’re set up. But anyway, I’m getting into the weeds. So but that that was one model.


Will Bachman  20:37

So either for this example, or or you can give me a sanitized example. Yeah. What are the types of discussions that you have and the pushback and the options that are considered when you’re going through a process like this? I mean, I’m sure that you didn’t just kind of come up with this day one ever since. Yeah, that makes sense. Let’s do it, there’s probably, you know, this whole array of options that you have to consider and then get alignment and input from all sorts of different people and awake trade offs. Talk to me about that process.


Jonathan Paisner  21:06

Yeah, so maybe I’ll use that as a chance to talk about another client in this one, I don’t know that identified by name, but often in the technology, space, whether it is kind of a software, SAS based company. In the hardware world, you see it, for sure, too, but companies often have developed either organically or by acquisition, they, they have all these different different technology products and features of those products. They as they develop or as they are acquired, they start to get a name associated with them. And or a little logo associated with them. And so this company in particular, is it was an engineering and engineering company, they developed kind of a back end and for transport transportation subway systems around the world. And they had all these different products and technologies that kind of roll into that back end of this kind of the payment system and the information systems that that that their customers or the municipalities that are supporting transportation systems. And they had been going to the municipalities with this kind of basket of stuff, but you kind of you needed to buy the bigger entity that bigger contracts in order to be able to get all these additional capabilities and features. And all these capabilities and features were kind of getting in the way of that kind of sales and customer understanding of the products. So that that led towards this that’s kind of indicated a need to have more of this b&w approach, right, more of that, you know, kind of single brand to help tell the story. And the challenge in getting from where they were to where they really needed to go. Was this sense among all these internal product teams of the value that each one of these individual brands had that thinking that there was so much equity in this individual brand. And just it, it became a lot of like, workshopping and conversations, both with people with people internally, but then a number of conversations with their clients and their customers. And then feeding that feedback back to the leadership team, that your clients are confused. They’re not speaking your language, they’re not talking about all these brands the way you are. And so help them understand the need to really simplify their, the way they talk about their portfolio. Again, it’s the how they communicate their offerings. So it was about simplifying how they communicate their offerings. And that proved to be extremely successful for them. I mean, I hope I’m sort of coloring it. I’m speaking in sort of vague terms. So I’m hoping like coloring it in reasonably well. But it is I mean, that that. And the key to doing that was, you know, kind of looking at the different potential approaches for them. Looking at the implications of you’ve got approach A, B, or C, what are the pros and cons or implications of each of these approaches? What are we hearing from your customers about which approach would would make more sense to them? What are you hearing from your sales teams because that is also going to be an important part of the decision, right? How do your sales teams understand the portfolio? Can they communicate it appropriately, and get people excited about it? So looking at the Apple trade offs across, you know, a few different models, and ultimately starting to build consensus on to the one that makes the most sense.


Will Bachman  25:10

Can you give any similar examples that are not sanitized, not necessarily ones that you worked on where you’ve seen b2b companies do this sort of simplification or clarification of their, of their architecture.


Jonathan Paisner  25:23

I’ve seen, I’ve seen one from the outside that I think has just happened. So zoom, the Zoom online meetings, they had been trying so they obviously benefited significantly from the movement to work home over the last couple of years. At the same time, we’re rolling out all these different kind of what they call products, which, to me seemed more like capabilities. So they started to brand. And this is a very subtle thing. And I think it is, you know, what they’ve done has been a significant improvement. So they had things, they had their basic zoom, which I can get called Zoom meetings. But then we also had these other features of like, Zoom meeting rooms, and zoom, whiteboard, and zoom, phone, I mean, all these things that they’re probably like Canada, these kinds of things, that all were called Zoom, something, it made them feel like a separate, kind of like a separate product. You know, but, but really, it’s just the whiteboard feature in your Zoom meeting. And maybe, and maybe that’s part of your, you know, maybe if you have a different tier of a relationship, you can use the whiteboard feature. But by even calling it zoom whiteboard, and marketing it as zoom whiteboard and Zoom meeting rooms, as opposed to just whiteboard, or just meeting rooms, it made it, it created this kind of line there on the customer side. And I think it made it a little bit more challenging for them to talk about in in, in the appropriate way and give it the right kind of hierarchy in their discussions to distinguish between zoom meetings, which is like kind of your basic, your main, the core product, and zoom whiteboard, which you can’t use in whiteboard, unless you’re already using Zoom meetings. So it’s really just a feature of zoom meetings. So that was


Will Bachman  27:32

one like they have like the chat feature.


Jonathan Paisner  27:38

It doesn’t all need a name. And this is what, you know, kind of what keeps me in businesses that technology companies like to name a lot of stuff, they just keep naming stuff, to the point where somebody at some point raises their hand and says, Wait a second, this is a problem.


Will Bachman  27:55

That was probably like a product manager internally who owned that thing. And they called it a product internally, so and they probably had a working name for it. Right?


Jonathan Paisner  28:06

That’s right. And they also, you know, they in, in one sense, you could say that they kind of adhered to that, you know, BMW, Master brand, kind of a model by putting zoom in front of everything. But by putting zoom in front of everything, you also kind of created, you sort of created this issue. And so they have since I just looked at recently, and they have since done away with that. So now it is just it out is just sort of whiteboard and meeting rooms. And so I think that is, you know, a very subtle, but I think kind of significant improvement.


Will Bachman  28:46

So for me, one of the takeaways of this discussion is because a lot of listeners are not going to become a brand architecture consultant. But one thing right now, but one takeaway that I think, you know, for for every listener, is to pay attention to the brand architecture and the brands and how they’re changing when you’re analyzing a market or looking at competitors or looking at your own client. And look at how that changes over time because it gives clues into what the strategy is. So that’s, that’s the takeaway for me.


Jonathan Paisner  29:27

Yeah, I think that that’s, that’s right on. And I think that you know, as a business leader, if you’re running if you’re leading a business or leading a product group or leading a business, understanding the expectations that you were setting up for your customers in having different in these different kinds of architecture models, you know, and if you’re if your strategy is all about expanding relationships, expanding share wallet, cross Selling, then you’re gonna want to fewer brands and that are going to cause that brands are just going to get in the way of doing all that kind of stuff. And so, you know, understanding that kind of relationship is for business leaders is is an important step, step. And I hope that’s the takeaway that people have as well.


Will Bachman  30:17

So Jonathan pays there, if folks wanted to follow up with you, and either reach out or just kind of keep track of what you’re doing. Learn more about your firm, where would you point them online?


Jonathan Paisner  30:30

They can find us at Brand experienced group.com, a company’s brand experienced website is brand experienced group.com.


Will Bachman  30:40

All right, and we will include that link in the show notes. Jonathan, thank you so much for joining today. This is a great discussion and opened my idea open eyes to kind of new way of looking at brand architecture.


Jonathan Paisner  30:53

That’s great. Well, thank you well, and I hope to speak with you soon.

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