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Brand Architecture from Above

Time: Thu 2019-11-07 13.00

Location: F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Industrial Economics and Management

Doctoral student: Per Åsberg , Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.)

Opponent: Associate Professor Mats Urde, Lund University

Supervisor: Associate Professor Henrik Uggla, Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM)

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Global business is transforming. Information technology in general, and the Internet specifically, has globalized business and empowered the consumer with more information and choice than ever before. Consequently, academic research into brand portfolios and brand architecture is faced with new challenges to reflect this changing reality.

Traditional research into brand portfolio management and its structural embodiment using brand architecture has approached these concepts from the perceptive of the brand owner/company. For instance, the portfolio has been mapped based on legal ownership of brands, which has been criticized as being a too narrow approach that exclude key contributors of the portfolio’s collective brand equity. Even in the cases where partner brands are acknowledged as part of the portfolio, their inclusion is often based on the revenue stream they represent or their link in the distribution chain instead of association. Brand architecture research has therefor focused on structural representations based on hierarchical trees created within the walls of the company itself, without necessarily investigating if the intended structure works as expected.

The missing ingredient in this halting logic is the perceptions of the market in which the portfolio and its architecture operates. Associations and transfer of brand equity is dependent on a concept’s mental perception in the minds of consumers. An endorsement that does not get noticed by the target market is a mirage in the minds of marketing managers, and an historical collaboration that was cancelled years ago may still influence the brand portfolio today by means of association in consumer memory.

The research presented in this thesis extends current theory in brand portfolio management and brand architecture to directly include the consumer perspective. This thesis re-classifies the portfolio and architecture concept as perceptual constructs whose efficiency is determined by the mental alignment between company representatives as the creators of the intended meaning and customers as the interpreters, or even co-creators, of the same. Study results presented indicate significant misalignment not only between stakeholder groups as a collective, but also between individuals within each group – even for brand managers working together on the same portfolio day after day. Current hierarchical models for representing brand architecture are extended using the perceptual dimension as well as a layer accounting for the openness of the portfolio, and a new brand portfolio model segregating brands based on the degree of perceptual inclusion in the portfolio is presented.

This introduction of the perceptual dimension into both brand portfolio management and brand architecture represents a new way to view these abstract concepts, a conceptual idea that has ripple effects into areas such as brand equity transfer, brand alliances, and portfolio risk management.