Published: 29 April 2014

Controlling logomania

April’s Brand Breakfast was a whistle-stop tour of brand architecture, the term used to describe how you structure and present your range of services, products, campaigns and fundraising initiatives to the outside world.

Cancer Research’s flexible masterbrand system

Kate Eden, head of brand at Cancer Research UK, kicked off proceedings with words of comfort from her days managing the Procter & Gamble endorsed Pantene brands. She said, "Most brand architecture systems are not easy, not perfect and require pragmatism".

Senior brand manager, Rhiannon Lowe, guided us through Cancer Research UK’s 18 month journey to prevent 'logo-itis' and deliver a stronger, more coherent brand.

Rhiannon explained that the ambition had been to deliver a more holistic experience, so people could navigate their way around the diverse Cancer Research UK service offering more easily.

The decision was made to build equity back into the corporate brand and ensure it was clearer where all products, services and events came from. A ‘flexible masterbrand’ system was identified as the ideal model, meaning there would be a single brand, with just one exception – Race for Life, which is seen as a brand in its own right.

Everything must now be devised within a framework with enough flexibility for effective targeting, and for the marketing team to have room to breathe, but also with consistency so it all looks like it belongs to the same brand.

Cancer Research UK created a seven-strong team which they called ‘the virtuous circle’ who successfully convinced the entire organisation to buy into their single minded approach.

The BBC's network of properties

Jane Lingham, BBC director of brand, explained her belief that brand is not: a necessary evil, just a name, a strapline, a diversion from ground-breaking content, a trick to get people to depart with their cash, a desire for world domination or even a puzzle. She believes that developing a successful brand makes complete sense in an increasingly competitive and fragmented market, a way for people to navigate through an organisation and a short cut to their values.

But how do you organise a diverse portfolio where every year 20,000 staff create 439,000 hours of content, across 9 nine TV channels, 10 digital platforms and 57 radio stations.

The BBC’s solution is a ‘network of properties’ rather than a ‘hierarchy of brands’ designed to always drive credit back to the centre. It’s a way of framing brand architecture to help alleviate internal politics that we could all learn from.

Within the network are three core categories. These are: variants of the BBC that drive their reputation like BBC Drama, then sub-brands –  the channels that help people to navigate using their values and visuals like CBBC or Radio 4, then the actual content people consume such as Dr Who or Top Gear.

Jane shared a model which summarises the nine main drivers of public approval which they call their 'structural acquisition model'. This model helps the BBC decide which brands, or properties, to invest in to maintain and build its reputation, which is especially important in the run up to the renewal of the royal charter and negotiation of the licence fee.

Jane's final words of wisdom signify that there is hope for us all when it comes to navigating our way through complex brand architecture challenges. It comes from Brad Jakeman, president of Pepsico: "Most brand strategies end up being a penetrating insight into the blatantly obvious."


Dan Dufour, brand strategist, The Team

Dan is one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter (Design Week Award), Parkinson’s UK (Design Effectiveness Award), RSPB (Third Sector Excellence Award) and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by The Teamand is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.