SERVICE BRANDS SELL PRODUCTS TOO: Using Brand Architecture for Your Evolving Business
Updated: Mar 13
Increasingly today, service-based businesses are adding products alongside their services. From coveted templates to digital courses; coaches, copywriters, and social media managers alike are merging the B2B and B2C service models. Why? Because it allows a service provider to branch out, bring in additional revenue, and scale their business in new ways.
If this is something you’ve been planning for in your own business, it’s important to strategize the role product offers will play in your brand at large. Looking to the fundamentals of brand architecture, use this framework to guide your approach for branding your products and services under the same brand and business.
What we'll cover:
YOUR (VERY BRIEF) INTRODUCTION TO BRAND ARCHITECTURE
Brand architecture is something we small business owners don’t often have to worry about because it relates to the organization of sub-brands that exist within a particular business. If you have many sub-brands, you may not be a small business anymore.
As you develop a more complex business model, getting familiar with brand architecture will allow you to approach your new products, offers, or other similar brand extensions in a way that supports your brand’s overall goals and direction. Let’s take a look at different types of brand architecture.
A branded house is another name for a master brand or parent brand that has a series of sub-brands that fall under the same name. FedEx and Google are great examples of a branded house because all of their sub-brands are clear extensions of the master brand.
An endorsed brand is when the master brand is affiliated with its sub-brands but each sub-brand has its own unique brand identity. This allows the sub-brands to leverage the equity of the master brand, reassuring customers by giving it their endorsed seal of approval.
Cereal brands like Kellogg’s use an endorsed brand architecture model in that each of their cereal products has their own brand identity but still share the Kellogg’s name.
Similarly, Marriott Hotels include a range of different brands that each have their own visual identity and brand position, but are still a Marriott Hotel brand.
House of Brands
A house of brands will have a series of sub-brands that share no obvious relation to their master brand. Think Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever. The PepsiCo house of brands includes a wide range of beverage brands beyond Pepsi itself, as well as brands like Lay’s and Tostitos, and even anything under the Quaker brand name.
Some brands will use a hybrid brand architecture approach, meaning they use more than one brand architecture model mentioned above.
Take my client, Brenda Terry, as an example here. Brenda is a business coach and NLP Master Trainer. She has had a few rebrands over the years as she’s been figuring out the best approach for her unique and evolving business.
After a few years operating primarily under the brand, Soulful NLP, she recently decided to reorganize her brand architecture.
She decided to launch Brenda Terry Co (similar to her initial personal brand, Brenda Terry) as her master brand. Under the Brenda Terry Co brand will be her existing primary brand, Soulful NLP, her NLP training programs, and podcast.
Adopting a master brand allows for a better distribution for her service offers, Soulful NLP products, and various channels.
Alongside her master brand model she uses an endorsed model for the Soulful NLP brand with a series of Soulful programs that are live, digital, free or paid-for.
Your evolving business should be approached in a way that makes sense for you, but allow the brand architecture models to show you what that might look like.
Okay, so with our intro to brand architecture lesson taken care of, let’s take a look at a framework for branding your products and services within your small business.
HOW TO BRAND PRODUCTS INSIDE YOUR SERVICE-BASED BUSINESS
Having clarity on your products and the role they play in your brand at large is so important. It’s the best way to simplify your operations from the get go, allowing you to have a given framework to follow with each new service or product you introduce.
Let’s look at the Friendly Foodie nutritionist—a fictitious brand we’ll use for this example.
The Friendly Foodie has decided to start offering products alongside their current client services and each one falls into one of three categories which serves its own purpose within the business model:
Free or Low-Cost
Let’s take a closer look at each.
FREEBIES or LOW-COST PRODUCTS
Targeting: new leads and audiences
Goal: build brand awareness by introducing the brand to new audiences
Includes: lead magnets such as simple guides, webinars, and one-off templates
Examples of products under this category for the Friendly Foodie could include:
Heathy Eating 101 guide
No Fuss Food Tracker template
Because these are introductory products that serve to bring new people into the Friendly Foodie brand, they are value-first.
How to approach the brand execution: Value-led products serve to attract new leads for the business and would follow the same branding guidelines as the Friendly Foodie brand. It’s likely the customer’s first introduction to the brand, so the role of the brand name itself holds little to no merit over the actual value the product offers the consumer.
Targeting: existing leads and community
Goal: build trust around the brand
Includes: mid-range affordable products like an evergreen course, subscription offer, or a recurring training series.
Examples of products under the mid-level category for the Friendly Foodie could include:
Friendly Foodie Winter Challenge
The Friendly Detox Program
Those already familiar with the Friendly Foodie brand are more likely to pay for a mid-level offer and so these are brand-first.
How to approach the brand execution: Using a shared naming convention with the brand allows the brand to carry the product’s credibility. It increases brand equity in the mind’s of consumers, because it proudly bears the brand name.
Depending on your business name, you can either opt to fully endorse the brand (i.e. Friendly Foodie Winter Challenge) or you can adopt a naming theme for your products (i.e. The Friendly Detox Program).
McDonald’s is an example of a brand adopting a naming theme to all of their “McProducts”. Brenda Terry has done the same thing with her Soulful NLP brand by carrying “Soulful” through her product and program names.
Targeting: very specific niche audience
Goal: to evolve into their own brand and business model
Includes: premium products and signature programs that could be developed as their own independent entity
Examples of products under the high-ticket category for the Friendly Foodie could include:
The Going Vegan Blueprint by the Friendly Foodie
Vegan Vacation by the Friendly Foodie
These high-value offers cater to the needs of a very specific Friendly Foodie audience so they are product-first.
How to approach the brand execution: High-ticket offers are big and deserve to be given their own spotlight. Use an endorsed brand model with the potential for dropping the endorsed name and having it be its own sub-brand. Including a “by the Friendly Foodie” endorses the brand in the beginning but can easily be dropped if the product evolves to be known as a brand in and of itself.
Knowing the direction you want to take with a high-ticket product like this allows you to better approach the visual identity early on. If you plan to evolve it to become its own standalone brand, what choices can you make today that make sense for your long-term vision?
STRATEGIZING YOUR EVOLVING BUSINESS
As your business evolves, having a strategy to guide your brand is key. With every new offer you develop, carefully consider:
the role it plays within your brand and business
what goals you have for it long-term
whether it should be branded with a value-first, brand-first, or product-first approach
Using this framework allows your evolving service-based business to make intentional decisions that support your brand’s vision and mission. Don’t rush the process. Having a plan in place ensures that as you grow, you grow stronger.
Jenny Henderson is a brand strategist and business mentor. She collaborates with service-based solopreneurs to design memorable brands that allow them to make a living doing what they love. Since 2020, her branding studio has become a place where small business owners learn to think like a brand.