Uniting three brands under one roof: the transformation of COUNT
When you think about the most successful brands, what are some names that come to mind? I’ll take my chances and say that Apple made the cut. Part of what makes Apple so well-known is that each of its products and sub-brands can be easily recognized and tied to the Apple brand - whether we’re talking Apple Watch, Apple Music, or Apple News. This is thanks to their solid brand architecture, which I have to say I’m a big fan of.
The same way that houses need a foundation to build upon, businesses need a brand architecture from which they can organize their products, services, and sub-brands. There are different types of brand architectures and it’s important to choose the right one.
Just ask energy and renewables trading company COUNT. The brand has three sub-brands: each had its own brand identity and website. COUNT wanted to build awareness about who they are and clearly convey the relationship between each sub-brand. We joined forces to unite their sub-brands under a single, strong brand that positions them as a recognizable leader in the petrochemicals industry. This began with determining the best brand architecture for COUNT.
Choosing the right brand architecture for COUNT
Brand architecture is essentially the structure of a business: it shapes the relationship between brands within an organization and how they interact with each other. With a brand architecture, it will be easier to maintain a consistent brand identity, leave a memorable impression on your target audience, and stay agile as your products and services expand over time.
Choosing the right brand architecture is key to building a strong and consistent brand. Allow me to break down three key brand architecture types:
A branded house is characterized by a single master brand under which several sub-brands exist as independent entities. These sub-brands use the master brand’s identity with descriptors as differentiators.
A well-known example of a branded house is FedEx. The brand has various sub-brands: FedEx Freight, FedEx Ground, FedEx Office, FedEx Logistics, FedEx Express, FedEx Services, and FedEx Dataworks. Each of these is a stand-alone brand whose identity has a clear link to the master brand, FedEx.
House of brands
In a house of brands, sub-brands have a bigger distinction between them. The sub-brands aren’t bound to the master brand’s identity or positioning. Instead, each brand has its own unique look and feel and caters to a specific target market.
Unilever is a great example of a house of brands. Each of its sub-brands - from Dove and Vaseline to Ben & Jerry’s and Lipton - has a distinct brand identity and doesn’t portray a clear relationship with the master brand or the other sub-brands.
A hybrid model combines the branded house and house of brands models. Under this structure, sub-brands have their own identity but may still be visibly associated with the master brand.
Marriott, the largest hotel chain in the world, follows a hybrid brand architecture. Some of its sub-brands feature the master brand name, like Courtyard by Marriott and JW Marriott. Others don’t, like Sheraton and Westin.
For COUNT, we first conducted a brand assessment to familiarize ourselves with the brand and its subsidiaries. The brand has three sub-brands: COUNT Energy Trading, COUNT Energy Distribution, and COUNT Westgass. Each sub-brand had its own brand identity and website, and there was no clear relationship between them. After exploring different options, we decided that COUNT needed a cohesive umbrella brand that encompasses all three of their sub-brands. Which is why we proposed to go for a branded house architecture.
Building the master brand
Following the branded house architecture, COUNT needed a strong master brand that represents their business values, story, and mission. The master brand would serve as the face of the company and needed to clearly convey what COUNT is all about.
COUNT wanted to be seen as a credible and trustworthy brand that is leading the petrochemicals industry towards a more sustainable future. We based the brand strategy on this vision. COUNT’s existing brand materials were consolidated into a compelling brand story that focuses on the brand’s values and commitment towards sustainability. We then redefined their purpose, vision, and mission to reinforce this.
COUNT’s renewed brand strategy needed to be reflected in their brand identity. We refined the existing brand materials and unified them under a strong master brand identity: The COUNT Group.
We tweaked COUNT’s existing logo to give it a more seamless and sleek look. This involved harmonizing the letters and dropping the full stop at the end. We decided to keep the black of the logo and made it the brand’s primary color. In design, black represents the sum of all colors and symbolizes power and strength - a fitting choice for a bold and all-encompassing master brand.
The sub-brands’ identities needed to be differentiated yet consistent enough to be recognizable as part of The COUNT Group. We built the sub-brands’ identities based on the master brand and made sure to maintain a seamless look and feel across all. The same logo, typography, and photography was used to maintain consistency, while a different color palette was chosen for each sub-brand to set them apart.
Previously, COUNT Energy Trading and COUNT Energy Distribution had the same colors, which made it difficult to differentiate the two brands. After exploring different options, we went with a dark green for COUNT Energy Distribution, an electric blue for COUNT Energy Trading, and a rich turquoise for COUNT Westgass.
A brand guide containing all brand identity assets for the master brand and sub-brands was created to make it easier to maintain consistency.
A new digital home
After wrapping up the branding work, the next step was to build a website that brings together The COUNT Group’s sub-brands and showcases the unique offerings of each. The brand wanted their website to be informative and easy-to-use while giving visitors a window into what the brand is all about.
The website is designed with a focus on storytelling: as visitors scroll through the homepage, they uncover more about the brand’s story. We made sure to highlight the brand’s origins, how it has evolved over the years, and where it’s headed. To humanize the brand and create a deeper connection with site visitors, we spotlighted the company’s founders, employees, and customer success stories.
Each of The COUNT Group’s sub-brands has a dedicated webpage that is easily accessible on the website. These webpages inform site visitors of the specific sub-brand’s services and solutions and showcase the various awards and certificates they’ve won for sustainability. This serves to boost trustworthiness and illustrates how COUNT is actively changing the status quo in their industry. Have a look at their sleek new website yourself - happy scrolling!
In the end, your brand is your biggest asset - it’s how you connect with your customers, stand out against competitors, and leave a memorable impression. Establishing a strong brand architecture should be your first step when building a brand. Doing so will ensure you have a solid foundation and can maintain consistency as your brand grows and evolves. Make it COUNT!