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Rethinking brand architecture: a study on industry, company- and product-level drivers of branding strategy

Andreas Strebinger (Department of Marketing, School of Administrative Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




This study aims to compare academic prescriptive models on how to choose a branding strategy on the continuum from a “branded house” to a “house of brands” with real-life branding strategies of leading companies.


Data from an executive survey, observations and desk research on 75 leading companies in Austria are analysed with multilevel weighted least squares (WLS) regression.


Branding strategies for products are determined by industry (23 per cent of variance), the overall strategy of the company (28 per cent), the remaining variance being product-level decisions deviating from both. Service and consumer durables companies lean more towards corporate branding than consumer nondurables. On the company level, synergies in advertising, e-commerce and e-CRM (customer-relationship management) increase the usage of shared brands. A higher company age leads to brand proliferation. On the product level, quality differences between products, the emphasis on and differences in experiential product positioning and, marginally, the symbolic differences between products favour individual brands.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should investigate additional markets, additional drivers, small and medium-sized entreprises (SMEs) and employ additional measures.

Practical implications

The study informs brand-architecture audits with benchmarks from leading companies, calls for a view of brand architecture more flexible than ideal-type categories proposed in literature and cautions against management inertia, industry standards and trends in designing branding strategies.


This study is the first quantitative cross-industry multi-level study on real-life branding strategies. It also applies a new conceptualisation and measurement of branding strategy.



This study was supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research, the Austrian Association for Advertising Research and Henkel Central and Eastern Europe. The author thanks three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Birgit Fasching, Ulrike Costa and Sabine Hopf for assistance in the data collection.


Strebinger, A. (2014), "Rethinking brand architecture: a study on industry, company- and product-level drivers of branding strategy", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 48 No. 9/10, pp. 1782-1804.



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