Would you ever eat at a McDonald’s with neon green arches? Or use Spotify if its interface changed drastically every day? It would certainly make me pause. That’s because we’re conditioned to trust brands that present themselves consistently across touchpoints. Any variations in a customer’s experience can create friction, confusion, and cause them to reevaluate the credibility of the brand altogether.
Research bears this out: consistent brand presentation has been attributed to higher brand recognition and increased revenues. But with nearly 8 in 10 companies struggling with off-brand content, many brand builders are missing opportunities to deliver consistent communications and experiences – with implications for the bottom-line.
As organizations expand, so too do the number of people creating content and experiences on their behalf (including agencies, distributed marketing teams, and others). With this growth in what we call “brand users,” clear and simple brand management is pivotal for ensuring consistent application, reinforcing strategy in the right ways without creating a culture ruled by brand police. All organizations should remember the 5 P’s of effective brand management.
- People: It’s important to establish upfront who is accountable for how the brand is applied. While all employees are ultimately responsible for delivering experiences that reflect the brand, some have more autonomy to manipulate the brand’s visual and verbal presentation than others. Those with the most power require the most support, but all employees should be aware of the role they play in their brand’s – and their company’s – success.
- Parameters: Just as modern brands need to define who is entrusted with deploying the brand’s standards, there needs to be agreement on which parts of the brand’s identity are fixed and which are flexible. Making clear distinctions between elements that can’t be altered (e.g. logo, tagline) vs. those that can (e.g. color usage, messaging or photography assets) ensures a shared foundation with the flexibility to meet the needs of specific audiences, campaigns or experiences.
- Policies: All of those creating and delivering branded experiences need clear policies – on what is allowed and in which contexts. Any grey area leaves room for misinterpretation, so it’s important that policies are both comprehensive and easy to understand.
- Processes: Even the best of intentions can create problems if the processes for creating or approving materials are unclear. Establishing tools and templates that restrict fixed elements while creating optionality for flexible elements should be one part of this equation. Making sure there is a clear understanding of when and how materials need to be reviewed and approved should be the other part. Such tools and processes ensure there are guardrails in place for all materials and experiences delivered to customers.
- Practices: An organization can have crystal-clear policies and processes, but without the proper education, they can get lost. A critical part of education is sharing the importance of brand, as well as the rationale for certain decisions – with a better understanding of why policies are in place, employees are more likely to adopt them. Effective brand education also includes modeling the behaviors you want adopted – especially from the top. Lastly, easy to use feedback mechanisms give employees who create branded materials a chance to weigh in and help evolve policies, processes, and tools. By learning from those closest to the execution of the brand, you’re better positioned to evolve your brand – and its management – over time.
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