Once upon a time, brands were invented by some marketing geniuses in closed rooms: they were the result of research, competitors´ analysis and some kind of innate creativity. In that pre-digital era, Brands used to reach customers with few mono-directional, one-to-many, channels. Brands were broadcasters: a brand was a communication tool made to show the superiority of the product to sell.
In those time, brand governance was mainly about creating a Brand Handbook with rules and guidelines for the Marketing Department.
In most cases, the brand manual was created by the same brand agency that ideated the brand identity and reviewed every some year, in so-called “rebranding” projects.
That time is gone... today, brands are much less a static concept and much more something that happens, and evolves, every day.
“Your brand is what other people say when you´re not in the room”. Jeff Bezos
In the age of connected customers, your brand happens every day: it lives in every human, physical or virtual interaction that your customer decides to take with you.
It is a high-frequency, high-fragmented, hard-to-control brand experience. Many conversations around your brand take place distant from your own frontline, and out of your control. Yes, you are no longer in the room.
Your brand is what people experience and share every day, much more than what you say your brand is.
If you´re lucky enough, there will be people that love your brand. Some of those fans will create content about your Brand and share it with their friends. Some of them will contribute to your brand to evolve, will become part of the brand activation, no matter if you have planned for that or not.
As brands have changed, so must Brand Governance evolve.
"Decide what you stand for, and then stand for it all the time” Clayton Christensen
Brand applications are distributed. The brand is an ongoing relationship rather than a stable identity. In this scenario, the Brand Governance job must rethink itself, starting from its core mission. This mission is more than "surveillance" and consistent brand application.
Taking the broader view, you can break down the mission of Brand Governance into:
THE CULTURAL MISSION Engage, motivate, educate
THE GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT MISSION
Make the brand happen
Help the brand evolve
1 - THE CULTURAL MISSION Engage, motivate, educate
A good brand concept is a powerful tool to motivate and unite employees around a common purpose. Brand identity becomes a core element of the company culture.
The mission of Brand Governance starts from making the brand story resonate and engage with all employees so that they have a common understanding of values, identity and way to be of the Brand.
With ongoing education and sharing, the Brand Governance puts the brand at the centre of the organisational culture, by mean of stories, visuals, events that connect the Brand Purpose (the “why” of the organisation) with the People motivation (the “why” of your employees).
How to fulfil the cultural mission?
It is not only about training sessions, but also about all business leaders becoming “brand coaches” that embody and transmit the brand to their teams as part of their leadership role. The key players of this game are HR and Internal Communication, all Business Leaders, and the leading-by-example CEO.
The outcome will be a common understanding in the organisation and employee engagement. This understanding is the best guarantee to avoid brand misuse, lack of control, and to provide the ability to go safely to every new playground and touchpoint where the Brand will happen.
2 - THE GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT MISSION Make the brand happen
More than a “Brand police”, you need to develop a “Brand Concierge”: a competence centre whose job is to inform, empower, enable your employee to activate the Brand.
The Brand Governance operative framework includes PEOPLE, PROCESSES, TOOLS.
A small team of brand evangelists that act as coaches, consultants and experts to call. These experts shall reflect the specific skills and functional areas where the brand will take place: sales, communications, customer service, but also product development and UX design, so to provide rapid, actionable feedback and guidance for the brand application.
The simpler, the betteR
a. PULL Enquiries and approvals.
The brand concierge will provide a clear framework to let people know when they need to ask for approval and be open to any kind of enquiry and request for support. Any approval workflow must be fast and reliable: fewer steps needed and no ambiguous feedbacks. .
b. PUSH Monitor, alert, prevent.
This is not only the traditional "brand police" job overlooking campaigns, emails, digital appearance etc, but will extend to consider the outside world where the brand is living: how partners, but also users and customers, fans and media, take and interpret the brand.
This monitoring can be very useful to increase consistency in the brand execution and decrease risk for misalignment among stakeholders. It´also useful to provide insights into the evolution of the brand, based on how the “world out there” sees your brand.
The best brands have worked in the last years to develop proper “brand centres” that concentrate into one-stop-shop all the artefacts, updates, communications and workflows.
A good web centre is not only an archival of media assets and brand documents.
It serves as an information tool, as a central access point for reviews, enquiries and requests, and an integral part of your overall asset management.
This brings me to a strong recommendation for developing a brand centre: do not create separate, duplicated, Digital Asset Management system. The Brand Centre should be an application layer that lives on the central DAM and is aligned also for the use of the assets and digital rights: any brand asset shall be tracked and monitored.
a. GUIDELINES DOCS
Replace static documents with easy-to-update, easy-to-consume content (responsive, short and up to the point). Remove fluff and replace it with examples of things that work and no-goers.
Avoid, avoid, avoid:
- Self-referential “mission statements”
- Brand personality documents that do not translate into immediate understanding of what to do / what not to do
- Long, abstract “Tone of voice” and Style guides, unless they are sharp, crystal clear, actionable
b. VISUAL ASSETS
- Versioning and adaption are key: consider all possible applications and deliver a full catalogue of ready-to-use assets
- Consider all screens and deliver responsive design
- Think mobile !
- Videos: provide motion graphics and a complete toolkit for all major edit suites
- Prepare and update a catalogue of visual assets that your people can use to publish, edit, embed into their visual artefacts.
- Make all video segments available both as clean feed and with brand graphics applied
c. UPDATES, NEWS, INFORMATION…
A Brand Centre is also a key internal communication tool, providing updates, information, and showing examples of recent brand application. But it is not only a one-way broadcasting centre. Good brand governance streamlines workflows and communications between departments and the brand governance team.
As a result, a brand centre becomes a true companion that departments will use to:
- access material and assets
- share information
E.g. a team responsible for organizing the presence at an event can use the brand centre across the whole process of brand application:
- asking for guidance on how to apply the brand on the site
- sharing and getting approval for the final appearance on brochures, stands, videos…
- creating and uploading after the event some lessons learned and suggestions
- uploading new assets that have been created for that event and can be reused for other events
INTERNATIONAL BRAND GOVERNANCE
BETWEEN COMPLIANCE AND LOCALISATION
It´s a delicate balancing act, where a Brand Governance team can support global Brand Management with a structured collection of local applications and a targeted delivery of recommendations, feedbacks and guidance to local teams.
At best, each local brand team has a champion of Brand Governance, someone that acts as an ambassador and a focal point for any brand application.
BRAND DEPLOYMENT: BRAND GOVERNANCE BEYOND THE ORGANISATIONAL BOUNDARIES
The brand governance framework must consider how the brand is deployed within and outside the organisation, external players of the brand ecosystems:
- resellers, franchise, subsidiaries…
- suppliers, partners
The brand centre will consider the need for specific access rights for external players. Specific workflows must be in place. Team members will act as brand ambassadors with a focus on external partners.
MEASURING IMPACT: IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT ?
Making the case for Brand Governance is not that difficult. The risk of losing control on the Brand has an immediate impact on the Company. More complex is to find a way to measure the impact of it on an ongoing basis, and use these KPI to improve and evolve the Governance.
The key areas of impact, that you can measure regularly by running surveys and working closely with the involved Departments, are:
- Engagement: fostering emotional connections with your associates to live out and execute on your brand story, promise and strategy.
- Ease: Making it easy for associates to be “on brand” with tools, templates and clear guidelines to the point that they don’t even know they’re doing it.
- Efficiency: Reducing the time your organisation spends duplicating efforts, updating assets and responding to requests to spend more time on activities that drive value.
Finally, do not think about Brand Governance as something "for big corporations only". Every Brand needs governance, and good brand governance starts on Day Two, once you have brought your Brand to life.