When our team uses the term ‘brand control’, the first response from clients is usually: "You mean playing brand police?"
It’s easy to see why marketers might think the term is synonymous with being ‘bad cop’ – but the truth is that great brand control should make a marketer’s life considerably easier; not just freeing up valuable time and resource, but actively delivering wide-ranging benefits that go beyond the brand’s application.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re big fans of brand guidelines over here at Brandworkz, but while great brand control undoubtedly starts there, it encompasses much, much more. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into the ten key pillars of good brand control.
Brand usage guidelines
Be clear on all the facets of your brand, and how it should (and shouldn’t) be used. This includes brand vision and messaging, identity, colours, logos, fonts, visual and verbal tone of voice, applications, and the use of content, images & assets. Essentially everything anyone would need to ensure every touchpoint is ‘on brand’! The guidelines should be as fully interactive as possible, easy to update with the latest content and application examples, and accessible to anyone who ever uses your brand.
It goes without saying that consistency is one of the primary objectives of brand control. Making sure the brand gets used correctly not just once, but all the time, all over the world, by internal and external parties. This covers both the use of existing assets and the development of new ones. Consistency actively drives brand value in a number of ways, including driving recognition, driving sales performance, driving consumer trust, and ensuring employee engagement. Check out our dedicated article on this for more.
According to Kantar Millward Brown's BrandZ study, brand consistency also directly drives ROI amplification of other marketing activity. BrandZ developed a framework with which to measure what they term ‘Brand Imprint’, described as “the collective strength of a brand’s assets, including slogans, colors, logos, fonts, physical cues (packaging, the shape of the product), characters, celebrity associations and other imagery”. From their research in evaluating a brand’s performance over a ten-year period, the BrandZ team concluded that “brands with a high Brand Impact Index score more than double their advertising strength versus those with a low score”.
Going beyond consistency, brand control also means creating opportunities to inspire internal users about the brand, ensuring that case studies and examples of best practice are amplified throughout the organisation. Doing so not only reinforces the brand vision but by making it easy for other teams or regions to see and use campaigns that have been proven as effective, the benefits and ROI are optimised. Sharing best practice in this way also acts as a platform for everyone to build on so that ‘best’ can keep on getting better!
When teams have visibility on the brand assets, materials and activation being created centrally and by other departments - and when everyone is working together to drive best practice - true collaboration can be cultivated. Brand control facilitates these structured collaborations to drive better results across teams (departmental or regional) and to foster a greater sense of community around the brand. This not only improves the quality of marketing output but is incredibly powerful in terms of engaging and unifying employee teams.
Reporting and insights are crucial to brand control, allowing managers to see which types of assets are proving most useful, or conversely see which are not being adopted in order to identify any issues. They can also see which teams or markets may be less engaged, so that more support or training can be quickly offered if needed. It also means being able to see where old brand assets are being used in order to replace them, to be alerted when image licenses are expiring, and importantly to locate where those images are currently in use.
From a practical perspective, teams invariably need to collaborate on approving new assets and collateral. However, the approval stage is often where bottlenecks occur in marketing production, so maintaining good brand control means ensuring a robust mechanism for facilitating this is in place. A good tip is to think about optimising your workflows, as they may not always be linear – multi-branch and multi-loop workflows can often help limit iterations, and keep things moving much more swiftly. It’s also important to give everyone a clear dashboard view on exactly what they need to do on a daily basis – no more email tennis!
For regulated industries, ensuring compliance is even more essential from a control perspective. This involves several aspects - ensuring content itself is accurate and compliant, ensuring the approval process is robust (and includes all necessary departments), and ensuring a full audit trail that can be made easily accessible to bodies such as the FCA. Another good way to boost right-first-time compliance and speed up approval times is to automate as much of this as possible by providing dynamic templates that can populate assets or documents with the current and correct disclaimer notices by product or region, significantly reducing the risk of manual error.
Even better, gaining brand control also means creating efficiencies on multiple levels. Firstly, by making sure everyone has all quick and easy access to all the brand tools, assets and materials they need, you are making exponential time savings and massively improving productivity – not to mention all the marketing time freed up no longer having to traffic asset or collateral requests! Furthermore, it reduces the amount of rework and duplication that may otherwise be required – again, not just once, but many times over.
Last but not least, your Board will love this one. Brand value has repeatedly been shown to be a direct driver of enterprise value. According to Reuters, 82% of investors believe that brand strength is becoming more influential in investment decisions; this is backed up by the fact that over 87% of the market value attributable to companies in Standard & Poor’s top 500 is now comprised of intangible assets such as brand. Ensuring greater control over the brand therefore directly impacts financial control and performance.
We hope you’ll agree these are all pretty compelling arguments for making brand control a key priority this year and a good place to start is with Brand Management Software.
Neil Monahan is head of marketing at Brandworkz