Brands are built on trust. They build that trust by making brand promises and delivering on them, time and again. And the consistency and quality with which a brand presents itself to the world — or the degree to which all touchpoints are reliably on-brand — is the first touchpoint for setting customer perception of how capable you are of fulfilling those promises.
While consumers generally seek out and reward trustworthy brands in turbulent times, such as an economic recession or global pandemic, many consumers seek to minimize uncertainty – even in the strongest of times – by going with the brands they trust the most. The most reliable brands win.
Unfortunately, many brands struggle to maintain their focus on brand operations during times of uncertainty – or even during times of growth as many tech companies are experiencing today — at precisely the moment when brand consistency is most needed. Instead, individuals within organizations home in on the tasks that are most central to their jobs — the operational activities that seem to deliver the most value.
The result? Downstream and decentralized marketing activities wind up getting the short end of the stick. Picture a manufacturing company that now needs to roll out new products in record time in response to shifting consumer priorities. Will they be able to ensure the products, packaging, promotions including video and social media all positioned and launched in a way that adheres to brand standards and are additive to brand value in the time allotted? Healthcare companies facing massive disruption, tech companies dealing shifting value propositions—marketing departments across industries need to be able to pivot—and that can be hard to do without strong operational practices in place. Yet those brands that do remain steadfast in their pursuit of brand operational excellence and consistency and quality of outcomes are most likely to emerge stronger on the other side. Here’s what you need to know to help your company be among them.
How to avoid undermining brand consistency in uncertain times
When it comes to maintaining your brand consistency in uncertain times, the most important thing you can do is avoid losing ground in the first place. Use the following tactics to guard your territory.
- Communicate with and train your internal team. This is the low hanging fruit – and it is so often missed as people scramble to respond to new pressures. As your organization hunkers down in the face of economic or social turbulence, educate your team about the importance of brand consistency in this very moment. Explain that consumers are looking for something to rely on and will gravitate toward brands that make them feel safe. Put your argument in business terms. Make the case that brand consistency can play a critical role in maintaining revenue – delivering value – and ultimately maintaining their jobs. Finally, remind each operational team of the unique role they play in promoting brand consistency.
- Fully leverage what you already have. You likely already use various technologies to manage efficiency ,delivery and brand consistency. These could include SharePoint, a brand asset management (BAM) system, your organization’s intranet, collaboration tools, project management tools, among others.to, Take a look at how you are currently using those tools and search for opportunities to leverage them more fully. What BAM functionalities are you using, and which modules are still left untapped? Consider ways to increase your utilization of your existing brand governance tools or documents. Your goal? To make it easier for the individuals within your organization to do things right. And because many of these tools produce tangible, measurable ROI, it’s possible to gain acceptance for new investments in this area.
- Rationalize assets. The more you rationalize and reduce your overall portfolio of branded assets, the simpler it is to consistently express your brand, the less you have to manage, and the more your people can focus on activities that deliver value to the business. After all, fewer assets mean fewer details to manage, fewer costs, and fewer opportunities to miss the mark. Assess your collateral base, documents and forms, badges, signage, everything… with an eye toward aggressively streamlining your portfolio and simplifying your structure. Which assets are essential? Which do you truly need right now? What can be templatized, automated, streamlined? And which are really just taking up space?
- Rationalize vendors and also – streamline how you work with them. The more vendors you partner with, the more opportunities exist for brand governance details to fall through the cracks – and again the more time and effort it is to manage. Consider your roster of agency partners. If you are currently working with 20 different agencies, but a handful of them could potentially serve all your needs, rationalizing may be the way to go. If you don’t have consolidated ways to manage the vendors that you need – and they aren’t incentivized to work with you and the other agencies you work with in that way – then set up that structure for efficiency and cost reduction.
How to boost brand consistency in turbulent times
Now that you’ve secured your brand’s borders, it’s time to consider ways to strengthen your brand consistency — and build additional trust with your customers in the process.
- Perform an operational brand governance audit. This is something so few organizations take the time to execute – and it is massively powerful if done with the end goal of making the outcomes tangible, tactical, and implementable. This requires a detailed evaluation of your marketing assets and operations to uncover gaps and opportunities. Be sure to review your operations through the lens of each of the pillars of brand operational governance: people, process, tools, vendors, documentation, dashboards and tracking, and technology. Carefully document each of the opportunities you find to strengthen your brand consistency. Next, rank the opportunities based on impact, cost, and your current organizational capabilities. Now you have an incremental brand governance roadmap. Finally, commit to immediately act on the lowest hanging fruit. Look for activities you have the capacity to act upon. Now, select the one that also stand to net the most bang for your buck.
- Pay special attention to structure, roles, responsibilities, and support models. As you work to streamline your marketing operations, make sure you have the right people doing the right things. Additionally, see that they have the right level of accountability to create a consistent brand experience. Double-check that you are properly supporting your staff and vendors in their ability to make informed, on-brand decisions.
- Inject brand governance into your existing, high-priority initiatives. In times of disruption, your organization’s priorities are liable to shift rapidly. For example, your HR department may be in the process of recruiting a big new cohort of hires — or laying off a group of existing staff. Either way, look for opportunities to bring brand training or experiential improvement into your organization’s big-ticket initiatives. Whether your organization is overhauling its IT infrastructure, technology delivery model, or facilities, make sure Marketing is integrated into the process. In particular, Marketing must have access to portions of the budget to drive better, more consistent brand experiences. Note that there are opportunities to manage your brand expression whether your organization is growing or shrinking. For example, if you are forced to close facilities, how can you do so in a way that doesn’t result in legacy branding in locations or facilities you no longer manage?
The consistency of your brand expression is at the heart of whether or not consumers consider your brand a safe bet — or an unnecessary risk. By committing to brand consistency in turbulent times, you offer consumers a safe and welcoming harbor in which to weather the storm – while also reducing the amount of time and cost you need spend simply getting the job done.