Get your house in order: tuning in to the operational side of brand governance

Get your house in order: tuning in to the operational side of brand governance


Philip Guiliano

Today, every marketing executive is being asked to do more with the money they are allocated – if not more for less. And, on top of this, it’s your responsibility to build your organization’s brand value by ensuring it is used consistently, effectively, and efficiently. As you know, that can be a tall order, especially if yours is a sprawling, decentralized organization with an international footprint and a portfolio of multiple brands to manage – although in reality, it’s not so different if you are a regional utility or a smaller local health system.

To make matters more complicated, the days of top-down brand stewardship are over. Today, it’s more likely that multiple individuals within and outside your organization have the power to create and launch branded content. In this context, it takes a mix of resources, tools, and methods to ensure that those individuals can manage brand expression effectively and compliantly. Don’t forget that “brand” money needs to be well spent across all areas of the organization. And while the rules may have changed – they always do – brand governance is more crucial than ever when it comes to maintaining consistency and building brand value.

How do your company’s marketing and brand operations measure up

Now more than ever, marketers are expected to do more with less. Efficient brand and marketing operations are essential to achieving this mandate. Download a cheat sheet of the five characteristics of an effective brand and marketing operations function.

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So, what if we told you that there’s a whole other side to brand governance that you may be missing entirely?

Maintaining brand consistency with marketing versus operational brand governance

Most marketing executives have a strong understanding of brand governance — or at least the aspects of it that relate explicitly to marketing. In their minds, brand governance is all about managing the message, from social media to print ads and templates to hex color codes (as well as everything in between). This traditional view of brand governance typically encompasses the following areas and activities:

  • Web
  • Social media
  • Advertising
  • Events
  • Sponsorships
  • Collateral

Marketing brand governance is deeply important. But it’s only a part of the picture when it comes to holistically governing your organization’s brand.

The other – sometimes even larger part – is what we might call operational brand governance. As the name implies, operational brand governance is brand governance through the lens of ALL operational activities. That means all people, processes, technology, and training related to implementing branded assets or touchpoints throughout the organization. In addition to marketing areas, that means signage and facilities, fleet and uniforms, documents and forms, legal entities, products and packaging, and everything in between.

While your organization’s operational teams and activities play a major role in the successful deployment of your brand, most of their branded assets are usually outside of the control of marketers. These branded assets represent significant spend year over year. So, while your marketing materials may be perfectly consistent and optimized for your brand, if the operational use of your brand is inconsistent, it may undermine and erode your brand equity.

Applying proper brand governance of each of your organization’s disparate, decentralized operational units is the key.

Conducting an opportunity analysis: getting started with operational brand governance

The beautiful part of brand governance is that it can help you “find the money” to impact more of the metrics that matter most to marketers. The rub? Many marketing executives have no visibility as to what’s happening on a day-to-day basis in other operational departments as relates to branding. And that means they don’t have a strong enough understanding of how their brand is being managed operationally or what it costs to do so.

If you’ve never done a deep dive into the state of your organization’s operational brand governance, odds are you are wasting money and impact — and creating inconsistent experiences, too.

Taking the reins on operational brand governance will mean stretching beyond your usual marketing boundaries and building a bridge into the operational areas of your organization. Depending on the structure of your company, this will likely include the following areas:

  • IT
  • HR
  • Facilities
  • Fleet
  • Products and packaging
  • Vendors and agency partners
  • Legal and regulatory/compliance

Start by performing an opportunity analysis. To do that, you’ll need to go out to all those operational areas and learn what they are doing and how they’re doing it. You’ll want to get an idea of the ways these departments operationalize your brand through four lenses — people, process, training, and technology. Your questions to other operational areas should include:

  • Who is responsible for what, and do they understand the importance of their work as it relates to brand value?
  • What do your vendor profiles look like? Do those vendors understand your organization’s brand guidelines? What is their standard pricing? Is this pricing based on a rationalized, value-engineered set of materials? Have they standardized their processes enough to allow for consistent outcomes? Should you streamline or change your vendor portfolio in any way?
  • Do staff in each department understand your organization’s operational brand guidelines? Are they robust enough to cover the work of each team?
  • Does your staff have the technology necessary to effectively support their work?
  • What are your various teams spending in order to operationalize your brand? Where can you save money without reducing the quality of outcomes?

The goal of the opportunity analysis is to identify all the ways in which your organization can improve the operational deployment of your brand – and again – to “find the money.” Once you’ve identified and prioritized the challenges, you need to make a business case to support the changes you hope to make.

This isn’t always simple. It takes experience, knowledge, and discernment to make the right decisions. For example, as a marketer, you may not know whether or not your global network of signage vendors represents an optimal structure. Your operational teams and supply chain team may be able to assist you in making those calls. And it may also help to bring in an external expert to guide you in achieving the right outcomes.

Whether or not you seek outside assistance, an opportunity analysis can help even those organizations with the most buttoned-up brand governance programs identify opportunities to work more efficiently, and present their brand more consistently.

The benefits of holistic brand governance

The right time to look at the operational side of your brand governance infrastructure is now. That’s true even if you’re not planning on rebranding in the near future. Take a more holistic approach to brand governance, and you’ll realize multiple benefits. These include:

  • A brand that is more powerful and consistently deployed

  • Reduced spending and optimized vendor structures

  • Faster time to market

  • More efficient use of human resources, including a lower cost of lost opportunities and more time available for other impactful initiatives

  • Ability to focus on the strategic rather than the tactical

  • If a rebrand is on the horizon, it will be more efficient and successful

Taking a careful look at your brand governance practices ultimately saves both time and money. Perhaps most importantly, it also improves brand consistency. Don’t wait for an event like a rebranding to get your house in order. With the house in order, any big change is always going to be more efficient and effective. The benefits of choosing a holistic approach to brand governance are huge. And the risks of not acting are substantial.