Some might think the term “brand compliance” is a bit last century, but it’s more relevant than ever. As more people are empowered to use the company’s brand in more places, the more your brand is prone to misuse.
While brand compliance is understandably challenging in times of brand change (such as a merger or repositioning) it’s also an important everyday business practice. Branded interactions happen every day across your online and offline channels. Many of these are initiated by employees outside of the Marketing department. Think about it: customer service, sales, human resources, product development, and partners all deliver the brand promise and experience to customers, employees, investors, and others.
Compounding the brand compliance challenge is the prevalence of decentralized organizations and the pace of business change. Both factors can complicate brand compliance planning and management.
With that said, brand compliance does take a front seat during times of rebranding, so it can make sense to tie enhanced initiatives to implementation of the new brand. Here are some guidelines for strengthening brand compliance when you are about to face or are in the midst of a rebranding project.
1. Brand compliance begins during the creative process
It’s a common misconception that in a rebranding project, the work of creating your new brand identity (logo, tagline, colors, or symbols) is limited to the initial creative process. Finalizing the new brand and its usage guidelines (work usually done by a brand strategy and design agency) is only the first step in determining how the new brand should appear on all your branded assets. There is a lot more work involved in rolling out the new brand and ensuring that its used properly, in a way that maximizes the value of the brand going forward.
2. Brand guidelines alone aren’t enough: you’ll need detailed specs and recommendation books
Your brand agency or your internal design department will develop the initial brand guidelines. But those won’t be detailed enough to ensure accurate and consistent understanding and use of the new brand on all your digital and physical branded assets.
For example, let’s say you have 30 different types of vehicles in your fleet. These vehicles come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with doors and windows in varying positions. You need to consider and document the specific application of your brand to each different vehicle type to ensure consistency across the entire fleet. Furthermore, the materials to be used in branding your fleet must be specified. This would include paint standards and colors, materials for decals, the method for applying decals, etc.
Properly documenting these standards is the key to ensuring brand consistency as you roll out your new brand. This is particularly important in global implementation where requirements across the various asset categories can vary considerably. Furthermore, it is key to creating a foundation for quality brand management in the future.
The same is true for signage. Most companies have many types of interior and exterior signs rendered in a variety of materials. Your brand needs to have signage recommendation books that contain detailed specifications of sizes, colors, materials, mounts, lighting, and more.
Here’s a tip: A rebrand is also a good time to pause and think about what actually needs to be branded and which assets aren’t delivering enough brand equity to be worth the initial and ongoing investment. Is every one of those signs at corporate headquarters and retail outlets really necessary? Don’t fall into the trap of replacing every existing sign, like for like. Take a more strategic view to uncover opportunities to dial up quality and dial down rebrand implementation and ongoing expense. This is true for other categories of branded assets as well, such as workwear.
But none of this will be effective if your leadership and brand users don’t have a deep understanding and appreciation for the brand.
3. Brand compliance requires buy-in and leadership
Brand compliance is traditionally led by the Marketing department—often seen as the owners of the brand. But Marketing’s ongoing education and enforcement activities aren’t enough by themselves to ensure brand understanding and employee accountability for the way the brand is used. Your executive leadership needs to communicate that brand is a priority for the organization and that it’s important to represent it properly. CEOS and other execs need to participate in the initial launch to employees, of course. But there’s more to it than that. In future communcations, the CEO needs to reinforce that brand is vital to the success of the company. Ideally, the CEO takes on the role of the ultimate brand steward.
4. Communicate generously with employees and brand users: inspire, train, and repeat
As much as possible, keep key employees in each department informed and involved during brand development. Make an effort to hear their thoughts. This will help them understand—and champion—the brand.
Put together education sessions that reach all employees. When people at your company truly know and understand the brand, they are less likely to create off-brand communications. And they are more likely to recognize when the efforts of others miss the mark, and point it out.
For heavy users of the brand, conduct ongoing training to reinforce the guidelines and invite open communication to hear and address their issues.
5. Provide streamlined review and approvals—along with flexibility
The aforementioned pace of business today means that your review and approval process for branded communications needs to be fast and easy. The right brand hub and digital asset management system are essential components of a responsive process, so it’s worth the time and effort to make sure you have the right systems, properly configured for your specific needs and preferences.
The speed of business also requires that you also need to provide that much-vaunted flexibility within the brand framework to accommodate new situations and creative ideas. That translates into a willingness to modify brand guidelines, add to recommendation books, and keep the two-way communication between Marketing, business leaders, and brand users open and flowing.
To sum this all up, inconsistent brand identity management—reflected in signage, logos, fleets, user experience, or product performance—can dilute a brand’s equity. With the right executive support, technical resources, communication, training, technology and approval processes, you can empower everyone who needs to use your company’s brand to do so properly, for the maximum collective impact of your brand.