March 11, 2018
The Value of Quality Brand Management
“Hello. My name is Jeanne and I am a brandoholic.”
I have suffered from this affliction since a very young age as my grandfather used to redesign company logos for fun and send them to companies with an invoice. Sometimes they actually paid for them. I used to watch him create these new logos from a pad of paper, pencils and tracing paper. It was like magic to watch him create new imagery and I was hooked.
During college studying design, I became a fanatic about typography and calligraphy, carefully kerning and re-inking type to suit the brief. I loved improving on bad work. Since then I have become the “Brand Nazi” for many companies.
Why Companies Pick Bad Logos
Typically the Marketing Head or a CxO decides that there is a need to upgrade their branding. No one asks why it needs a change and there should be significant and measurable reasons to do so. Perhaps you’ve expanded beyond your current industry and need a brand that encompasses all the new lines of your business. Perhaps your company has outgrown a dated design and need something more in keeping with the times. Perhaps there is a complete renaming of your organization due to a merger or acquisition. Sometimes the trigger is simply moving to a new office and since you have to update the stationery anyway… Once the decision is made, what usually happens is that a few companies or designers are interviewed and their portfolios reviewed. Based on the taste of those reviewing the portfolios, they pick a designer based on what they liked. This is the wrong way to go about it on so many levels.
What is the purpose of branding? To create an instant emotional recall in a consumer that equates with the values of your company. Who’s opinion really matters? Potential customers.
When I was working with a slightly crazy CEO who did not understand the nuances of design, he made a good point. He wanted to show our top three designs to his best customers for their opinions and they picked a solid logo. Although it wasn’t my favorite, it was exactly what our clients felt when seeing it — one said, “It shows that you examine bits and bytes and the one dot in a different color is the one piece that could win us our case. We want that level of detail from a computer forensics firm.” Done. He was right. Let your customers have a say. If your branding is not translating to potential customers, the logo has failed.
Maintaining Brand Guidelines Across the Company
Most organizations do not create a formal set of branding guidelines and templates, but it is in your best interest to get this professionally done. Every client-facing document should reflect positively on your brand. Companies pay a fortune to create and defend their brand. The smaller the company, the worse the overall branding will typically be. A bad logo, used inconsistently, in numerous sizes and colors, different fonts for different documents, and poorly designed documents and forms will make your company look sloppy and unprofessional, so spend a few bucks to get something done well.
Have your designer create a Branding Guidelines document. Developing a formal set of branding guidelines will show employees how to use your logo appropriately and what is and what is not acceptable use. Make this document available to all employees. As part of their on-boarding at your company, introduce this document and processes for using the brand. Their computers should have limited options for fonts and have all of your templates loaded up. Some companies have intranets or online storage where the latest versions of these documents are stored. This is ideal if your documents get updated regularly. Ensure that you have internal audits of documents to ensure adoption of all templates by all employees. For important documents, have them cleared by your Marketing department to ensure adherence to the brand guidelines.
I’ve seen newsletters go out to clients in COMIC SANS. All professional designers are completely offended by that typeface and IT MUST DIE.
Expanding Your Branding
Your brand is everything that comes in contact with an employee, a client, a prospect, the press and more. Your brand should extend to how you design your work environment, using brand colors to reinforce your branding. When I worked for a telecom group of companies, we had several companies occupying different floors of the same building. Each floor reflected the brand of the company within through paint color and other finish choices. Uniforms and other cool stuff for employees (like hoodies, travel mugs or sports team uniforms) should reflect the brand.
Writing sales and marketing materials, social media updates, and for your web site should all have a consistent “voice”. This can be accomplished by ensuring all staff are following a particular editorial standard (I’m personally a fan of the Chicago Manual of Style; others have their own preferences.). This voice should be intuitive and closely match the look and feel of your brand. For example, a large law firm’s brand will be typically be sober in colors, in traditional serif fonts, and may perhaps even be engraved or embossed. These all indicate traditional values. Their office space is probably deeply carpeted, with expensive furniture and bookcases. They probably have a formal dress code and well written processes. Another example may be a small IP-specialty law firm that specializes in working with VCs and other institutional financial organizations in the tech sector. They may have an entirely different logo indicating a technology forward, futuristic sensibility. Their office may match more closely with their tech clients and wear more casual business attire at the office. Their web sites and communications could feature similar tones of voice, but consistent branding should create enough difference in their tone for the viewer to understand their organizations clearly.
The Brand Experience
Branding should incorporate and instill company culture, which means that the experiences an employee, client, prospect or journalist has with your company is also part of the brand. How the receptionist greets you, the way you are managed through the interview and hiring process, the on-boarding process, the exit protocols, all are part of the brand experience. How your web site traffic flows through your web site (or doesn’t) is another extension of your brand experience. How your customer service representatives conduct business on the phone is part of your brand experience. Every communication is part of the brand experience, even those you have no control over.
Protecting Your Brand
With the proliferation of social media options, your clients, past employees, even your vendors can voice their opinion on interacting with your company (and your brand). You have no control over what they may say, but you have full control over how you respond. While some companies are loathe to respond at all citing legal concerns, others secretly hire internet marketing companies to help remove these negative comments online by burying them deep in search results. Others address them head on trying to defend themselves in the heat of the moment. Sometimes a rogue employee goes off without understanding they are representing the company online. All these are methods which are not effective and some could blow up into viral nightmares.
To protect your brand, the best methodology is authenticity. Take time to listen, own up to your responsibility, and explain the decisions made. A new story will go viral in another minute or two and hopefully, this will be forgotten.
Branding is a critical component to any organization and if you equate brand with your corporate culture, it should all match and create the same emotions in your employees, which will ultimately do the same for your customers, partners and the world at large.
How do you manage your brand? What areas do you think are the most vital for developing, extending and establishing your brand? Are war stories to share? Please leave them in the comments below. Cheers. 🙂