In our highly competitive marketplace with so many companies competing for the same audience, it’s important to build and maintain strong brand identity and agility. Research tells us that public recognition and a positive image consistently support the buying decisions of consumers. By creating products and services that consumers want, we secure a loyal audience and ensure stable profits.
Brand management is not simple – nor is the road to success always clear, therefore an experienced brand expert or brand management team is essential to every company or organization. A brand team understands the application of a variety of brand management strategies including brand communication, brand transformation services, or brand migration services. Selecting the ideal approach for brand management depends on a particular set of conditions as well as the long-term goals of the organization or company. Even under these varied circumstances, there is one universal truth about agility brands: all brands should evolve as we do.
In this article, we want to share a few insights into how Admind approaches the concept of brand governance services in the corporate context.
The role of brand governance in agility
What is brand governance? A philosophy? A guidebook? A set of principles? In truth, it is all three. It is the way in which a company interacts with, responds to, and inspires people.
Brand governance not only helps guide employees, vendors, and consumers through the aspects of the brand’s agility – its identity, what it stands for, and how it engages in both the private and public sphere – it also ensures the brand is visible and active in all areas of interaction.
Brand consistency is as important as its flexibility, making it more unique, personalized, and authentic, and enabling the evolution of its elements. Governance doesn’t mean imposing a set of restrictions or following a set of rules. Brand governance functions as a foundation for projects, offering knowledge, assets, experience, and an opportunity for expression – to start a dialogue, and create a space for exploration and interpretation.
What is the essence of brand agility? The essence is people. We embody a brand – our emotions and the messages we transmit. People are at the heart of disseminating the core values of a company – values that are recognized around the world and by future generations. Brand identity is expressed by us – our unified voices, who we are, and what we represent. A brand’s signature, character, or style is present in every detail and immediately recognizable.
Brand communication – the old way
Many companies do not have a dedicated expert or a team to curate the development and implementation of their brand image. Communications and visual identity might be based on a brand book established many years ago. Brand management strategy might be dependent on the creative input by outside agencies working with an individual or group inside the company, but if the brand is not cohesive, outside creative agencies will have significant hurdles in executing successful campaigns for the betterment of the company.
For example, a company committed to a national charity event might involve the participation of hundreds of employees across the country wearing t-shirts with the company’s current logo. At the same time, the company’s marketing department is working with a presentation design agency to launch a rebranded key product featuring the company’s new logo. Both events generate a great deal of publicity and social media activity using completely different brand images, thus causing potential confusion and misunderstanding of the company’s brand.
An erratic and inconsistent implementation of brand identity results in a lack of cohesion and creates a lottery effect – sometimes everything works out sometimes it doesn’t. Over time this ad-hoc approach can erode or undermine a brand’s identity.
It is no longer enough to create a brand book and let it sit on a shelf collecting dust. A well-designed brand management strategy supports testing, gathers feedback, and implements improvements as it adjusts to changing requirements. This makes the brand agility better, stronger, and more resilient over time.
Today, brand communication is created not only by brand experts and designers but also by other employees, specialized in completely different fields. For example, brand guidelines should not exclude non-designers. Testing is essential and should be universally applied. As we look to improving the agility of brand management, we need to make it accessible for all.
Consistency is key to strengthening brand image
A target goal for a company involves strengthening its brand on a consistent basis. In the long term, this creates an advantage over competitors and fosters company growth. The greatest challenge is to implement brand consistency throughout the company’s entire network. It requires alignment between different departments within the structure of the company focusing on different agendas, roles, and skills. It also includes coordination with offices around the globe – embedded in other cultures. A truly consistent brand management strategy can only be achieved through one centralized cell that supports the scope and breadth of a company’s entire community with proper brand implementation at all internal and external touchpoints.
This cell’s function is what we call brand governance. Depending on a company’s size and characteristics, it may be one expert or a large team. The ideal brand governance team weaves the varied competencies to function with a holistic vision wherever the brand intersects with a particular audience whether it be employees, clients, customers, or the public. Brand governance includes expertise in agility in branding, strategy, communications, design, user interface, research, analytics, and marketing. It also supports consistency throughout any brand transformation or brand migration, and beyond.
In practice, a brand governance team provides creative direction for the most important brand projects, conducts trainings, designs support networks, and offers brand consistency checks and balances to enable the brand agility to thrive and evolve organically – whether changes are internal or external, local or international.
Flexible guidelines and constant support
In today’s marketplace, branding should have agility, and be flexible and responsive to change. Modern brand books must allow for smooth and seamless updates and improvements. They need to be instantly accessible and readily visible to all employees and consistent in their support. The brand manager or brand management team should be solely responsible for curating brand implementation and development. A brand management team serves designers along with all other employees as well as external agents of the company. The team’s purpose is to ensure that all assets including design projects build the brand image consistently and cohesively.
Change is unavoidable and necessary to keep the brand relevant and viable. Brand governance, or a brand advisory network, supports the natural evolution of the brand and its development on a long-term scale. The brand agility must live, breathe, and evolve with the company. Brand compliance and consistency are as important as integrated growth. Brand identity should be based on empowerment built on collaboration, not compromise.
A brand’s evolution is an integrated and dynamic process, co-created with employees and clients in mind as well as the public. An integral investment with far-reaching benefits, this cooperation not only strengthens brand identity, but it also fosters a more meaningful and authentic connection with its users.
Cooperation with creative agencies
When cooperating with a creative agency, it is beneficial to have an expert in brand design matters on your side. In most cases, managers requesting work from creative agencies have an economic background and know their business goals. It’s the role of creative professionals to translate those business goals into communication goals and create an engaging brand experience based on that. Therefore, it is vital that brand managers convey information to creatives as precisely as possible, and assess the quality and consistency of design presentations or services with the overall brand image in mind.
A brand manager should have a background in branding and design, but in today’s dynamic and evolving global marketplace, it’s good practice to share the responsibility for effective cooperation within a multidisciplinary team of marketing and brand design experts. In the end, effective communication between the company’s brand management team and the creative agency fosters a positive exchange and generates a mutually beneficial return on investment.
Good assets management and resource-efficiency
Another part of brand governance is managing assets to utilize designs that have already been created. It requires a system for storing, structuring, and distributing – as well as ongoing curation. However, once a design is created (either by internal resources or by an external partner, as in the process mentioned earlier) it can be implemented many times, across the globe and for different campaigns. In the long term, it makes all the past, present, and future projects much more cost-effective and cultivates the conditions to achieve the most value out of each finished design. Many of us have had experiences or awareness of frustrating situations where additional time and effort was exhausted in extra work due to a lack of proper asset management, etc. Why pay for something that has already been created and why expend energy that could be put to better use elsewhere?
Education, communication and feedback
As a member of a brand management services team, you are both teacher and student at the same time. Insight from feedback allows you to explore innovative solutions as well as achieve common ground for inevitable differences. Interaction with employees, clients, and the public, fosters the natural evolution of the brand and takes many forms. It may involve answering questions, revising tools, and providing templates along with complimentary resources. It may include organizing ongoing training sessions, workshops, and regular updates to existing brand templates. Whether it’s updating a brand tool or organizing a big event — educating and promoting brand knowledge with clients, employees, and the public encourages the community to truly understand and care about the brand and its challenges.
Successful brand governance not only increases brand awareness, but it also develops the independence of the company. It creates a positive impact on employees who can identify with the brand agility and feel part of the process. It also encourages employees to develop on-brand projects and enables them to educate others. Brand assistants and brand ambassadors help shoulder the responsibility for positive collaboration with various agencies and make brand consistency resonate in both the corporate and the public sphere. A positive experience of such collaboration also has an educational aspect, empowering designers to better understand the look and feel of the brand and preserve the integrity of all brand-related elements in the future.
How does it translate to revenues?
Many of the biggest brands in the world create products or services that are similar to the competition. So how do these brands get to the top and grow their revenue? Of course, we all know terms such as brand recognition and brand value. A company’s success may seem to be a mysterious process, built on hidden, complex strategies, or it may appear accidental or fortuitous. In reality, a prosperous company has a well-designed brand identity and a consistent approach of implementation.
Many design agencies and design studios have built a notable reputation in designing top brands. However, a superior design alone does not magically create instant revenues. A brand is just a construct, an abstract element that only begins to mean something when it is activated.
The way a company operates its brand can either work for or against the company’s business goals. A brand should not be used randomly, or haphazardly, nor should individual aesthetics influence a brand. Creative ideas by an agency are helpful – but only when those ideas work in harmony with the brand’s identity and uphold its purpose. Whether it’s an internal business presentation services team coordinating a service design presentation or an external creative design agency overseeing a brand transformation, or a presentation design agency working on a creative PowerPoint design – they must all understand the brand inside out.
A brand governance expert or team fulfills a key role in every company. A centralized team ultimately provides consistency in upholding brand identity and authenticity by advising both internal entities and external partners on all brand-related projects. The more effective a brand governance unit works within (or for) a company, the more knowledge is disseminated throughout the company both locally and around the world. Employees often make excellent brand ambassadors because they have an authentic connection to the brand.
Successful brand governance fosters a holistic approach at all levels and for all projects whether it’s an employee retreat next month or the launch of an international promotional campaign next year. Each project or event exists as its own entity while operating as part of a whole, thus enriching a company’s brand asset library as well as investing in the brand’s future.