After a year of research, strategy meetings, creative testing and a grand rollout, you’ve finally launched a brand that you expect to transform your marketing. It’s gaining traction when you begin to realize it’s already unraveling throughout your company.
The first crack shows up in PowerPoint slides from the most remote sales territory in the organization. Somehow, they must have missed nine memos and the employee video, because they’re still using the old logo and colors. Then another one pops up with the right logo, but the tagline has been altered a bit to fit the theme of a regional trade show. A sales person who once took a design class likes a certain flowery typestyle better than the ones in your new brand identity guide. Soon, there are a variety of typefaces being used. You find messages in mailings and presentations from the old brand position. Someone took a design element of your new logo and turned it into to a wallpaper background for a flyer design.
Your brand is on the run in five different directions. You need…(cue the chords from the Law and Order segue)…the Brand Police.
This is largely a small to mid-size company problem. A Coke employee who decides to take liberties with the logo, the colors, or the message, will get warned once if they’re lucky, and get fired if they’re not. Co-promotions with other brands are carefully watched, checked and verified for conformance to the master brand plan.
It would be easy to blame the problem on digital technology, which has made anyone with a computer a designer and publisher. Everyone has a hundred or more fonts available, in a half-dozen programs. Some folks prefer serif faces, others like sans serif. But, the reality is, it’s not the mere capability to wreck a brand identity that makes it happen, it’s the lack of accountability or respect for the brand concept that does.
Put another way: Computers don’t kill brands. People do.
Any employee at Coke could allow the graphics standards to wander, but none do because they learn from day one to respect the brand. Here are three key elements to keep a brand pure and focused after all the hard work it took to create it.
- Start at the top. If leadership doesn’t value a consistently represented brand, you’re dead. It’s no different from the police and the courts. If cops arrested people but the judicial system refused to prosecute them, the police would be essentially powerless.
- There have to be written guidelines to hold anyone accountable. Imagine your local police trying to enforce laws that were not clearly written and available for everyone to see. It would be impossible. Yet, many smaller brands have few or no written statements available. A brand identity guide should be created and cover at least the basics of approved typefaces and usage (are all caps acceptable, minimum point sizes, etc.), proper usage of logo and what is not acceptable (reversing the logo or using parts of it as decoration). Many guides will go much further and show acceptable slogan usage, PowerPoint templates, ad designs, signage or rolling stock requirements.
- Take corrective action. Once a transgression has occurred, promising not to do it again might work. But requiring that materials be revised or even reprinted will be far more effective. When employees realize that it is more convenient to do it right (or check with the someone who knows) than to have to do it over, brand consistency is likely to flourish.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.