Let’s think for a moment about what makes a strong brand. A great product? Certainly. That goes without saying. A powerful ethos? That also helps – brand slogans are memorable but even more so when they really connect with the audience - “Let’s Do It” conveys so much more than just a choice of sneaker. But what really cements a brand is brand salience – the extent to which it is prominent in a customer’s mind as they’re about to make a buying decision .
Marketers don’t just build brand salience by making sure their brand is seen by as much of the right audience as possible, and at the right time, although that too is important. Brand salience is built by creating strong cues that automatically come to mind when a customer thinks about a product or service category. Strong cues are the direct result of a robust brand management strategy .
Right On Cue – Building Brand Consistency
Some cues are now so strong that they can even do without what you might think are vital parts of the brand toolkit, like even its name. Take, for example, a chocolate bar wrapped in just the right shade of lilac paper. You don’t need the logo to tell you there’s some delicious Milka chocolate under there. A DIY store in the UK recently proved the value of brand salience when it ran a whole ad campaign with no audible reference to the company name, and only the phrase “You can do it when you 3 for 2 it”. The company’s highly recognizable strapline had been changed to reflect a sales offer but there’s no mistaking it was an ad for B&Q. It also turned out to be one of its most successful sales promotion campaigns ever.
But these cues don’t gain their iconic reputation, and therefore strength, overnight. They are the result of years of almost slavish dedication to consistent brand guidelines that dictated just what shade of lilac the Milka bar should be, or insisting on zero deviation from “You can do it when you B&Q it” in every piece of communication.
This is why the continual maintenance of brand consistency across all channels is so important, and also why it can be so difficult to achieve without the right support in place for the multi office, multi market world.
When we start to list all the places a brand can appear and the opportunities customers have to interact with it, we can begin to understand the scale of the problem. It’s not just about making sure the images, colors, logos, and typefaces are correctly displayed on packaging or in ads, although this in itself can be a challenge.
Dangers Lurking in Poor Brand Management
Take, for example, social media teams. Often having to be very reactive, without a comprehensive yet simply organized set of assets at their disposal, there are all too many opportunities to go ‘off brand’. From Delta Airlines’ tweeting an image of the fatal Challenger explosion to celebrate the Fourth of July, to British Airways retweeting Virgin Airlines’ promotion to highlight travel to London, there are many ways companies can get it wrong at poignant moments, and at only the touch of a button.
It’s why things like tone of voice guidelines, sample phrases, or instant access to explainer videos or graphics that can be found at the drop of a hat and used with confidence are so vital in helping social media mangers to stay informative without accidentally altering or even damaging the brand’s overall voice.
One way of enabling effective brand management is to implement an integrated approach to your organization’s content, breaking down regional and departmental barriers to create a central, accessible, and reliable database for your brand assets and all related content. censhare calls this Universal Content Management , a concept which forms the essence of its software solution used by its global network of customers.
This approach is also sometimes referred to as the “Single Source of Truth” method, but whatever you call it, integrating all content and assets from the myriad of business and user sources relevant to your organization, creates a centrally managed asset bank which ensures that only the most up to date and fully compliant brand assets are available across all teams, and can be easily and quickly accessed by the right employees. With assets such as design templates, text snippets, approved images, logos and digital assets all available to the right person at the right time, with any assets changes or updates being automatically reflected wherever an asset is in use, the risk of brand deviation is minimized, if not eradicated.
Standardize and Automate, But Also Communicate
Successful brand management involves pulling several levers at once, and while centralization is an important resource, it’s not the only task in driving brand salience. A similarly important aspect is internal training and communication. Employees across the business need to understand why sticking to brand guidelines is key. But also that communication is a two way street.
While it’s important to make sure each region, however far flung, is singing from the same song sheet, brand guidelines have to be employed sensitively with consideration for the differing cultural and social contexts within which they are deployed. Understanding the powerful cue of the color Red in China, for example, may encourage a brand to deviate from their otherwise sacred colorways.
Similarly, direct translations of otherwise iconic straplines aren’t always successful. A little local knowledge and feedback might have saved Purdue Chicken from translating its slogan “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” into Spanish and inadvertently broadcasting that “It takes a hard man to make a chicken affectionate”…! Centralization and standardized assets are essential to managing a consistent, responsive brand, but they also have to be managed with an experienced and sensitive eye.
There is a great whitepaper available from censhare, Brand Management in The Digital Age , which is specifically aimed at how Brand Managers can best utilize the Universal Content Management approach, and presents best practices which can be easily scaled for regional, national, or international application.
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