The rigid brand standards and policies you adopted to keep your brand “alive” might actually be ensuring its not-so-slow death.
Too often branding consistency is confused with brand stagnancy. Here are three ways you can help ensure the vibrancy of your brand.
Last summer a consultant tried to sell me a $2500 “brand standard” package – a service that would have produced nothing more than a giant policy governing colors and use of my client’s brand’s logo, signs and other elements of brand identity.
Something about the whole idea of putting together a document that would dictate and constrict the organization’s ability to promote and market its products simply didn’t sit right with me, so at the time, though I declined, I could not have told you exactly why.
Today I came across an article on LinkedIn titled “Why “Protecting the Brand” is the Riskiest Strategy” which noted that,
“Even the most iconic brands are in a state of decay (not unlike even the healthiest bodies and most well built homes) and the only counter-force is communication and adaption to the changes in the media landscape.”
Creating and developing a logo and brand identity across all of an organization’s internal and external branded touch points can require the expenditure of a considerable amount of resources. So it comes as no surprise that many organizations follow up branding exercises with development of brand standards which are meant to guard use of all the visual and verbal elements of brand identity across channels.
I am an advocate for brand consistency and believe wholeheartedly that a strong brand is one which can be easily identified across channels – like how you’d know you are in a Starbucks without seeing it’s iconic mermaid logo, or how you know you’re reading the words “Coca Cola” on a bottle or billboard even when they’re in a language you don’t know.
But too often, I think branding consistency is being confused with brand stagnancy.
Having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence.
The ‘voice’ and visual identity of your brand needs to be alive – and living things change. Living things evolve. Living things adapt. But no one wants a stinky brand!
Here are 3 Ways to Keep Your Brand Alive
1. Plan to adapt
Rather than devoting resources to brand standards that essentially flash-freeze your brand at a specific moment in time, your strategic plan should include options for how your brand can change, evolve and adapt given various scenarios that might emerge based on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats identified in your annual SWOT analysis.
First time doing a formal SWOT as part of strategic planning? No problem! Xtensio’s got you covered with a free guide on how to do a SWOT analysis as well as a free SWOT Analysis template you and your team can use to get the most out of the process.
2. Give it flavor
Infuse your marketing with a particular personality. People should feel that all of your marketing content is written by a person – or rather, a personality. If your social media updates, blog posts and emails sound like press releases, the people reading them will be unlikely to connect. If they all sound like they came from a different person, followers might not develop a strong sense of what your brand stands for.
Rather than creating a list of rules that could constrain your marketing and keep it from being its most effective, write up a list of adjectives – descriptive words – to keep in mind. As you create new marketing messages, measure them against these descriptive words to ensure that they are consistent with the personality of your brand.
One of the exercises included in my branding workshop is to ask the group, “If your business was a person and walked into the room, what words would you use to describe it?” These words become the starting point for development of visual and voice elements of the brand’s identity.
3. Have a clear vision
Understand both where your brand is now and how you want it to evolve over time into the best version of itself. After asking the question above, the next question I ask is this: “What words would you want other people to use to describe your business?”
Your branding strategy should include a realistic analysis of the words people would use now to describe your brand, the ideals you would want them to use as you strive to build a strong brand for your business, and the marketing tactics that you will employ to get from where you are to where you want to be.
The brand of your business exists in the minds of your clients – all of the external and internal customers of your business – and this brand perception is reinforced or undermined at every touch point. If you leave the evolution of your brand up to chance, you are unlikely to produce the results that you want.
Keeping your brand alive over the long term isn’t about fossilization, it’s about forward progress!