Building a brand from scratch takes considerable time and attention. But too often, in an effort to launch a new company or product, branding hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves. The reasons are understandable: There are so many things needed to be done. Resources are limited. There is an urgency to get to market and start generating revenue.
Maintaining and growing an established brand is an ongoing process that requires a lot of work. And it’s only getting harder and more complicated today, as more and more, external factors are beginning to have an influence over a company’s brand. A recent article by AMA Access cited a study of senior executives in both marketing and general management which stated that while overall, 66 percent of respondents believe that their company owns their brand today, the dynamics of a shifting marketing landscape will mean less control of their brand over the next 3-5 years. Interestingly, marketing people in both B2C and B2B environments felt that their company already had less control over their brand than their non-marketing counterparts.
From this, three conclusions can be drawn. First, more than ever, it is critical that the proper amount of time and resources be allocated to build and grow your brand. Second, what constitutes your brand needs to be thought of in the broadest terms possible. And third, in a world where people outside your organization are increasingly gaining control over some portion of your brand — it’s critical to control those aspects of your brand you can control, as tightly as possible.
Building the Brand
All too often, development of the brand is initiated toward the end of product development, when it should be started much sooner. Doing it sooner can help ensure that the brand strategy is thoroughly developed and tested, and that the brand design is complete and support materials ready for launch. Brand design, if developed soon enough, can also have an impact on the final product design. For example, one of our clients is developing a new product for interventional oncology. We began working on their brand early on, so when the time came to develop the look of the product itself, they were able to integrate the brand design into it.
Think of Your Brand in the Broadest Terms
When we start working with a company and ask them about their brand, it’s not unusual to be shown their logo, fonts, color palette and a few examples (e.g. their website, PowerPoints and some printed material). All these things play a part. But there is much more to it. Every touch point your company has with the world reflects on your brand. From the most obvious (e.g. website, packaging, signage, collateral) to the less (call center, delivery trucks, emails — even the words, actions, and attitudes of your employees), they all play a part.
Establish Control of Your Brand
As mentioned, it’s impossible to totally control your brand today. But you can control much of what is communicated externally. One way to do this is by imposing clear rules for all the people responsible for communicating your brand to the outside world to follow. Guidelines and templates are an indispensable way to get everyone on the same page and speaking the same language. Besides ensuring correct and consistent use of the brand, they can help improve productivity and lower costs.
Guidelines can be broad in scope, with topics ranging from how corporate materials should look to how employees should answer a phone and engage with customers. Guidelines should be simple enough for everyone to understand, and detailed enough to support those responsible for developing whatever materials they need. Guidelines present the rudimentary elements of a brand and show how specific materials should look, and provide enough information and samples to guide in the development of new and unique materials. Templates are often developed in conjunction with guidelines to offer even more consistent and efficient application of the brand. Templates can be created in a number of applications (e.g. InDesign, Quark, PowerPoint, Word) for a number of different purposes (e.g. brochures, data sheets, presentations).