Managing a brand is a complex undertaking, especially if multiple stakeholders are using the brand. The more stakeholders, the more difficult it is to ensure brand compliance.

As a brand manager, ‘managing the brand’ can be reduced to logo control, but true brand management – and ensuring brand compliance – involves working across the entire organisation to increase the power of brand integrity.

What is brand compliance?

Brand compliance means ensuring the brand promise and the brand delivery align. It is about ensuring that employees ‘read’ the brand well and then ‘write’ the brand well as they engage with consumers.

Employees are both ‘readers’ of the brand – reading and seeing the official brand framework and message created by the brand team – and also ‘authors’ of the brand, writing the brand afresh with every interaction they have with external stakeholders. Brand meaning and understanding develops through interactions and experiences with formal brand communications and management, indeed, but interplays with employees are where most customers experience the brand outside the digital space.

The best demonstration of this is, of course, the gulf between marketing campaign (or marketing message) and delivery.

  • The marketing campaign talks about being the lowest price, but simple research says two competitors are cheaper.
  • The marketing campaign has a tag line indicating your future is their highest priority, but every person you speak to delivers only the bare minimum of engagement
  • The marketing message conveys expert advice and service, but the experience has you meeting with a graduate following a script.

In each of these (admittedly simple) examples, there is a misalignment between what is offered and what is accouched – the brand promise is set but is not delivered.

“Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs

Nothing is outside the scope of a brand manager to ensure brand compliance

So often organisations treat brand and brand management like a marketing-only situation, perhaps misunderstanding that brand isn’t visual identity in totality.

Nothing could be further from the truth – delivering upon the brand promise is the responsibility of the entire business.

Ensuring brand compliance is about ensuring each touchpoint aligns with and delivers upon the brand touchpoint. Brand managers should be engaging with every area of the business to help bed down their understanding of the brand and then how to deliver upon that.

From product design to marketing to sales process to customer service and post-sales service and support to internal communications and processes, all of these need to be compliant with the brand promise.

Having c-suite representation and the support of the senior leadership team to work across the business will enable you and your team to raise the level of brand compliance.

A clear framework

Compliance doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Work with the key stakeholders, brand custodians and brand users throughout the organisation to build a framework of the brand promise and educate them on why it is important to deliver to this in things big and small. Empower each team to take ownership of delivery of the brand promise in their space by setting in place expectations, measures and recognition milestones.

Teams deliver on the power and promise of the brand when they feel they have contributed to the ‘why’ and have control over the ‘how’. Micromanaging isn’t the solution, so work with stakeholders to build educational moments like roleplays, decision trees and map the customer journey through their space. This framework helps them stay within the boundaries and understand why it is so important to do so.

It essentially boils down to communication and co-creation.

Prioritise experience delivery

Organisations are used to brand managers and marketing teams governing the use of the logo, typeface and colours. By prioritising experience delivery over visual identity (and not sacrificing that either), there is the opportunity to build something much more lasting and satisfying for both employees and customers.

Rather than look solely at the logo alignment on the flyer the Library Services team have built or the monthly flyer the franchisee has produced, work with them to link the brand to experience delivery. It, of course, includes ‘good customer service’ but there are degrees of good, and the steps can change, and the tone and flavour of the communication should reflect the brand.

When teams know that the brand and marketing teams understand their business area – and can contribute positively like metrics linked to customer satisfaction – the more harmonious relationship makes it easier to have conversations about non-compliance.

Tools to be compliant with

One of the most common frustrations we hear as brand managers and marketers is that people don’t want to break the rules, but because of time or lack of knowledge, or incorrect tools, they break the brand guidelines.

This frustration is most evident when we look at the visual identity.

Most people using the brand don’t deliberately stretch the logo, but using it inside a simple word processing program means there is limited functionality.

Most people using the brand don’t have access to the font and haven’t been trained to use square bullets instead of round, and the templates they are using haven’t been set up like that either.

Most people using the brand don’t deliberately put too much information on one page, but they haven’t trained in design elements, and their manager is cracking down on the costs of printing, so they figure a single-sided print is better than a two-sided print.

Providing people throughout the organisation with the right tools is vital to ensure brand compliance.

Yes, posting the brand guidelines on the intranet is one part of the solution, but training and conversation are invaluable. It might be working with the admin team on the three things they most commonly do and how to do it ‘on-brand’, or it might be teaching them some tips and tricks about how to wrangle what they need from word processing platforms.

Creating Word and Powerpoint templates with the correct styles is essential, and vital, to ensuring compliance for long-form documentation.

Provide a platform in which they feel empowered to create the marketing and communication outputs they need, without breaking the guidelines or struggling to implement them. They aren’t experts in brand and marketing, but they do need to use the promise, framework and visual identity you have created.

Be present

The most critical part of compliance is indeed communication – working to develop a shared understanding up front, then providing tools and support as the brand is implemented in everything from advertising to marketing to customer support to enquiry handling to after-sales service.

A positive feedback loop, rather than a stick, helps teams become brand compliant – don’t store up the frustration of non-compliance or fire an email back saying ‘not approved’. Take the time to talk them through the why and find out how they ended up where they did.

Compliance won’t happen overnight, and it requires constant attention, but it is worth it, or you wouldn’t be worried about it!