4 tips to more consistent brand marketing [Webinar recap]

A few days ago, I had the privilege of hosting a webinar with Ashley Spurlock, solutions marketing manager at Workfront. In it, we shared 4 tips to more consistent brand marketing. Ashley was extremely knowledgable on the subject and a pleasure to work with. We saw a great turnout and received positive feedback from attendees who said these tips were useful. Because of this, I’d like to share a quick recap of what we discussed during the webinar for those who may have missed it.

If you’d rather see it yourself, you can watch the recording of the webinar here.

Introduction: Why is brand consistency important?

Recently Lucidpress, together with the research firm Demand Metric, published a report titled “The Impact of Brand Consistency.” For this report, we interviewed over 200 senior marketing and brand leaders at companies of all sizes and industries and asked them questions about brand consistency.

One of the first questions we asked was “How often are marketing, communications, or sales materials created at your organization that don’t conform to brand guidelines?” Surprisingly, we found that 90% of study participants experience some level of inconsistent branding in the materials they create.

How often materials are created that don't conform to brand guidelines

The study participants who indicated they always, often or sometimes create materials that don’t comply with brand guidelines were then asked this follow-up question:

“If your brand was always presented consistently, how much do you estimate that your organization’s revenue would increase?”

And get this—the average response was 23%! Who wouldn’t want a 23% increase in revenue next year? To me, this shows that even if there is a cost associated with maintaining brand consistency, there’s clearly a significant revenue benefit that often more than offsets those costs.

But what about the other group: those who said they rarely or never see materials created or deployed that don’t comply with brand guidelines? They were asked a similar follow-up question:

“How do you feel that the brand consistency you’ve maintained has contributed to the growth of your organization?”

Business growth attributable to brand consistency

This chart shares what is perhaps the most important finding from this study: organizations that make an effort to maintain brand consistency experience a growth dividend from doing so. Almost 85% of companies that invest in maintaining brand consistency attribute 10% or more growth to their efforts, and one in five are realizing 20% growth or greater.

But understanding that consistent brand marketing is important is only the first step. More important is figuring out how you do it. How do you actually make your brand more consistent?

Tip #1: Pick the right brand champion.

Back to the data. Survey respondents were first asked how important maintaining brand consistency was for their company. Later, they were asked this question:

“Who in your organization has PRIMARY responsibility to manage and protect how your brand is used?”

Who has primary responsibility to protect the brand

This graph shows the intersection of responses to those two questions. What you should pay attention to here is the difference between organizations for which consistency is important (dark orange) and those for which consistency is unimportant or neutral (light orange). For organizations who consider brand consistency important, 44% have the CMO (or other marketing executive) serve as the brand champion, compared to only 30% of organizations who consider brand consistency to be unimportant.

If consistent brand marketing is important to your organization (and it should be), primary responsibility for managing and protecting the brand should fall to the CMO or another marketing executive. While it seems unrealistic for a CEO to serve as brand manager, when the CEO recognizes the importance of managing the brand, it sends a clear message to everyone that the brand is worthy of protection and investment.

One surprising takeaway for me: The involvement of the corporate creative/design team versus an outside agency varies little by whether the company considers brand consistency to be important or not. For you creatives (whether in-house or agency-side), that means it’s incredibly important to help the organizations you work with understand the importance of encouraging the CMO and CEO to become brand champions.

How to pick the right brand champion:

  • Define roles
  • Get stakeholder buy-in
  • Implement asset storage

To learn more about each of these tips, watch the full webinar recording here.

Tip #2: Make your brand guidelines easier to find.

When it comes to the effectiveness of brand guidelines, the problem isn’t that the guidelines aren’t current or that they’re hard to comply with. The issue is simply that, too often, they’re hard to find. The best set of brand guidelines are of no use if they are difficult or impossible to find.

Branding guidelines rating

Looking more closely at this data, we find that only 40% of respondents said their brand guidelines were easy to find, and this is only those respondents who had previously rated the effectiveness of their brand guidelines as Good or Very Good. For those who said their branding guidelines were Very Poor to Poor, just 9% said they were easy to find. Crazy, right?

Again, having brand guidelines that are difficult to find does no good. It robs them of their power to help drive brand consistency.

Analyzing the data also revealed a relationship between the number of formats in which brand guidelines are made available and how well-enforced they are, as the table below shows. The more serious a firm is about enforcing brand guidelines, the more formats in which those guidelines are offered. Offering guidelines in many formats also makes them easier to find, a characteristic that is strongly related to how effective they are.

Number of branding guidelines formats

How to make your brand guidelines easier to find:

  • Offer brand guidelines in multiple formats
  • Require reviewers to follow a style guide
  • Make clear the intended final use of the project
  • Allow for easy comparison between content
  • Attach requirements to project workflows

To learn more about each of these tips, watch the full webinar recording here.

Tip #3: Ensure enforcement of brand guidelines

Quick poll: Raise your hand if employees at your company have ever “gone rogue” and created their own marketing, sales, or communication materials that didn’t conform to your brand guidelines. Raise your hand if you have ever gone rogue before. If you don’t yet, you should probably have your hand up right now. In this study, just 10% of respondents shared that this problem never happens at their companies.

Effect of guidelines on materials that don't conform to brand standards

Of that minority who report that they never or rarely have “rogue” materials created at their company, well over half of them (58%) report having formal brand guidelines that are consistently enforced.

Minimizing how often rogue materials are created isn’t just a matter of having guidelines—how well you enforce them is the key to minimizing this problem.

How to enforce brand guidelines:

  • Templatize your process for review and approval
  • Provide an outline at the beginning of each project (outlining who will be reviewing what and when)
  • Standardize the communication of feedback
  • Create a library of templates for content creation (and lock them down)

To learn more about each of these tips, watch the full webinar recording here.

Tip #4: Respond faster to creative requests

So, let me ask you this: How long does it typically take your corporate marketing or design team to respond to requests for new or customized creative materials? If you’re a designer, how long does it typically take you to fulfill those requests?

Average response time for new materials

Nearly half of organizations in our study (48%) said it typically takes a week or more for them to fulfill requests for new or customized materials. More than 1/5 of all organizations take 3 to 4 weeks or even more than a month! Do you know what creative materials you might need for projects you’ll be working on a month from now? I sure don’t. In the ever-changing world of marketing, we need to be more nimble.

What’s more, if we split that same graph, we see that for organizations with a consistent brand presentation, 40% report that it takes them less than a week (see the shaded cells below) to fulfill requests for new or customized branded materials. Compare this to organizations with an inconsistent brand presentation, where just 24% respond to such requests in less than a week.

Response time by brand presentation consistency

In other words, the brands who are doing it well are responding much faster to all creative requests.

How to respond faster to creative requests:

  • Implement a request queue (could be a traffic manager, a physical location, an email address, a Google form, or a project management solution)
  • Use a scorecard to prioritize projects correctly
  • Communicate in the context of the work
  • Enable others to create their own materials

To learn more about each of these tips, watch the full webinar recording here.

Conclusion

Building a consistent brand is a difficult journey that many companies don’t know how to navigate.

A few months ago, I talked with a few graphic designers on the creative services team at a large hospital network who said that brand consistency was very important for their company. In order to enforce their brand guidelines, company executives implemented a process that prohibited anyone at the company who was not on their team from creating or updating branded materials. Instead, all of those requests were funneled through this creative services team. As a result, these designers said the majority of their time was spent making “tweaks” or “updates” to existing materials (e.g., changing the date on a flyer) instead of working on the big, impactful design projects they were hired to do and wanted to work on.

Does this situation sound familiar? I’m sure that this company was well-intentioned when implementing this process—they were trying to ensure brand consistency after all—but they went about it all wrong.

Think how much “content” (including marketing, communications, and sales materials) your organization collectively creates in a given month. With content only becoming more and more important in today’s business world, the volume of content your organization creates will surely continue to increase. These tips will help you keep that content on-brand so that it fuels the growth of your company.

Watch the webinar recording here!

About Garrett Jestice

Garrett JesticeGarrett is the Product Marketing Manager for Lucidpress. When he’s not thinking about new ways to grow the Lucidpress business, he enjoys watching sports, playing Uno, and showing off his mad barbecuing skills. Follow him on Twitter @gjestice or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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