Brand Guardianship

Craig Harman
Craig Harman MANAGING DIRECTOR

Brand Guardianship essentially is the process of ensuring all brand elements and marketing strategies defined in the corporate style guide are faithfully adhered to.

Olympic sausages and those Golden Arches!

Many of us see how strongly large corporations and organisations guard their image publicly. You only need to browse the web to see how active McDonalds is in pursuing the slightest infringement of their brand copyright. The Olympic Committee even threatened a London butcher with a lawsuit when he rolled his sausages into the five Olympic rings!

Why are they so vigilant? Because they KNOW the value of branding. The continued repetition of their corporate brand builds recognition, and with that recognition comes brand loyalty.

These corporations and organisations are equally diligent guarding the integrity of their corporate image from suppliers. To ensure that the message is a constant one they are controlled with a strict set of guidelines outlined in a style guide. This is the source document for all suppliers of branded goods from media and print right through to uniforms.

Every major corporation from McDonalds through to Apple, Blackberry, Boral and the University of Western Australia ensure their brand is protected with a similar style guide.

But I am not McDonalds

You may not be, but if you are in business you still have a brand that you want people to identify with and trust. If it is inconsistent or your competitor is doing a better job with their brand, you are making your task of promoting yourself and your business harder than it needs to be.

The Brand Elements

Type font, colours and the logo “device” or icon are the cornerstone brand elements. The style guide defines rules as to how these elements are used to ensure a consistent delivery of the corporate image message.

The Brand Evolution

Typically brands are created after a thorough process of market evaluation, and an examination of where a particular business may fit in that market or market niche. A detailed brief identifies the target demographic and competition. With the benefit of this information brand concept and elements are evolved as an integral part of an overall marketing strategy.

Essential to the success of this marketing strategy is a style guide that ensures the various products responsible for delivering the corporate message are faithful to the brand concept.

The Brand Guardianship – “What can possibly go wrong?”

The short answer is plenty! Without the rules set in place by a style guide the company brand becomes open to changes by well meaning employees that erode the consistency of a marketing strategy. This in turn sees brand recognition and customer loyalty diluted. In the long term it cost the business it’s hard earned market position.

Specialty type fonts are usually the first to go. That beautiful Edwardian Script becomes Brush Script turning elegance into humour!

Colour isn’t far behind! That beautiful pastel blue PMS spot colour becomes purple when a well meaning purchasing officer prints the job CMYK (full colour) and they run the magenta strong!

The 100gsm Splendorgel paper, chosen for it’s environmental credibility, becomes a 90gsm bond from the Amazon – and we’re looking for a new planet!

Then we need a banner to promote the company and the sign company is handed a letterhead and asked to “go off this” to print a 6 metre wide banner. The mistakes with the branding strategy are perpetuated again as they copy these mistakes – and add their own twist as their fonts don’t match.

All of a sudden we have a brand that does little to represent the company in the way it was intended and our marketing strategy falters. That trim greyhound we placed proudly into box 8 bounds out as an enthusiastic Labrador – lovable but a long way behind the competition!

The Brand – “Where to then?”

To ensure your corporate image is faithful to your marketing strategy through all applications have your brand elements formalised in a style guide.

You may review your current image and decide it is working well and appropriately targets your market. Great – keep it on track with a style guide. You may decide it needs a “tweak” as it no longer hits the mark. Many brands evolve over time whilst retaining many of their previous elements, such as Coca Cola. Again these changes are quantified in the style guide.

Alternatively you may look at your brand and when compared to others in your market segment find that it just does not connect with the target demographic. This is a great opportunity to not only reconnect with that demographic, but very often you will find the consultancy process involved extremely therapeutic for the business.

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