There are two fundamental tasks required for the construction of a brand: the creation of the brand and its management or strategic direction. The aim of the creation phase is to provide the brand with the resources necessary to compete successfully on the market. This first phase consists of the definition of the strategic or conceptual platform and the creation of the brand’s name and visual identity. On some occasions, where circumstances dictate, this phase is a result of a rethink of all of these aspects.
If we go wrong during the creation phase, the brand is handicapped from the word go and greater efforts will be needed in terms of time and money for its successful construction. Increasing numbers of companies use specialist consultancy firms to help with brand creation, although many continue to ignore the importance of this area and deal with questions related to branding internally or using service providers who are lacking expertise in the field.
However (and this is the subject we want to focus on in this issue of allbrand), it is precisely the management or the strategic direction of a brand that represents the greatest challenge facing a company and where we have observed that companies are most lacking in tools. The problem is that many companies still think that they can manage their brand by the book, although there is, of course, a time and a place for guidelines and regulations. In reality, brand management consists of coordinating all of the company’s internal and external resources in order to construct the brand as planned and defined during the creation phase, guaranteeing the consistency and continuity of its essence, value proposition and experience over time. For example, if the realisation is not made quickly enough that the brand has lost relevance or attractiveness, this may well progressively become a major obstacle both to attracting new clients and increasing brand loyalty among existing clients.
The management or strategic direction of the brand therefore requires the coordination and reinforcement of the presence of the brand in all media and at the same time attention to the experience of targets during their interaction with the brand at all of the points of contact they have with the company. It also requires a plan that defines the route and the actions to be taken to provide the brand with strength and credibility in its territory of attributes. Given that everything influences the brand and the brand affects everything, managing the brand requires the capacity to influence everything that the company says and does. This is the only way to guarantee consistency and continuity, which are essential to constructing a successful brand. This means that the brand should be linked to the management of the company as a whole and, at the same time, that the company as a whole should be involved in the management of the brand.
This is not merely a question of ensuring that communication and the application of the visual identity are consistent (which goes without saying), but of guaranteeing that the brand is really present in all of the decisions made on an everyday basis at all levels: in 360º communication, in decisions concerning new products, in the company’s marketing strategy, and in the treatment of and service provided to customers. These are challenges that are constantly putting the consistency of the brand to the test; but they can also be turned into opportunities to show off identity, ability and character. There is no doubt that these opportunities for contact are the raw materials based on which a brand can create affinity with the target and construct the perceptions it needs to ensure a higher level of preference is given to the products or services it provides.
Here is a list of some of the problems that have a particularly strong effect on consistency and continuity in brand construction.
1. Resources. There are still very few companies that allocate a sufficient budget on a regular basis to brand management. Even fewer companies have teams dedicated specifically to this and when they do exist, they often do not have the required powers, range and vision.
2. Departaments. Brand management does not slot into the functional structure of a company easily. A brand goes beyond the remit of an individual department and needs a multi-stakeholder perspective. The expert David Aaker described this recently with his theory of silos: in his opinion, excessive compartmentalisation within companies is counterproductive for brand management and can even be a burden to companies as a whole, given the current economic climate, which requires holistic, connected visions.
3. Managers. 3. Managers. The person responsible for brand management is not the ‘logo police’. Although it is often assumed to be the case and this may be one of their functions, they are not simply tasked with ensuring consistency in graphics. We need to go beyond this focus: this person is the voice and the spirit of the brand and is responsible for making sure that the company as a whole is guided by the brand and takes inspiration from it when making decisions and carrying out everyday activities. Brand managers also guarantee that the experience of customers is as intended, which means that they should have the capacity to manage or supervise all operations, environments, marketing and communication in all their forms of expression.
4. Stability. The yearly nature of budgets, the high level of turnover within management teams, changes in company capital or excessive short-termism are crucial factors facing companies in the construction of a brand that will provide value.
5. Manuals. In tactical terms, the challenge is that it is common for brand manuals to regulate the known, contrasted universe of possibilities. This type of document is usually limited to compiling those applications that have already been designed, when in reality they should be an instrument that provides the keys, the criteria and the tools that lead to solutions to new problems that are not yet resolved or anticipated. In short, future applications should be expressed within the style and spirit of the brand. In the same way that possessing a dictionary and a set of grammatical rules does not guarantee the ability to express oneself in a language, so having a manual does not guarantee the consistency and strength of a brand’s identity.
The requirements for ensuring brand continuity and consistency
• A clear, focused concept
• A strong and attractive visual identity
• Regulations that are flexible in their conception but strict in their application
• A brand manager with excellent judgment and the complicity and support of top management, with leadership skills and the ability to cooperate with every functional area within the company
• Shared criteria concerning what the brand is and is not, and what it can and cannot do
• An organisation that genuinely takes inspiration from the brand when focusing its behaviour and decision-making and that is committed to the brand