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Brand guardianship: The power of protection

This post is sponsored by Williams Lea Tag.

The most valuable asset your company has is your brand. Every interaction a client or prospect has is representative of your brand image, whether this be receiving a company email or a social media update. A consistent brand identity that is reflective of your company’s values enhances your credibility and helps your brand forge a stronger connection with both your customers and employees.

Today, with multi-channel marketing taking centre stage, the challenge for brands is to ensure consistency of brand application and identity across digital, social, offline and in-store channels. As such, there has been a growing need for brands to invest in dedicated brand guardians whose explicit role is to maintain brand integrity across all company marketing initiatives and communications.

At Williams Lea Tag, we understand the importance of protecting the brand; and outline the essential components of brand guardianship.

Protecting your visual identity

A brand’s visual identity should communicate who your brand is, what your values are and why people should be interested in your brand. In a world where brands are constantly competing to stand out, a strong visual identity is a differentiator and should elevate your brand to being more than just a logo and collection of colours and typefaces.

A brand’s visual identity should tell a cohesive brand story that is reflective of consistent and connected messaging across all assets and channels, regardless of where in the world it is viewed.

Brand guidelines are essential to ensuring that everyone in your business understands how to present your brand. They educate on your visual identity and set the standards and rules as to how the visual elements of your brand should be portrayed.

When they are applied consistently they help to make your brand more recognisable and increase your brand equity. Ultimately, if your distinctive assets are not applied consistently across campaigns, then your campaign will have to work harder to stand out. It is proven that customer acquisition costs are lower when a brand is recognised and trusted.

Brand guardians act as the protector of your brand, providing governance to ensure the correct application of your brand internally and externally, as well as globally and locally. To help protect the brand and encourage increased efficiency, technology such as digital asset management can be deployed to help with brand guardianship. This provides real-time access to the latest approved assets across your business, acting as a central repository enabling you to have clear visibility over rights of usage and all necessary international property information.

Saving time and money

Outlining clear rules and guidelines for your brand means it should be relatively easy for anyone within your business to understand how your brand should be applied. With more channels to communicate on than ever before, this is extremely important as it mitigates the risk of misapplication, with brand guidelines serving as a reference point from which people can work.

Also, considering the expense brands go to, to produce logos and supporting material, it is important they are used as intended to ensure the brand capitalises on this expense and portrays the brand as intended.

Brand guardianship also saves considerable time and resources, as a clearly defined set of brand guidelines and the necessary technology will allow faster real-time access to the information different departments need to make smarter brand application decisions.

It cuts out the grey areas and encourages self-policing with the safeguard of knowing the final sign-off sits with the brand guardian. The alternative of not having this protection in place could result in a loss of brand equity and irreparable brand damage, if not managed properly.

The right brand guardian

Brand guardians must live and breathe the brand, and above all, must have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of your brand’s values and story. They must have a meticulous eye for detail, and understand the technicalities of the brand as well as the need for consistency at every touch-point. Secondary to that is a strong knowledge of design, and the regional understanding to know how to adapt brand guidelines to be flexible to local applications.

Brand guardians must have the ability to communicate to all stakeholders, who at times may be more senior than them. They need to be able to articulate the reasoning behind why the brand is being applied in a certain way, and they must not be afraid to say no – regardless of who they are dealing with.

They need to build trust across the business because fundamentally they are being entrusted with its most valuable asset and everyone must respect this.

An external brand guardian who sits outside the brand has the ability to look at the assets through the lens of the consumer. They can provide a certain level of objectivity and an alternative perspective, taking from other industries and sectors they have experience with.

A brand guardian sitting outside the business can also safeguard against the risk of employees that leave taking with them all the intellectual property they have around protecting your brand. Something that is particularly pertinent in industries and businesses with high attrition rates.

Safeguarding the brand

Brand equity is hard to build and too easy to lose, and often businesses lose sight of the need to protect it. Brand guardianship is a strategic imperative as it helps to build and protect a stronger brand and adds value.

Investing in a brand guardian equipped with the right tools to regulate and assure the consistency of how your brand is represented in the market will improve brand return on investment, save you money and inevitably increase speed-to-market. Can you really afford not to make brand guardianship a priority?

The writer is Xulu Wang (pictured), managing director at Williams Lea Tag.