Creating a unified brand strategy: Why problems ‘start small and multiply’

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Creating a unified brand, across all stakeholders and touchpoints, is one of the most important goals a marketing team strives to achieve. Digital transformation has made this need more acute; the importance of social media means a plethora of new channels to get communications right.

As social has made the world more connected, it has also forced companies to make their workplaces more connected and collaborative. Yet many marketing departments struggle to even get that far.

Shannon Healey, of ‘all-in’one’ brand management software provider Frontify, says that organisations will only exacerbate the issue if they leave it idle. Like the small scratch on a car windscreen, it will eventually become a crack.

“One of the main problems we see in different marketing departments is the sheer lack of a unified brand home and, often, a total disconnect between departments and even within teams themselves,” Healey (left) tells MarketingTech. “That gap really starts to create problems over time.”

A classic example of a business outgrowing its brand is through mergers and acquisitions. How do you keep the advocacy and message of the acquiree and move it seamlessly into your overall strategy? As an article from professional services specialists Hinge Marketing noted last year, M&A ‘presents great opportunities for firms to rethink and refresh their brands’, but warns of ‘undermining and sabotaging’ the success of the move if companies do not prioritise or consider their brand message.

Brand unification problems ‘start small and multiply’, Healey notes, particularly as businesses grow. Material and guidelines are scattered, which leads to slow approval processes and an overall lack of consistency, particularly with regard to customer-facing touchpoints. “The company size always has an impact, because you need to get more people involved and informed – but basically the problems are always the same, just on a smaller scale,” she adds.

Frontify looks to achieve three goals through its platform; maximising brand consistency through centralisation, boosting efficiency by getting things done, and involving others while maintaining oversight. More specifically, as Healey puts it, customers come to the company to ensure brand managers spend less time being the ‘brand police’, as well as ensuring streamlined design processes and making sure everyone is on the same page with the latest guidelines.

One example – and indeed, one of Frontify’s first customers – is airline Lufthansa. Healey cites this case specifically as not only an example of an initial win, but how the platform grows with a customer’s ambitions.

“Lufthansa came to us in 2014 with a clear challenge – their various brand touchpoints weren’t fully aligned and this was a clear problem they wanted to solve,” says Healey. “This included things like status and insufficient PDF guidelines, crippling challenges in working with digital media, design reviews that were not centrally managed, scattered brand assets with difficult accessibility, and UI patterns for digital applications that weren’t being reused.

“What began as a fairly small case has, through the years, grown as Lufthansa has added new features while at the same time Frontify has been adding new products to its offering,” she adds. “This case shows the scalability of the platform and the importance of enabling everyone to access, understand, and share online brand guidelines.”

Much of this scalability and ability to streamline, naturally, comes from the cloud. Frontify uses its own product internally, with Healey citing this collaboration as key to helping its own marketing operations run smoothly. “Within our team there are a dozen projects happening in tandem at any point, with internal and external stakeholders,” Healey says. “With a digital, cloud-based single source of truth as the hub for all efforts, we’re finding in the increasingly remote-first times that we’re naturally inclined to thrive regardless of the challenges in today’s climate.”

Taking that remote-first theme, Frontify is exhibiting at DMWF Virtual on 16-17 September, where Healey will speak on the subject of ‘cultivating a brand that cuts through the noise.’ Healey notes the importance of storytelling, ‘one of the basic tactics in marketing and customer connection that is sometimes forgotten.’

“With so many businesses vying for consumer attention and an audience fully overwhelmed with content, wondering where to focus, it’s an uphill battle to get noticed,” she explains. “There are layers to achieving that ‘cut through the noise’ level of brand success, so we’ll touch on some of the foundational elements before jumping to the punchline.”

Yet it all comes down to the wider message around a unified brand. “Attention to setting the brand straight, activating employees: these are the things even the most seasoned pros need a reminder of,” adds Healey.

Read more: Branding best practice: Exploring how to create a brand which cuts through the noise

Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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