Good Brand Governance: Brand Police or Brand Ambassadors?

Brand managers know that creating a compelling brand is only the beginning. The hard work is not just to create, but to sustain relevance and differentiation over the long term through effective brand management. Whilst the brand must be flexible in adapting to opportunities and challenges, safeguarding the brand integrity is fundamental to long-term sustainable growth.

You can’t police a global brand
In the past, the concept of Brand Guardianship has been the only tool to mitigate this issue. The brand would create a regulatory body to oversee brand activations. The goal would be to audit, improve and encourage optimal brand usage, but often in an almost police-like manner. This proves a significant challenge in a global organisation which usually has a complex corporate structure and a vast variety of brand expressions and touch points.

So how can you protect the integrity of your brand whilst avoiding police-like behaviour?

A network of ambassadors is more effective than a team of brand police
Brand Governance practice starts one step before Brand Guardianship: it seeks not only to audit and improve, but to explain, inspire and empower. Through a series of “edutainment” (education and entertainment) activities, a network of brand ambassadors is established. The organisation can call upon these ambassadors from time to time to actively engage their peers regarding different aspects of the brand and what it stands for. They also assume the more passive role of ‘brand genius’ whom colleagues can ask for help and advice on how to best use the brand in day to day activities.

All employees are of equal importance in this task. But a key question is how to devise a Brand Governance model to suit each company.

Factors that make Brand Governance work:

Adapting to company culture
In a company with a hierarchical structure, employees are used to a culture shaped by a defined corporate framework. In such a culture, which we can see in the financial industry or large corporations, Brand Committees at various levels can prove effective in supporting and advising management.

A less structured but more agile organisation that allows employees more freedom and responsibility, such as some hospitality companies, might necessitate a more flexible approach to ways of delivering the model. In this scenario, designating Brand Champions based not on their job function, but on their status and influence within the organisation tends to be the best approach.

Size and allocated resources
Highly structured Brand Governance models are both time and resource consuming. When thinking of SMEs or more financially constrained companies, a useful tactic is to make Brand Governance an integral part of the business from the beginning, rather than addressing it as an afterthought. Working on developing a culture that incorporates brand conscience as part of the employees’ daily behaviour is key.

The sophistication of brand knowledge within the organisation
A company with sophisticated knowledge of branding (think FMCGs), will often find it easier to understand and implement a brand management system. Those with a more traditional focus on functions and P&L, common in B2B environments, might require a longer process. The brand team might begin with initial “warm-up” steps, explaining the meaning and relevance of the brand to all employees.

Whether your organisation is large or small, structured or agile, traditional or lean, one thing is clear: you need to broaden the Brand Governance team from beyond the Brand, Communication or Marketing teams. From employees in Human Resources to Business Units, you must engage the entire company.

Key steps that organisations can take to implement a successful Brand Governance model:

1. Go beyond the Brand, Communication and Marketing department: The brand belongs to everyone, so it must be worked on and cared for by everyone.

2. Define a decision-making body: The form of this body will vary from brand to brand, but it is necessary to have a group that can make final decisions when needed.

3. Find your ‘champions’: In every organisation there are committed people with leadership skills and credibility among co-workers. Find them and make them your brand champions.

4. Take advantage of existing systems: Where there are systems already in place - such as a Brand Centre or intranet – leverage them to reach all employees and make sure that brand is part of daily life.

5. Monitor your progress: Data should be your greatest ally in determining whether the system works or if adjustments are needed.

Over to you and your brand. Do you want to have to police the brand? Or are you looking to create real brand ambassadors from within your organisation?

By Paloma Castiñeira, Strategy Director.

To discuss your brand or organisation’s challenges, get in touch.