Identity Crisis: Are you minding the brand?
Defining and maintaining your brand identity is not a walk in the park. Establishing the right brand identity is like picking out a new puppy (work with me here). You want to be realistic about your style, activities, attitudes and the way you want others to view you. You want a good fit—whether logo or puppy—something you’ll be comfortable being around all the time. Understanding your brand personality will ensure that you establish a strong identity and logo that will represent your new, growing or merging organization.
So, let’s say your company hits all the marks and ends up with a great logo that really personifies your brand. It looks good on the cards and stationery. You are proud to see it emblazoned on signage, shirts, mouse pads and mugs. It looks great on trade ads and on the web site.
And, you were smart enough to develop brand guidelines as a reference tool to guide employees and vendors on the appropriate use of the logo. After all, this little symbol is the crown jewel that embodies the style and substance of your organization. You want it to do its job—position you in the mind of the viewer in the way you want to be perceived.
Yup, your company is branded, loud and proud. Pass out the cigars. Send out the announcements. All the hard work is behind you! Completed. Done. Finito.
Er…not so fast. You don’t just bring home the puppy and let it raise itself, do you? It’s going to need some nurturing and guidance along the way. Sure everyone knows the rules but humans are a creative lot. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we feel compelled to tap into our inner artist (who may or may not exist) and before you know it, there are dozens of creative interpretations of the rules, with logo versions sprouting like mushrooms in the dark. And, there are a few people in every group who channel their inner rebel and invent interesting ways to break the rules.
Just like that growing pup, after a few months, the new-puppy-cuteness wears off and it becomes a gangling adolescent. New challenges arise—just when you thought you had him trained. New situations for usage may arise that even the most far-sighted guidelines could not anticipate. Mergers and acquisitions may rear their ugly head. You may have a left a void of information—assuming common sense would guide the user to the right choice. Believe it or not, common sense it less common than you might think and good taste can be an even more rare commodity.
So, how do you protect your investment in the brand? How do you herd those cats (or pups) into the corral of acceptable usage? Get yourself a brand steward—whether it’s a staff member or an outside source. Commission that person or group with the power to approve, veto and provide guidance on branding questions. Then, let everyone know that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Good brand stewards—a.k.a., Brand Nazis—vigilantly police usage to ensure the organization’s message is accurate and its image is consistent. It is a never-ending trust and one that will reinforce company identity, protect your investment, reduce your risk of legal exposure, and engender loyalty. Mind your brand. Nurture it. Give it the love. It will reward you for years to come.