Brand management. Regardless of scale, style, or industry, you need it, and you need it to work. After a decade of working with many Fortune 500 brands, I’ve seen the benefits of a smoothly run program, and the costs of clunky ones. Throughout it all, I’ve been consistently struck by how leaders across vastly different industries tend to face similar brand management issues. From telecommunications and financial services to energy and healthcare — the challenges of balancing proactive work against the reactive requests, daily fire drills, and demand for content are constant.

Recently, I sat down with a handful of global brand leaders to talk about how they deal with these challenges, and to get their advice for building better brand management systems. Here’s what they had to say.

Use data to build your case

You know the symptoms: Your inbox is filled with brand questions. Employees won’t stop using old templates. You invested in a rebrand, but it never took off. Fielding questions, policing misusage, and wrangling agency partners are cutting into your productivity and your sanity.

“If I see 150 new brand review questions per week, that means we have something to address.”
— Andrea Kerr, VMware

These scenarios indicate it’s time to build a better brand management program — but to do so, you often need to make a case for ‘why.’

Change costs money, and for organizations that don’t operate with a brand-first mentality, securing budget often comes down to quantifying value in tangible terms. Andrea Kerr, brand strategist at VMware, advises tracking your team’s engagement and hours spent on managing the brand. “If I see 150 new brand review questions per week, that means we have something to address,” she says, adding that “it’s important to identify the problem and attach statistics to it.”

Michael Margolies, VP Marketing & Creative Services at Leggett & Platt, agrees, saying it’s often “about showing the cost of doing nothing.” He cited an example: A fleet of trucks bearing the brand’s old logo. In order to secure the budget needed for updates, Margolies shared examples of how brand impacts revenue and sales — helping leadership understand the necessity of change.

Build a program that works the way your people do

Your brand management system has to work hard for your people, not the other way around. Reviewing different strategies and platforms is key to identifying what will work best for your organization.

Whether building in-house or evaluating external options, look for a system that makes it easy to understand, use, and live the brand. Kerr urges brand leaders to “get really familiar with the system. If you can’t find the answer, assume others can’t either.” Your model should be as self-service as possible in order to free-up the brand team to focus on more strategic initiatives.

A marketing leader for a Fortune 10 telecom company emphasized the need to continuously monitor and evolve the system in real-time, explaining that this sometimes means “building the plane as we fly it.” In order to stay ahead, they constantly evaluate brand center clicks, utilization, and performance, and make adjustments when necessary.

Promote, don’t police

The days of the ‘brand cop’ are over. Today’s employees want to be inspired and empowered, not constantly corrected. Instead of taking a punitive approach to brand management, focus on showing employees the value of their role in the brand.

“Instead of policing, it’s about informing,” says Kerr. At VMware, she prioritizes content that helps employees see their work as part of a bigger picture. “The content that gets employees most excited to use the brand is the content where they can clearly see their role in our story. When this works, they are more compelled to act, deliver, and innovate.”

Another way to go from brand-policing to brand-promoting is to recognize those who demonstrate enthusiasm, even if it requires re-directing. Margolies cited an example of an enthusiastic employee who began posting on social media in the Leggatt & Platt name. Instead of reprimanding him for his off-brand posts, Margolies turned him into a brand expert. “We just needed to steer that energy in a positive direction. Now that guy is an advocate for the brand.”

The ultimate goal of your brand governance program should be to “inspire, educate, and empower,” says the telecom leader. “It’s impossible to govern 270,000 employees. They have to really own the brand, themselves.” One tool they use is a brand showcase that puts employee-created touchpoints on display, a strategy that rewards participation and inspires others to engage.

With the right program in place, you’ll be rewarded with more time, resources, and energy to spend proactively building your brand — an activity that is infinitely more valuable in today’s world. So, what will your team accomplish next year with all that newfound time?

Image source: Dane Deaner