Building Brand Standards Through the Language of Creativity

diverse business

There are more than 7,000 languages in the world. They all serve the purpose of enabling communities to interact, learn and share as a group.

Language provides a common framework to understand each other. We can’t imagine living without this capability.

In the creative world, there also is a language. It is created specific to our organization. It allows us to build value for our brand.

We call this model brand standards, but too often, that phrase is filled with baggage from the past and we reject it.

When we don’t build brand standards, the result sounds like a person speaking a language we can’t understand.  Unfortunately, neither can our customers.  And noise enters the marketplace that dilutes the value of the entity we care about deeply.

If we think of ourselves as linguists for brands, we can be more expressive in developing these standards.

Logos, taglines, colors, fonts, visual language and more are all about this brand waterfall. Design guides make sense of it all.

Sounds easy enough to agree, but it rarely is.  What we have realized after decades in business is that we make it too hard.

Instead, why not rethink the role of the brand team and how we interrelate?

Nine Lessons

We can start with nine key learnings that can turn brand standards into a language of relevance and importance.

  • Focus on the Story: Let the story and look/feel of the brand drive guidelines and standards. Start with innovation and then adapt to the rules, not the reverse.
  • Act like a Steward: Imagine yourself as the steward of the brand. Ask if the corporate leadership team has the right mindset toward branding.  A strong brand increases in value.  Will yours? Why?
  • Offer Education: If people in your organization are non-compliant, perhaps it is an educational issue. How well are you describing the power and value of brand standards or are you acting more like the brand police?
  • The Elevator Pitch: Can you describe the brand architecture in one slide and anyone who listens gets it immediately?
  • Simplicity Rules: Are the standards easy to understand, even easier to implement and do they offer flexibility in their application?
  • Know When to Say No: Are you avoiding waste, e.g. providing images no one will ever use to satisfy someone’s request to impact the standards? Basically, do you protect the standards from being watered down before they are introduced?
  • Explain the Value of Compliance: Are you creating educational material to explain the power of compliance and the value it builds for the brand worldwide? Context always matters.
  • Refresh Continually: How often will you refresh the brand? How will you receive input at any time to readdress key items?  If we assume that the crowd is smarter than a committee, we always listen and learn about how to evolve our brand standards.
  • Train Your Ecosystem: Are you training your agencies and vendors? They will utilize these standards. Often, friction occurs when partners fail to fully know or appreciate what we are trying to accomplish. That’s on us.

A Visual Representation

You can summarize this approach with this visual.  We create the brand standards, ensure we understand why and remain open to how they evolve.

 After all, really what we are creating is a language for our brand that is powerful, unique and cohesive for the community of employees, vendors and customers.  It is one of the most important investments we make to align strategy with creativity.

Mike Fung is head of creative solutions, Roche; Bob Pearson is founder & chair, The Next Practices Group; Colin Foster is president, The Next Practices Group; Ayaz Malik is enterprise marketing excellence manager, Roche Diagnostics Corporation