In 1985, the popular board game ‘Clue’ was turned into a movie of the same name. In order to prevent someone from giving away the mystery to the rest of the world, the director shot three different endings for different locations and theaters.
If three people went to different theaters, then discussed the film afterward, they might all have unknowingly seen completely different versions of the same film.
Eventually, one might even ask the others if they’re certain they watched the movie, ‘Clue’, and not something different.
In the case of the film world, this was an interesting tactic that preserved a mystery from being revealed. However, in the case of a brand, this strategy would have a lot of people scratching their heads.
When it comes to branding, it’s important to adhere to strict standards that unify all different functions of the brand.
That’s where brand compliance comes into effect. By focusing on compliance, brands are able to keep their values intact throughout each campaign. They’re also able to:
- Increase sales
- Boost communication
- Prevent branding errors
This article will give you the brand compliance strategies needed to uphold your main ideals. The last thing you want, after all, is three different people seeing completely contrasting versions of your brand.
What is brand compliance?
Brand compliance is an approach that maintains the fundamentals of a brand to prevent errors or misuse – it involves consistency in assets like images and logos. Brand compliance structures projects and campaigns so that messaging and other elements stay true to brand values.
Compliance is different for each brand. Sometimes, it entails a few simple examinations. Other times it’s a large-scale process.
For example, global brands have a lot more steps to take to keep their brand values intact all over the world.
There are many different ways to be compliant:
- Maintain visual elements
- Establish consistent messaging
- Uphold values and ideals through all communication
Before we go any further, let’s make sure you understand how we will use consistency throughout this article.
The word ‘consistency’ will come up a lot during a discussion about compliance. It does not refer to brand consistency directly. I will differentiate the two by using ‘brand consistency’ when referring to it directly.
So, how are they different? They’re actually very similar. Brand compliance is a function of brand consistency. If brand consistency were the finish line, brand compliance would be some of the steps you need to take to cross it.
The benefits of adopting a successful brand compliance strategy are immense, and the consequences from failing to do so can be devastating. Before building up our blueprint toward success, let’s explore the importance of staying compliant (or failing to do so).
Importance of brand compliance – potential positives and negatives
Just as valuable as understanding the good things that come with being compliant is an understanding of the negatives that come with failing to do so. Here are the most crucial positives and negatives to consider.
Brand compliance is more than just keeping the same-sized logo on different projects. It offers quite a few groundbreaking benefits that are rewarding and worth fighting for. Here are some to consider.
Improves your brand’s prominence
As we’ve observed with different kinds of brand loyalty, one of the main reasons customers stick with a brand is they are dependable and maintain their ideals in every situation.
The potential rewards of loyalty are notable, considering roughly 40 out of 100 people pay higher prices to use brands they’re loyal to.
60 out of those 100 customers end up telling others about the brand, becoming brand advocates themselves.
When considering what makes a brand so great, we often think of the ways in which it remains true to its many special aspects, such as values and ideals.
Compliance ensures that the best foot is always put forward. It’s important that all areas hit the right messages for each market they reach.
Brand consistency is something that really improves a brand’s standing with customers, and compliance is a large part of creating and sustaining consistency.
Upon first thought, brand compliance doesn’t seem to be a large factor in terms of sales. It is, after all, a marketing initiative.
Consider, though, the potential disconnect from a lack of compliance. The marketing team is putting forth one thing the audience sees, then they’re talking with another department that represents the brand. If they’re receiving different tones, something will feel off.
Just as bad brand compliance wastes potentially large sums of money from marketing campaigns and projects, good brand compliance allows for these projects and advertisements to lead to a better bottom line.
Note that there is a measurable benefit to compliance, as consistent branding increases total revenue by approximately 25%. Furthermore, 75% of customers expect brands to offer similar values from one channel to the next.
Failing to uphold compliance can be devastating. Here are some negative aspects that clearly demonstrate this idea.
Erases the efforts and financial investments made by marketers on branding
There are not too many things worse than buying something and never using it. Parents of young children find that out quite often when they order a new toy, only to find their child enjoying the packaging box it arrives in instead of the actual product.
However, even worse than NOT using something is when you buy something and someone ruins it (kids do this to their new toys as well).
Without a legitimate, structured compliance, there is a huge risk for error or misuse. These are quite costly, potentially ruining years of work and plenty of investments by marketers who put their efforts into branding campaigns.
When you take into account that marketing campaigns on average are about 10-15% of a company’s total budget and growing all the time, this problem is amplified.
The following is a graph of the average marketing budget from 2014-2018 (courtesy Gartner):
Though it’s not a linear increase, it is still moving up over time.
If ever someone is unsure about moving forward with a comprehensive compliance plan, remind them of these consequences.
Communication errors and misinformation
“Words are the source of misunderstandings.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When it comes to communication, the type of contact is important, because it shows what they need and how you can provide it. When people contact brands, 80% of these communications are to ask for help or get more information.
If you’ve ever played a game of ‘Telephone’, you know how hard it is to get a message from one person to another.
You are also aware of how easy it would be to fix the broken message – simply have someone manage the process, acting as a quality control.
Brand compliance is a solution to the inconsistent messages and misinformation a brand sometimes spreads.
All too often organizations have branding issues resulting from different team members and departments sharing documents and other assets.
Similarly, when it comes to customers, conversations help building important relationships right away. In fact, the first three-to-four seconds generally make the biggest difference.
From these benefits and negative aspects, it’s clear that compliance is important and cannot be understated. Therefore, it’s necessary to maintain throughout all different endeavors.
With the right structure in place this is certainly possible. Here are five methods aimed at helping you stay compliant.
5 ways to maintain brand compliance
By following these strategies, you’ll have a powerful structure to keep your compliance from faltering at crucial moments.
1. Create a dedicated brand department
When the sun is out and people head to the beach, there’s usually a tower where dedicated lifeguards watch the waters for drowning swimmers.
That way, everyone at the beach can focus on enjoying themselves without having to constantly worry about other people’s safety. This is true for upholding consistent branding efforts as well.
It’s fair to say that all departments should be well-versed in compliance and should understand the branding standards set for them.
However, to add an extra layer of safety to this equation, consider assigning a department to monitor the entire process.
To go about this, clearly define and outline what they will do. It’s important that they’re clear on their tasks and schedule.
Generally, this team should understand compliance standards, then work to manage and maintain them by examining current branding efforts.
There’s no set standard for the size of this team, but it should typically have more working parts if it has more ground to cover (if a company is small, the team ensuring compliance doesn’t have to be massive).
Finally, don’t neglect to add periodic checks to this dedicated department. Without sufficient supervision, there runs the risk of a blind leading the blind situation.
2. Check and re-check your branding in different products and services
Chances are, your products and services will change occasionally. When they do, there’s potential for some failed disconnect in branding.
Similarly, these missteps are often marginal and go unnoticed, since a large miscue would be easy to spot and correct.
Therefore, it’s important to have a system set up to evaluate the current and upcoming services and products for consistency.
The only way to make this work effectively is by keeping it routine. Schedule periodic evaluations to products so that nothing slips through undetected.
What types of things are being evaluated here? Mainly, how well the product or service upholds and represents the main ideals, values and mission of the brand.
Remember that most of all, this process will help new products sell better, as they’ll be consistent with all the factors customers like about your brand.
3. Entice employees to get involved with the compliance efforts
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant
If you’ve ever watched a sports match that requires participants to wear uniforms, you understand how funny it can be when someone puts their jersey on wrong.
They often become the center of attention and halt the event, while their teammates have a good laugh at their expense while they fix their wardrobe.
Even though these incidents are funny and lighthearted, when a similar mishap happens with brand standards, the results aren’t so cute.
It’s not always a given that all departments are on board with branding efforts. So how do we go about making sure they are?
First, make sure the right people are demonstrating and talking about compliance, in some capacity. Next, consider some ways to offer brand testing and education that is exciting and outlines how beneficial the results will be to all involved.
This could be accomplished in many ways, including through periodic quizzes about a brand mission, ideals, logos and more.
The more informed everyone is, the less chance someone wears their metaphorical jersey backwards.
4. Use software designed to ease the process
Probably the biggest problem brands face in terms of compliance and consistency throughout each project and campaign is a lack of version control.
Over 10,000 files get lost on company systems, and the important branding documents that are found end up disorganized, over 7,000 scrambled files to be exact.
All too often teams sharing materials interdepartmentally end up confusing one another and causing more harm than good. This is because it’s basically impossible, without an automated system, to make sure all employees use the latest version of a document at all times.
Without compliance software, brands often run into the following issues:
- Misplaced files and assets
- Unorganized files
- Version problems
However, this is only part of the equation. Another piece of the puzzle is having a system that stores brand materials in a centralized location to ensure easy access, which in turn promotes compliance.
Brands are implementing digital asset management (DAM) software to handle both of these potential issues. DAM efficiently manages all branding assets, ensuring each project uses the right elements.
DAM also centralizes branding materials for quick retrieval and guarantees version control, which are both crucial factors in staying compliant.
5. Examine your guidelines and communication materials
If you’ve followed the strategies listed above, there’s a good chance you don’t need to create a new set of branding guidelines. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be set in stone.
The last thing you want is inconsistencies across channels, especially since consistent branding increases revenue by an average of 25%.
Evaluate what’s working, then apply that to your assessment of the current guidelines. Make sure they offer the details on the right and wrong ways to handle different materials.
Next, consider the communication materials that audiences have access to. Are they drastically different? Similar? Do they comply with brand standards?
It doesn’t take long to answer these questions. Usually it’s pretty obvious when something is off. As long as you periodically evaluate these processes, staying compliant will be a real possibility.
You’re well on your way
Improving brand compliance is a smaller part of the overall branding process, but it has big implications.
Whatever these implications are, follow the necessary steps so they’re a positive for your brand.
Lastly, remember all the values and ideals you were excited to build your brand upon. These are what you’re fighting to uphold when aiming for stronger compliance.
Learn more about compliance and other branding factors in our comprehensive branding guide.