Integrate Innovation With Imagination
As a very young account exec, I developed a sweepstakes program and accompanying ad for a packaged goods brand. Totally unaware that the client had a strict brand guide, I ran with the data I received from my client.
Since the objective of a sweepstakes is to gain immediate attention, the ad heavily promoted the grand prize. I thought it was great!
Then, I was summoned to the client’s big New York City ad agency to present the concept.
As I entered the conference room, I noticed the look of disdain on the account team’s faces. They had seen the ad and were not pleased.
Apparently, there were strict brand guidelines. My bold sweepstakes promotional ad broke all their client’s style guide rules. The meeting’s outcome, thank you but no thank you. You handle the sweepstakes administration, we’ll do the rest. This is when my awareness about ‘what is a style guide’ came to light.
The agency’s final creative had a picture of the product with a sweepstakes burst on the specially developed packaging. The headline alluded to the sweepstakes and the prize.
Not as exciting as the ad I had developed. Mind you with no knowledge of their brand style guide.
This was a valuable lesson for me. Throughout my career, I was tasked with answering the question of ‘what is branding’ for many organizations.
The answer is in: how you define your brand and stay true to a set of brand guidelines that all stakeholders support.
Sales Promotion Offers Many Touch Points
I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. You can’t develop promotional ads in a vacuum. Everything is part of an ongoing brand build.
Brand guidelines are important because a brand is defined by a combination of customer experiences.
Customers are those who purchase your product as well as vendors, retailers and the employees who work in every department.
A simple sweepstakes promotion may seem like just a short-term sales push. In reality, it’s an opportunity to make an emotional connection with every part of the extended brand community.
The Little Sweepstakes That Grew
For this promotion, the agency coordinated with many departments within their client’s company. Here is how our little sweepstakes idea spread throughout the organization. The agency:
Developed special promotional packaging, featuring the sweepstakes. They also coordinated the manufacturing of the special packaging
- Produced a value-added promotional product to be placed into every package. One unique insert was designated as the instant win grand prize
- Coordinated with operations to integrate promotional packaging and time the insertion of the value-added promotional items
- Coordinated with my sales promotion agency team to oversee security and grand prize insertion
- Produced sell sheets and point-of-sale plans for sales to sell-in the promotion at the retail level
- Planned an employee celebration event to launch the promotion as part of the organizations fifty-year anniversary
And then….they developed the sweepstakes ad with the brand front and center.
They stayed true to the brand guidelines, created and coordinated all the details, and used the promotion as a catalyst to accomplish a brand build campaign.
Elements of Brand Guide
A brand style guide provides specific direction about how your brand is to be communicated. The objective is to create a consistent brand image. Anyone viewing your communication will recognize what you represent.
The Brand Style Guide Includes:
- Ad layout, and design
- Logo samples in color and black and white, along with direction on usage and positioning
- Colors to be used, specifically primary and secondary colors for logo and borders
- Type style, indicating the font to be used along with other options for print, web and partnership efforts
- Images of sample photos, illustrations or other art to be used in communications or as a guide
- Letterhead and business card layouts
The extended Brand Guide also includes your organization’s:
Style Guides instruct your team on how your brand should look. The all-encompassing Brand Guide keeps everyone focused on the intangibles of your brand story.
When your organization has a shared vision, everyone is conscious of the need to create a message that portrays a consistent image for the brand, the customer and the world at large.
How Brand Guidelines Get Misinterpreted
1. Not Sharing Values Leads to Disaster
The ad’s headline read “Go Topless”. The ad featured four topless ladies riding in a convertible.
The risqué body parts were discreetly covered. However, it was not the image the brand wanted to portray. The ad was created south of the US border, in a region where social norms are a little different than some other countries, where visiting customers may originate from.
The Rental Car organization in this example had distributed brand style guides to franchise operators around the world. There were a few things that were not taken into consideration.
Not sharing the organization’s Vision, Values and Mission was the first error of omission.
The second error was that they didn’t account for cultural differences. What’s acceptable in one part of the world, may be offensive when viewed by customers from other regions.
To their credit, the agency that developed the ad used the right typeface, positioned the logo correctly, and followed all the conditions the style guide required.
At that point, the organization stepped back to redefine what is a style guide when customers and operations span across many cultures. How to stay true to a consistent brand strategy and to have a consistent brand image worldwide was the new objective.
The revised brand guidelines strategy was to include vision, mission, values, customer demographics and tone and manner to be used when communicating to different psychographic segments.
2. Why Everyone Wants To Change Your Logo
A logo creates consistency. It’s a visual symbol that represents your brand by everyone that sees it.
Be warned! No matter how many times you enforce the rule that your logo usage must follow specific guidelines, people will want to change it.
The problem, people want to take ownership and make their mark. Everyone believes themselves to be creative.
I worked with a hospital group that had a powerful logo. It was very recognizable. The ad agency developed an ad to run in a local magazine to support a breast cancer fundraising event. The marketing team responsible for the brand guidelines approved the ad. The ad agency delivered the final version to the printer.
When the magazine was distributed, the green and black colors of the logo were changed to pink. It was unreadable against a white page background.
Apparently, the event organizer thought it was a good idea to change all sponsor logos to pink. They got approval from someone who answered the phone at the agency.
When questioned why, the answer was a very emotional “it’s about raising awareness for a cause, and the brand color is pink.” One can see how someone with the best of intentions can unknowingly damage years of brand build. You must manage expectations.
3. When They Are Not Your Type
Whenever a salesperson for a global brand went rogue and created a sponsor ad for a corporate event, they stuck the logo, or tagline into the headline.
The logo typeface didn’t match the approved type for the rest of the headline or ad. Many times the sales team didn’t even know there was an approved typeface. To a person in charge of brand guidelines, this is just wrong.
To be fair, from a sales person’s perspective, the logo and tagline represent the brand. Salespeople want to lead with the most recognizable brand imagery.
That was before the brand guidelines became part of the sales training program.
4. Who Needs to Align Around Your Brand Message
Successful brands understand that everyone within an organization needs to work in harmony to deliver a consistent message to the customer.
Having a brand guide is one important step in aligning the organization. A shared vision around people, structure and processes, with a focus on the customer experience, is the goal.
From the above examples one can see that when there are no structured brand guidelines, it may tarnish the customer’s perception of your brand.
One little infraction here or there may not seem significant. When the components of your brand guide are not aligned with people, structure and processes, the customer’s perception of your brand gets diluted. This may affect sales and brand loyalty.
Extend Your Values With Sales Promotion
Extending a brand’s value using sales promotion may seem like an oxymoron. Conventional thinking is that sales promotions dilute a brand through discounting.
Consider this. Successful organizations are led by a set of core values. These core values are the organization’s basic principles. They are chosen to guide every member of the team’s decisions and actions.
An example of a set of core values is the following Quality Principle of Mars, Inc.:
“The consumer is our boss, quality is our work, and value for the money is our goal.”
When your organization clearly states and presents its core values as the first page of your Brand Guide, everyone knows how decisions are to be made for their function.
When core values guide people, structure and processes, the employee experience drives a positive customer experience.
Shared Values Enhance The Brand Experience
Sales promotions are short-term events. Like the case study in the beginning of this article, sales promotional campaigns should not happen in a vacuum.
Companies develop sales promotion campaigns to accomplish a specific need, during a specific period in time.
Bringing the organizational team together around a promotional event sets a shared direction and creates an ongoing positive brand experience.
When your organization clearly defines and communicates your core values in your training, corporate communications, and Brand Guidelines, marketing messages and promotional events are clearly understood and well executed.
May you never experience the imperfections in brand perceptions that I shared. Maintaining brand guidelines across the organization and with vendors is a challenge. With a well-developed set of Brand Guidelines, a focus on the customer and a strong foundation of core values the battle is half won.
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