Right aligned R: Brand Police

How to be the brand police’s best friend!

August 30, 2019
by: Andy Macpherson

Brands differentiate you from your competitors. So why are some business professionals diluting their message by presenting something inconsistent with their corporate messaging? After two decades at the forefront of catchy designs of presentations, studies and viewpoints I am still getting caught off guard. There are still people who try to express themselves by completely ignoring brand guidelines.

Nike’s ‘Swoosh’ and McDonalds ‘Golden Arches’ are prime examples of instantly recognisable brand elementsYour company is recognised by its corporate brand elements across numerous mediums, e.g. billboards, printables, TV ads and social media. Consumers become familiar to your logo, colours and even the font associated with your company. Hence rule N°1: Your brand should be always easily recognizable by these elements.

A brand is established for the specific purpose of creating values and promises that a consumer may perceive and identify with. Often it evolves over time, at considerable cost to the company, further emphasising the importance of brand alignment and consistency within the firm. Staying true to the company vision using all its brand elements, despite being difficult, is paramount!

As Interbrand puts it, the market performance of strong brands is “enduring proof that investment in long-term brand-building enables businesses to thrive over time and survive market volatility.”

Brandings return on investment is best evidenced by the fact that the strongest and most relevant brands consistently outperform every market index.

When meeting with clients it is important that the documents you present are consistent with your brand: they live on and represent you and your firm.

Four incidents which makes the brand shepherds nervous

Following branding should be common sense, so why are so many Word and PowerPoint documents off-brand? I see the reasons being:

1. The presenter does not have the skills or tools to consistently adhere with corporate branding

All companies must have a comprehensive style guide that are applied to all aspects of their brand. A good Word and PowerPoint template will have been set up to follow these guidelines with the correct corporate colours/fonts/high quality logo built in. Taking the time to understand these guidelines and providing training for your employees to have a good working knowledge of Word and PowerPoint will go a long way to ensuring you stay on brand.

Microsoft has done a great job of making their software easy to use. But this often gives a false sense of confidence to users. Many consultants I work with would like to say that they have an excellent working knowledge of PowerPoint and Word – but in reality it is probably closer to just above a basic understanding.

There are a number of tools available that can be added to PowerPoint and Word to help make it significantly easier to follow corporate branding. Here are two concrete tips for you:

  1. One tool that I use and recommend is the “empower suite” developed by Made in Office (https://www.made-in-office.com/en/empower-slides/). Empower promotes centrally managed templates, slide assets and libraries – all directly within PowerPoint. Content is easily updateable and can be immediately pushed to other users in the network.
  2. Set up a library file of commonly used slides and images and having it readily available. This not only saves time (not having to re-invent the wheel each time) – but will also make it easier to stay on brand. Get in the habit of encouraging users to share their slides to help keep it up to date and expanding.

2. The presenter personally does not like corporate branding

I regularly see presentations and documents where a consultant has changed the templates colours and/or fonts. Once a consultant tried to convince me that we had to change the corporate colours for his presentation because the colours were too close to a football team he did not like. I had to persuade them it is a waste of time and resources to go against corporate branding – time better spent focussing on the content.

Branding is vital to your company to help it stand out from the crowd. If it is not applied consistently across all platforms, then it will harm your brand. Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points. It is this consistent, desired experience that builds trust – and trust is the foundation for loyalty and promotion. That means every part of the organization has a role to play in branding from research and development to finance to talent development.

3. The presenter is bored of using the same materials over and over

Being consistent doesn’t mean that you can’t change. In fact, consistency gives you a firm foundation for evolving into offering even more options for even more people. Once you have built a reputation through the consistent delivery of your brand promise, you have permission to evolve and expand.

Yes, there is sometimes the cliché of the marketing and design teams as being “the brand police”, BUT in reality they are the guardians, the shepherds of all the relevant brand assets.

Being on brand doesn’t mean we can’t be creative with the content. Recently, I helped a consultant with a presentation where both he and the client he was pitching to were avid surfers. We decided to incorporate the surfing theme into the presentation in a way that was on brand and would create an identifiable talking point between him and his client. This is a great way for the presenter’s life passions to be reflected in the passion they would bring to solve the clients issue whilst staying “on-brand”

We used the correct colours and fonts to create the deck and the visuals did a great job of emphasising the points. It should also be said that you should consult your marketing team to ensure they are happy with brand usage in these cases.

4. Time and budget constraints

Quite often time and budget pressures mean you do not have the time to ensure that every element of a presentation is on brand. In cases like this – slide libraries and having a PowerPoint Add-in (such as the previously mentioned Empower) – are vital.

So in summary, while it might not seem to you like it is a big deal that your presentation is off brand and poorly portrays your company’s branding – in reality it does, and to not follow the brand guidelines is counterproductive to all the investment put into building the brand in the first place.

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