What’s Your Brand Governance Style?

Chris Binding
April 25, 2017 By Chris Binding

Moving Beyond the Brand Cop

Enforcement vs. engagement. Prescription vs. empowerment. Insistence vs. inspiration. Brand governance is undergoing a seismic shift. Whereas once the brand steward played the part of stickler or authoritarian (rarely by choice), the role now calls for a new brand governance style – one that is much more strategic and collaborative in nature.

And it’s not a moment too soon. Carl Negin, formerly Head of Brand at T. Rowe Price finds the notion of the brand police to be “not only impractical, but harmful. First, it creates an adversarial relationship between the brand team and the rest of the organization. Second, it relegates them to the role of compliance officers rather than a partner at the table. Third, it takes the onus off of associates to be responsible, absolving them from developing ownership and understanding of the brand.” Negin’s points were validated by a study we conducted of over 100 brand leaders, in which 93 percent responded they were evolving beyond the role of brand cop.*

So if we’re moving away from the brand cop, what are we moving toward? Following conversations with nearly a dozen brand leaders, including our brand governance roundtable with BrandingMag, we’ve identified eight styles on the rise.

93 percent of brand leaders have already evolved beyond the brand cop approach to brand governance.

Brand Concierge

The quintessential service job, a concierge’s responsibilities are twofold: to provide clients with help and information, as well as a customized experienced that’s catered to individual needs. A professional services’ approach to brand governance is the embodiment of the brand concierge. Its brand team is dedicated to equipping all 240,000 associates with easy access to needed information, tools and assets, while ensuring the brand is flexible enough to service everyone’s business requirements – and that associates feel empowered to use it. A senior brand leader with the firm told us that “if a brand identity system doesn’t accommodate for how practitioners do business, they simply won’t use it.” And diluting the equity of a globally renowned brand benefits no one.

Brand Conductor

From Leonard Bernstein to Gustavo Dudamel, great conductors lead orchestral sections and individual musicians to operate as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, subsequently moving and inspiring audiences. Similarly, the best brand leaders break down siloes across organizations and ensure that everyone is harmonizing and synchronizing their unique expertise to create a unified brand experience. Negin pointed to Apple and its Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, as exemplars of this style of brand governance. Operating from the highest echelons of the company, Ive has propelled his fellow senior leaders – and as a result, everyone at the company – “to consider Apple’s brand as importantly as its stock price, or its corporate reputation.” Thanks to Ive’s influence, the very highest part of the company believes in brand so much that it’s part of Apple’s DNA.

Brand Evangelist

Great evangelists not only enthusiastically advocate for their cause, they do so in a way that’s infectious and imbues others with a new sense of purpose – think people like Oprah or Tony Robbins. Sterling National Bank takes an inside out approach to brand governance, reasoning that if the brand is strong internally, it will be strong externally. One of the major tasks of Sterling’s communications team is to build pride in corporate culture. The thinking is that if corporate culture is strong and employees have pride in the brand, they’ll employ the brand as intended.

Brand Facilitator

DHL applies a philosophy based on facilitation. Facilitators help to advance an outcome by unobtrusively providing guidance or assistance. In this case, the outcome is brand harmonization – ensuring that the brand is consistently positioned and represented verbally and visually across markets. In order to change the brand governance mentality from enforcement, any member of the brand team seen berating others for incorrect brand application is managed out.

Brand Purveyor

A purveyor supplies and promotes goods and ideas. If the word conjures images of an old-timey shopkeeper, go with it: ‘The customer is always right’ is an apt phrase for this particular style of brand governance. VCU Health’s Chief of Marketing says there’s an unwritten rule within her division. When she and her fellow marketers receive a request or feedback, no matter how outrageous, they never say ‘no.’ Rather, they thank their colleagues for providing input, and supply them with a solution. When doctors share their ideas on logo treatments, she walks them through how they’ll look in context. Active listening assists in building the foundation of trust needed to help ensure adoption of brand guidelines.

Brand Shepherd

A shepherd’s ultimate responsibility is to his flock – not only leading them to the right path, but protecting them in the process. A global pioneer in satellite imaging seeks to become the indispensable source of information about our changing planet. Employees have no trouble getting behind the company’s purpose and mission. As the brand becomes an increasingly important asset, the role of the brand team is to steer the flock in the right direction. This begins by creating awareness internally that there is a brand team present to guide them and foster a judgment-free environment for employees to ask for help, share presentations and other brand materials without fear they’ll be reprimanded if they’re off-brand. Conveying a welcoming and helpful image, and making certain that colleagues are equipped with the right tools to reach out for assistance and support, is key.

Brand Sherpa

Governing a brand can sometimes feel like an endeavor akin to climbing Mt. Everest. Individuals who haven’t scaled the path before need a sherpa who can lead them safely and supportively. Educating and changing the mentality of 60,000-plus associates with an engineering mindset sounds like a daunting task. Yet that’s the course that the Comcast Xfinity team has been traveling since they began translating the “Future is Awesome” promise into a brand experience that can be felt. Inevitably, the role of the heavy lifting falls on the shoulder of the brand team. For Comcast, creating a great customer experience had to start with a great employee experience. Xfinity’s EVP of Brand Experience worked with HR to embed some brand questions into the annual employee engagement survey to gauge how well employees understand the brand purpose, and if they’ve internalized it to guide how they approach their role. Tools like financial incentives and environmental branding in call centers help motivate and remind people that their actions have tangible implications for the brand. Brand sherpas use their specialized expertise to guide and encourage their less experienced colleagues on the journey to forming, managing and advancing a unified brand experience.

Brand Steward

A steward is the ultimate caretaker, a person entrusted with both oversight of a task and of the individuals who are carrying out that task. The VP of Global Brands for Park Hyatt and Andaz operates in a highly decentralized environment. He aspires to advance brand consistency, while realizing that each market is unique – what flies in Melbourne or Milan may not work in Bangkok or Beijing. As a result, he’s mindful of the need to provide both universal brand guidelines, assets and tools to his hotel general managers across the globe, as well as the latitude the GMs require to adapt materials to their local cultures. He told us that the most successful brand initiatives connect to a meaningful reason or incentive that will resonate with employees.

The key to success is cultivating the mindset, process, and tools to engage, educate, and empower your associates.

All of the above brand governance styles are founded on the same basic principles; the differentiators are in the details. The optimal approach will largely depend on your management style and the particular needs of your organization. The key is to figure out which one resonates with you in order to evolve beyond the brand cop and cultivate the mindset, process, and tools to engage, educate, and empower your associates.

Connect with us to learn more about how a new framework can transform your approach to brand governance.

*Study taken from “How Brand Centers are Empowering a New Breed of Brand Concierge” – October 2016.