We’ve all been there—that “oh sh*t” moment as you read an email sent by one of your remote offices. It seems that not only did your colleagues manage to use the wrong logo—the pre-merger version—but they also used the wrong boilerplate *and* chose an email layout that screams 1997. Ugh. In your mind, you have one simple question: “How did this happen?”
Brand consistency may seem like it is limited to making sure all communications look harmonious to help with awareness, but it goes much further than that. Brand consistency also means sending the right messages to the right people at the right time. And I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I say that preserving brand standards across your organization’s business units—both internally and with remote offices—is imperative to your short- and long-term success. But how do you realistically accomplish that? Let’s take a look at a few tips.
Implement a Center of Excellence
If you find that your organization is constantly putting out operational fires or focusing on MOPS issues like the branding snafu described above—instead of being able to dive deeper into the marketing activities that truly impact revenue—that a sure sign that it’s past time to implement a Center of Excellence (CoE) in your business.
A CoE will provide you with a foundation that guides your data, marketing ops and branding decisions, streamlining your processes and creating a strategic roadmap so that everyday matters don’t have to be decided and debated over and over again. Once these policies and processes are documented, your staff will be able to work autonomously within the guidelines to create and launch campaigns without the need for handholding at every turn.
Focus on Data
Though it may sound odd going straight to talking about “data” in a branding article, it’s actually one of the most important parts of getting your brand right—after all, how much does it matter if you have the most beautiful logo or the most cutting edge website in the world if you have Mr. Smith’s first name spelled wrong in your database, or if you sent a prospect-facing email to a group of your paying customers? I don’t know about you but problems like these would elevate data to a branding problem in my mind really quick.
Think about it—data is at the foundation of every relationship we have (or want to have) with a prospect or a customer, and if we don’t have the right information, or we don’t have it in the right place, we run the risk of sending the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time. Not exactly the kind of brand impression we want to make, is it? Here are a few things we can do.
Implement a Data Governance Plan
To protect your brand, you must make data governance a priority, as it sets the foundation for everything marketing does to create branding that resonates with leads and increase revenues. To do this, create a living data governance plan as part of your CoE processes, outlining:
- Who makes up the governance committee
- What information requires committee review
- What information has already been reviewed and where it is stored
- What criteria does the committee use to assess requests for form fields, services, third-party integrations, etc.
- Best practices and things to avoid
Apply Naming Conventions
Another best practice to keep your data clean and brand-ready is to apply strict naming conventions throughout your Marketo instance so that you can quickly and easily find any assets. At Perkuto, we typically suggest the following naming convention to clients:
[YYMMDD] [TYPE] [Description of Program]
Take Advantage of Global Forms
Selling a product to your CFO customer takes a different pitch than selling it to her business analyst. So it’s important that you have a clear (and accurate) picture of your customer, allowing you to correctly brand and segment your communications. And one of the best ways to make this happen is to ensure that the data you’re gathering is normalized, global forms allow you to streamline your tracking processes.
Instead of gathering data haphazardly by creating a new form for every new email, webinar, piece of gated content or subscription—and having a variety of different form fields with different datapoints to show for it—opt for a global form instead. Global forms allow you to collect the information you need in a standard way that can be used over and over again so that when it’s time to continue a conversation with your lead or client, you’ll be able to do so in a way that feels cohesive and holistic because it is.
Stick with the Templates
Remember the old adage, “You can have it done fast, cheap or good. Pick two.” Well that holds true when it comes to marketing—and assuming that you’re like most organizations, you’ve already invested money in your marketing automation platform and your brand, so at this point you’re interested in having your MOPS accomplished good and fast.
The key to making this happen and keeping your brand standards high in the process will be to templatize everything you can into just as many templates as you need and not a single one more. Create (or invest in professional) program templates that cover your top scenarios like subscriptions, webinar signups, gated content, contact us forms, etc.) Remember to consider templates for different times in your customer’s lifecycle, from the time that they are prospects through the time that they become customers.
No, Really. Stick with the Templates
Understand that from the moment you introduce templates, your team will push their limits.* They will ask if they can use a larger image this time. They will ask if they can change the introduction from “Hi there” to “Dear.” which you’ve explained will look like a typo if the first name field is blank, but they seem to have forgotten. They will request that the logo is put in the bottom left corner rather than the upper right. They will say, “It’s possible for you to do this, right?” and because it’s all pixels, the technical answer is yes.** And if some of them know code, they may actually tweak the templates without making the requests of your brand team which is a scenario that strikes fear in the hearts of marketers around the world.
*They probably aren’t doing this to drive you crazy or to intentionally try and harm your brand, it’s just a human thing.
**But we all know that just because something is technically possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Building on our adage from earlier, there’s a correlating adage when it comes to scalability: “You can do it more, do it faster or do it better. Pick two.” This time, the choice is a little harder—you can do more, faster—but you aren’t guaranteed it’ll be error-free, and when it comes to your brand and your reputation, that is a risk most marketers are (understandably) not willing to take.
If you’re like most businesses wanting to scale and brand-compliant, error-free campaigns are a must have, then sticking to templates is a must-do. As soon as you start granting one-off requests to create even a slightly different version of the template “this one time,” you’re setting yourself up for long-term hurt and taking steps away from your brand in the process.
Keep Brand Standards and Your Sanity
Following a few tips will help you avoid alienating prospects and clients and that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see an off-brand email from your own brand. Thankfully, there are a few things so can do to protect your brand standards and your sanity. Implement a Center of Excellence (CoE) to create a foundation of policies and processes. And understand that you simply can’t have great branding without great data—create and apply a solid data governance plan, consistent naming conventions for all of your program elements and global forms for all of your campaigns. Finally, create (or buy) and use brand-approved templates. By following these guidelines, your organization will be on its way toward reaping the rewards of a consistent brand: delighted customers and higher revenues.