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Don’t Smother Your Brand Strategy With Corporate Standards

Many marketing leaders have taken up a defensive position, naturally, against the growing siren songs of the new medium. And, it’s good to tread carefully, because you can lose control of how your brand is being bounced around in cyberspace. In reaction, and even preemtion, many Marketing Directors reach for their corporate standards manual and bark orders from its pages. We understand and support guarding that brand identity with all your life. But those standards need to allow for some license when the communication initiative requires an “”outside the manual”" treatment. Do not hamper brand building opportunities in the name of upholding stringent corporate standards.

The best way to provide for maximum communication effectiveness, while holding to standards, is to link specific activities to their communication objective. This approach is what we call The Core Brand Strategy. The given percentages used in the following text represent only some of the marketing initiatives, and your company might require somewhat different values.

Level 1: 80%/20% corp. identity vs. message
Remember that a corporate identity should hold firm to the values contained within. It should not change unless the company changes to meet new market requirements. Therefore, at the very core, the organization’s logo, main color palette, and type styles used for core communications should be very standardized, (i.e. corporate related public relations announcements, CEO speaking engagements, and, of course, corporate business documents).

2: 20%/80% corp. identity vs. message
The next level is different. When you start considering ad spots, print ads, and other mass media, your focus changes from corporate identity, and toward key messages. To illustrate it more clearly, we would suggest 20%/80% in favor of messaging.

This weight also could be applied to brand development. The operative strategy is that the values related to the brand are being built through the message, steeped in benefits to the consumer through interesting and repetitive communications campaigns. Once the brand reaches maturity, the message requires less weight, as the brand’s values become associated with its very identity.

The New Medium Paradigm Shift
Level 3: 10%/90% corp. identity vs. message
Without getting into a 50-page dissection of the new medium, I would simply say that consumers (of information and products/services) are given more control in this realm – so much so, that we’ve renamed them “”users.”" And, the reality is, if these media vehicles are maximized by marketing pros, the weight of the identity vs. message will always be perfect, because the user will choose how their experience is weighted (more on this in future posts). The conclusion that we marketing pros can make is that customers will not tolerate heavy-handed or forced corporate identity or branding when it deters their quest for the information or experience they are seeking. That’s not to say the new media don’t offer previously-unavailable opportunities to develop brands and corporate identity. They do. Some call it experience marketing.

Whatever you call it, the communication objectives change, because the rules have changed from the old mass media model. In a way, the new media put your company in a position of “”sponsor”" of information. And the sponsors who do the best job of being searchable, direct and able to provide value through information, will reap the results of increased sales, brand development and corporate identity.

The new medium also demands that your corporate standards remain somewhat flexible. In order for you to maximize the impact your Web site, blogs, webcasts, and opt-ins, etc. will have, you have to relinquish some control to the user. You want to make sure company and brand identity is visible, consistent and repetitive. But, you can rest in the fact that if you provide meaningful information, the user-imposed repetition will carry more impact than you could accomplish through many well-conceived advertising campaigns.

The experience available should always support your brand and corporate values. If it fails to do so, then adjust that experience quickly.

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