On-brand is a familiar term to many marketers, but with more channels than ever before, it can seem like an increasingly difficult proposition in brand management.
As our understanding of brand execution has evolved, so has the way we manage brands and bring them to life through branding and visual identity, we have codified brand management.
Brand guidelines are vital
Brand management is easy if there is only one person using the branding. For large teams, for growing teams and diverse teams, it is crucial to have brand guidelines to ensure there are a common use and a common presence built.
Brand guidelines were introduced to manage corporate identities, which had first been introduced to provide differentiation between various craftspeople, and then fledgling businesses.
These brand guidelines have evolved from a simple mark to complex recordings of logos, colour, typography, images, brand architecture and hierarchy and correct treatments for different assets. Brand guidelines allow you to build equity, to build an instantly recognisable presence.
Your brand and your visual identity have become a shortcut to an understanding of what you do - the hook on which to hang an understanding of a brand. Brand guidelines reinforce these strengths and ensure users of the brand understand how to use the various components.
The rise of templates, old school
Once brand guidelines were developed, there were clear rules around what could and couldn't be done. People inside and outside the core marketing team started using the brand elements, sometimes breaking the rules.
We've all experienced it - people breaking the rules inadvertently, and sometimes deliberately when they thought they knew better!
Templates were introduced to increase the speed and ease of using the brand guidelines, ostensibly to control the brand and make it easier for people without graphic design skills or software to use the brand.
These templates, created with the right intentions, had flawed frameworks.
Microsoft Office templates
Microsoft Office templates, for anyone who used them had dual frustrations. For brand custodians, they might have been set up correctly but could still be misused - fonts interchanged, colours altered, images applied incorrectly, stretched, shrunk or the wrong ones chosen altogether. For template users, they were clunky, they broke easily, and the editable areas didn't make it easy to comply, even if you wanted to.
Whether it was PowerPoint, Word or Publisher, the Office templates had the right intentions but weren't any closer to creating user- and brand-friendly templates. Design teams tried to move the dial by moving file types.
Editable PDFs were far more locked down than Microsoft Office templates and created frustrations because of this. Want two lines for your heading, but the heading section only allows for one line? Too bad. Want to copy and paste content from another program into the PDF? Whoops, that copied across the formatting too, which meant you were automatically breaking brand guidelines and clearing the content didn't remove the poor formatting.
The only solution at this stage was for all design work to be done centrally, with your graphic design team operating as an in-house agency. In this scenario, you controlled the brand absolutely so you could guarantee on-brand execution. The downside meant workload volumes exploded, timelines extended and it isn't unusual to have more than 100 jobs in the queue waiting for desktop publishing.
Templates weren't delivering enough brand consistency, and teams were overloaded.
New generation templates
Having more power through on-brand templates is possible. These new generation templates are powerful, easy to use and more rigorously controlled than both editable PDFs and Microsoft Office templates.
The Outfit platform uses these new generation templates - responsive, with dynamic customisation, allowing access to the right assets and applying them correctly, these templates enable marketing teams and internal stakeholders to render their marketing without branding concerns or design bottlenecks.
These new generation templates allow marketing teams to empower the whole organisation to create and deliver their marketing and sales collateral.
Users without design software or design skills can use the new generation templates to ensure on-brand application, applying the brand guidelines automatically. The templates, built upon your exact brand guidelines and with powerful integrations, harness the full power of your brand and data.
For example, Outfit provided hundreds of Red Hat employees with access to the right templates to produce their own collateral.
More power through on-brand templates indeed.