How Draconian are your Brand Guidelines? Many brands focus so much on maintaining consistency that they forget one of the most important goals of Brand Guidelines — inspiring creative work.
Building a brand takes a village, inside the company and out. From agencies to packaging engineers, there are a lot of people who touch and influence how a brand comes to life. Marketers often put together guidelines to codify the rules of the brand.
When done well, Brand Guidelines are a rally cry that can inspire the extended team’s best work. When done poorly, Brand Guidelines are a wet blanket that ensures the status quo.
In 1997, I worked for one of the first interactive agencies in San Francisco, helping build web sites for Disney and others. I remember how difficult it was to apply the rigidity of the Disney Brand Guidelines to the relatively new medium of the Web. Because Disney wrote their guidelines from a print mindset, they unintentionally limited the potential of their agencies’ work and the resulting web sites looked and felt like virtual brochures.
I see the same dynamic at play today, with the evolving landscape of branding, from mobile to content marketing. Our extended brand teams need guidance, but they also need the freedom and flexibility to experiment.
When I worked at method, we invested a significant amount of effort in our Brand Guidelines for such a small company, updating Brand Guidelines practically every year. Our brand experience team tried to strike the right balance of consistency and inspiration.
Marketers should be more than Brand Police and Brand Guidelines should be more than a set of rules to enforce.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories about creating effective and inspirational Brand Guidelines.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)