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Brand management: The complete guide for 2022

12 min read
Katie Oberthaler

Great creative teams know that branding involves more than just creating a logo design, a product, or an elevator pitch. Brand management encompasses imagery, language, experience, and perception that, when executed in sync, builds recognition, trust, and loyalty among consumers.

Brand management comes from a critical strategy that reinforces brand goals, design, identity, and values at every touchpoint. Today, consumers expect brands to provide seamless, personalized experiences across multiple platforms, websites, emails, chatbots, physical stores, and sales interactions. Brands must deliver on that expectation to build customer loyalty. That’s why brand management is so important. 

Creating attractive branding is just the start. Executing brand management strategy requires not only diligent design standards, but also internal consistency of brand values across all areas of the business.

In this article we'll walk through a clear process for building or improving upon a brand management strategy that continually delivers results and maintains brand standards. 

What we'll cover

What is brand management?

Brand management is a strategy for influencing brand perception and ensuring brand consistency.

While branding is about building a brand and defining its unique qualities, brand management creates cohesive messaging across every touchpoint.

Effective brand management helps companies maintain control of their reputation, build market recognition, and shape audience perception in a way that generates awareness and lasting loyalty.

Why every organization needs a brand management process

Brand management isn’t just a strategy for major, recognizable brands. Every business should have a brand management process. Here are a few reasons why: 

It strengthens messaging

We said earlier that a brand is more than just an elevator pitch–and that’s true. But you still need an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is just a variation of your mission statement. It explains the value of your product or services. If everyone in your organization knows your elevator pitch, they’ll be prepared to artfully answer the question, “What does your company do?” at any time. 

It improves efficiency

When creatives are working on a new piece for your brand, they can be much more efficient if they can quickly find specific logos for different platforms, the composition of your branded colors, or your content style guide.

It assigns responsibilities

The creatives writing your content or designing your next Facebook ad may be working within your brand guidelines, but another stakeholder should be in charge of final approval. A brand management process ensures that someone is monitoring creative assets for brand compliance.  

It establishes an action plan

If a brand reputation crisis should emerge, the way you handle it will have a big impact on customer sentiment. Outline what your brand strategy will be, in the event of negative publicity or criticism.

The fundamentals of brand management

Before putting together a brand management strategy, it’s important to understand the basic elements of company or product branding. 

1. Brand promise

A brand promise represents an experience or level of quality that customers can expect to receive every time they interact with a company. Over time, as companies meet (or, ideally, exceed) expectations, the more valuable those brands become to their consumers.

2. Brand identity

Brand identity is made up of the tangible elements—color, logo, design—that makes you recognizable to your audience.

A consistent brand identity reinforces your brand values. It helps you attract the right audience and start building the connections that lead to conversion and build brand loyalty.

3. Brand marketing

Brand marketing is a strategy for promoting your products or services in a way that highlights your brand’s identity, personality, and unique value proposition in the communications you share with your audience.

The goal here is to bridge the gap between your product and your ideal consumer by reaching them with the right message, on the right channel, at the right time.

4. Brand awareness

You can’t engage an audience if they don’t know you exist. Brand awareness refers to how familiar your target audience is with your brand. Measuring awareness can be difficult, but it’s an important step toward building trust, equity, and eventually, loyalty.

You build awareness by running ads, publishing content, and interacting with your audience, sharing your story, and proving your value. You might look into freemium pricing, free trials, or referral programs to get your brand’s target audience to spread the word.

5. Brand recognition

While brand awareness and brand recognition might sound like two names for the same thing, there’s a subtle, yet important, difference between the two. Brand recognition refers to how well your target consumer can recognize your brand based on imagery, logo, or tagline alone. In other words: Would they recognize your content or product if you removed your brand name?

6. Brand reputation

Brand reputation refers to how your target audience and the general public perceive your brand. Product quality, service, user experience, media attention, reviews, and word of mouth can all have an impact on brand reputation.

Reputation plays a critical role in your company’s success—it can be the factor that influences whether someone takes a chance on your offering or goes with a competitor.

You can take much control of your reputation by showing up and engaging with your audience. According to a study sponsored by Forbes Insights, about 50% of a brand’s reputation comes from being social online.

While a bad review or public complaint is something you should deal with ASAP, making yourself known (and available) may be the best way to shape your brand’s narrative.

7. Brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is a term that describes how consistently your audience engages with your brand—be it via repeat purchases or ongoing engagement with your online channels.

You win brand loyalty by focusing on satisfaction, customer relationships, and staying true to the values both you and your audience cares about.

Loyalty also has a major impact on the bottom line. It helps create brand evangelists and keeps existing customers coming back for repeat purchases.

8. Brand equity

Brand equity is the value that customers assign to a brand name, rather than the products or services it provides.

Equity develops over time, as a result of customer experiences with a brand. Positive brand equity allows you to charge more than your competitors, and—based on name alone—can increase your stock value and makes it easier for you to sell new products.

9. Brand innovation

Brand innovation is an essential piece of any brand’s marketing strategy. According to a Lab42 survey from a few years back, 84% of customers say that it’s either “somewhat” or “very important” that a company offers innovative products.

SurveyMonkey found that 90% of consumers believe the best way for companies to drive innovation is to listen to their customers.

You can drive innovation with feedback from surveys, interviews, and conversations with your customers, along with insights from social platforms or reviews. Consider gaps in the market or areas where your competitors fall short.

How to build a strategic brand management process

Now that we’ve gone over the fundamental aspects of brand management, let’s go over a basic framework for developing a brand management process.

1. Clearly define brand values and positioning

Developing a strong brand management strategy starts by understanding exactly “who” you are as a brand. While this may sound simple, defining your brand values and positioning is a process that requires some serious thought.

Your core values, goals, and market position will influence everything you do. That includes how you interact with your audience, who you hire, and how you’ll make decisions.

Here’s a quick look at what values and positioning mean in the context of brand management:

Values

Your brand values communicate what you believe in, and serve as the foundation for everything from your culture and communications to your aesthetic, behaviors, and decision-making.

Clear values help:

  • Improve decision-making: Brand values help organizations assess opportunities, threats, and potential partnerships by giving them a frame of reference.  By asking yourself, “Does this decision align with my values?” or, “How might my audience respond to this move?” you’ll have an easier time staying true to your principles, even as you scale.
  • Customers self-qualify: By stating what your brand is all about and who it’s for, you’ll make it easier for your target audience to connect with you. 
  • Attract and retain top talent: Your brand values also act as a recruiting tool for finding like-minded employees who feel invested in their work. Those shared values create a culture of belonging, which leads to greater productivity and lower turnover. What’s more, employees with a sense of pride in their work and a belief in your mission are likely to be your brand advocates on social media.
  • Shape your response to events: With a clear sense of what you stand for, your brand will be able to respond quickly to major world events (like a pandemic or natural disaster) and trending social topics.

Defining brand values isn’t a one-time task. It’s something you’ll need to revisit regularly to maintain the integrity of what your brand represents.

Don’t change your values based on what other people think they should be, and make sure that employees at every level are on the same page about these values. 

Positioning

Brand positioning is the specific space a brand occupies in the market and/or in the minds of consumers.

A brand positioning strategy is the key to shaping consumer perceptions, driving loyalty, and building trust and credibility.

Brand positioning starts with:

  • Understanding who your customers are and what they need
  • What your brand can do to meet those needs
  • How competitors are currently positioning their brand

From there, you’ll develop a positioning statement that: 

  • Doesn’t promise anything it can’t deliver
  • Resonates with customer pain points, needs, or desires
  • Explains what you do that your competitors don’t
  • Defines your visual identity, brand voice, and target audience

2. Set up a brand asset management system

Your brand assets are materials that employees, customers, or members of the public can see, including:

  • Marketing assets
  • Social media accounts
  • Visual elements (logos, graphics, photography, layouts, and color schemes)
  • Messaging
  • Website(s)

Brand management software keeps all communications, visuals, and messaging compliant with brand guidelines and regulatory requirements, and makes it easy for employees to find assets.

At a minimum, your asset management platform should perform the following functions:

  • Provide an accessible storage system
  • Define asset naming conventions
  • Allow for routine checks for brand inconsistencies within and across content
  • Provide guidance for how employees should access and use assets
  • Different levels of content access controls plus sharing and editing permissions for maintaining brand compliance

You should routinely audit your asset management system to make sure that all channels, visuals, and content remains consistent as your library grows. Over time, you may need to adapt your folder structure to fit changing workflows.

3. Establish and enforce a formal review process for all brand assets

Your digital brand management stack should allow you to review, approve, and collaborate on assets. If you’re using creative collaboration software to review assets, you can save a record of every version, comment, and decision.

Look for brand management software that allows users to set approval workflows for any creative asset and lets you control who can edit/access specific assets. Approval workflows help companies prevent mistakes, such as publishing outdated content or confidential information, and ensure that proper brand review happens in the right order for new projects.

To save time, companies might put together reusable templates for sales and customer success teams to share with clients and prospects. Templates can include customizable content blocks that allow for personalization, while keeping approved messaging and formatting intact.

Marketing teams can edit templates, sales sheets, and other resources, syncing changes across all user accounts. That means customer-facing teams always share the latest information, without having to dig through multiple content repositories.

4. Define your brand distribution channels

Where will you be promoting the brand? This will dictate how you measure performance, and where you focus your brand management efforts.

Typical distribution channels include a website, blog, social media channels, and search ads.

You might also rely on influencers, affiliates, and third-party retailers to sell your products, in which case, you’ll need to provide guidance that helps your partners stay on-brand.

Come up with a plan for maintaining consistency on different platforms. While you might approach LinkedIn differently than say, TikTok or Instagram, there should be a consistent brand voice for each channel.

Think about your brand as though it were a person. You might adjust your appearance and filter your language to fit different situations. However, you’re the same person, with the same values, whether you’re at a job interview, a cookout, or on a first date.

5. Develop a brand reputation management plan

From Yelp reviews to Twitter mentions, it’s never been easier for customers to share their thoughts with their friends, family, and thousands of strangers.

Social media channels allow unhappy customers to vent in front of a massive audience, which can seriously damage your brand. On the flipside, customers who share positive experiences may boost your brand’s reputation.

Develop an online brand management strategy that includes social listening and a system for capturing feedback. And develop a strategy for generating reviews across all relevant platforms.

Local businesses should focus on Google Business Profile, Yelp, and TrustPilot, while e-commerce brands might focus on generating star-reviews and write-ups to feature on their site. SaaS companies might benefit from creating a profile on G2 and Capterra, so they can respond to customer comments about their software.

6. Monitor brand sentiment and recognition

Monitor your brand performance across all channels to ensure your content aligns with your values and positioning.

Measure success across three main areas:

  • Internal review. Is everyone on the same page when it comes to values, positioning, and company culture? How do employees talk about your company’s brand on client calls, social media, or during in-office interactions?If there are conflicting messages, this may be a sign that you need to revisit your foundational values/positioning statement.
  • External perception. What do people say about your brand online? In surveys? How do they respond to content/messaging? Are there differences between the responses on different channels? What materials are most effective? Pay close attention to press mentions, review sites, and vendors/partners and how they talk about your brand.
  • Customer experience. Consider how your sales process, support staff, and online experience influence customer perception. Are you receiving complaints? Glowing reviews? Where might you improve processes or update messaging for better results?

While each of these elements looks at your brand from a different perspective, everything should consistently align with brand standards.

7. Incentivize and reward brand advocates

Brand advocates, whether they’re among your employee ranks or your champions on the outside, are incredibly valuable. As such, reward those who spread the word about your brand, using one (or more) of these strategies:

  • Loyalty programs. Reward frequent customers qne long-term clients with redeemable points, VIP privileges, or membership to an exclusive community (i.e. an insider Facebook group or access to premium content).
  • Referral discounts. Referral programs are particularly useful when you’ve got some loyal users and your brand is still growing. Consider offering a discount to users for every new customer they bring in.
  • Affiliate/influencer marketing. Establish paid partnerships with your fans who have followings.

For employees, you might tie brand advocacy to a cash prize or an office celebration to reward a job well done. Leaderboards and point systems can encourage participation by adding a competitive element into the mix.

You might also allow employees to build their personal brands on the job, sharing their own content alongside brand-related news. In B2B industries, this is a great way to build trust with audiences and position your brand as a thought leader in your industry.

8. Monitor the market and competitors

Competitive analysis is an ongoing part of your brand management strategy. New entrants can emerge at any time. Technologies evolve, as do consumer preferences.

While your brand identity and values should remain intact, be prepared to respond to new opportunities, competitors, and the changing needs of your audience.

Great brands do more than sell products. They offer experiences, build trust, and communicate their value.

Whether you’re a small shop or enterprise company, you need a brand management strategy to protect your reputation and boost your bottom line.

Ziflow supports brand management with streamlined approval workflows of brand assets, centralized brand asset management, and easy collaboration. Learn more about our brand management features here.

 

Katie Oberthaler