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Brand management: The complete guide for 2024

18 min read
Aaron Marquis

Top-notch creative teams know that “branding” is more than just creating a slick logo. Brand management pulls in imagery, language, experience, and perception that, when executed in sync, builds recognition, trust, and loyalty among customers.

Some of the world's most famous brands, such as Nike, Google, and Disney, may seem to manage their brands effortlessly. But behind the scenes, brand management is a constant all-hands-on-deck endeavor to build customer trust, boost brand recognition, and increase business value.

In this article, you’ll learn about the value of solid brand management strategy — including how it fosters greater customer loyalty and gives your brand a competitive edge. We’ll also walk you through a clear process for building a brand management strategy that creates a strong, resilient brand that connects with customers and drives long-term success.

This article will serve as an overview for our series of blogs covering everything you need to know about branding:

What we'll cover



Man organizing wooden blocks with Marketing, Advertising, Logo, Design, Brand, Strategy, Identity, Trus and Values words

What is brand management?

Brand management is all about creating (and maintaining) a strong, positive brand image that resonates with customers and sets a brand apart from its competitors. While branding is about building a brand and defining its unique qualities, brand management creates cohesive messaging across every touchpoint, influencing brand perception and ensuring brand consistency. It's the process of intentionally maintaining your brand — both internally and for public consumption.

Brand management is more than the sum of its parts: Strategic planning, building guidelines, governance, maintaining compliance, monitoring performance, using tools and software, and innovating are all important parts of brand management. 

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.

What do brand managers do?

Brand managers are responsible for brand strategy, maintaining a brand’s performance, image, and market positioning. Their primary goal is to ensure the brand stays relevant, profitable, competitive, and connected to their customer. A brand manager’s common responsibilities include:

  • Developing brand strategy and core values
  • Conducting market research
  • Writing brand briefs
  • Setting out brand guidelines
  • Enforcing brand governance and brand compliance
  • Developing campaigns
  • Collaborating with creative and cross-functional teams
  • Monitoring brand performance
  • Feeding data back into brand strategy
  • Adapting strategies for business growth

Because the role is so varied, brand managers get to interact with a lot of other roles. On a typical day, a brand manager might start their day by checking in on performance metrics from various campaigns. From there, they may move on to meet with teams across the organization to discuss upcoming projects and initiatives. 

Throughout the day, the brand manager will spend time checking in with creatives to develop marketing materials, revising guidelines for freelance contractors to ensure consistency, and visiting the product design team to talk about branding for new releases. They’ll also conduct market research along the way, analyzing trends, consumer feedback, and competitor activity to incorporate into future campaigns.

How does brand management fit within marketing?

Brand management is an essential function under the marketing umbrella. Marketing is the broader discipline that focuses on a wide range of activities to promote products and services. Brand management deals specifically with building and maintaining a brand’s image and reputation.

Marketing encompasses a broader set of activities aimed at promoting products or services to a target audience — and generating revenue as a result. It involves analyzing consumer behavior, identifying market opportunities, and developing strategies to meet customer needs. It also encompasses market research, segmentation, pricing, and distribution.

Brand management tightly focuses on nurturing and controlling all aspects of a brand, including its identity, values, and reputation. It involves strategic activities such as brand positioning, brand messaging, and graphic design, aimed at creating a strong and consistent brand image.

The fundamentals of brand management

Brand manager staying in front of a wall full of icons, processes and pictures relating to brand management

Before developing a brand management strategy, it’s important to understand the basic elements of successful brand management:

1. Brand strategy

Brand strategy is your company’s long-term plan for establishing and differentiating its brand in the marketplace. It outlines your overall brand identity, unique value proposition, target audience, and messaging — which guides all future marketing activities. It's the original source document for brand marketing, ensuring consistency across all touchpoints and cohesion with your company’s business objectives.

2. Brand brief

The brand brief outlines the brand’s objectives, goals, values, and vision to ensure consistency across touchpoints. It provides guidance and context for developing on-brand assets and messaging. While brand briefs are go-to reference documents for creative teams and third-party agencies, they’re also helpful for company leadership to help them support the company’s branding efforts. 

Effective brand briefs include:

  • Vision statement
  • Mission statement
  • Brand promise
  • Brand values
  • Target audience
  • Brand positioning
  • Key competitors
  • Competitive advantage
  • Brand voice
  • Brand culture

3. Brand guidelines

Brand guidelines are sometimes called the style guide. Your brand guidelines are the handbook for anyone representing your brand. They set out what tone of voice, visual elements, and messaging to use — as well as what not to do.

Brand style guides are essential for successful brand management. Brand managers can't be everywhere at once, but they can make sure that everyone on the team sticks to the standards laid out in the guidelines.

4. Brand governance

Brand governance is about setting the strategic direction and framework for managing a brand, and ensuring that the brand's identity, messaging, and visual assets are consistent and aligned with the company’s overall objectives. 

It ensures that everyone within your organization understands your brand, and their work supports its objectives. Part of this includes closely monitoring brand performance to make sure it aligns with overall business goals.

A classic example here is the language-learning app Duolingo. Duolingo's core brand identity is friendly, open, and accessible to all. But on social media, that identity manifests as a surreal (and often adult) series of jokes. It might look chaotic — but it's actually the result of carefully orchestrated brand governance.

5. Brand compliance

Brand compliance focuses on making sure that all brand standards and guidelines are followed consistently across all marketing materials, platforms, and customer touchpoints. It involves ensuring that all your company’s communications and interactions reflect your brand values and positioning, which often involves training for employees to help everyone understand how to implement brand guidelines in their positions. 

Fast food giant Chick-fil-A is notorious for their consistency as a brand and a company, right down to their rigorous training for employees to maintain brand values in every store. 

Aside from their consistent commitment to quality, they’re perhaps most well-known for their employees chirping, “My pleasure!” to end every interaction. The company’s consistent training, high standards for food and employees, and customer experience across all locations are excellent examples of strong brand compliance — and how it translates into an average of over $9 million in annual revenue per store.

6. Brand monitoring and analysis

Like every other aspect of your marketing strategy, brand performance should be measured. There’s a popular quote in the business world that you’ve probably heard: “What can be measured, can be improved” — and that’s a fact. But without data, you'll never know when things are going wrong. 

The most important metrics for brand performance monitoring are awareness, recognition, reputation, loyalty, and equity. 

Brand recognition refers to how well customers recognize your brand based on visual or auditory cues, like seeing your logo or hearing your jingle. It’s the immediate association people have with your brand based on its distinct identifiers.

Brand awareness refers to how familiar consumers are with your brand, and if they’re familiar with it when presented with its name, logo, or other branding elements. Awareness focuses more on your brand’s level of visibility among its target audience, and can range from low to high.

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 all have an impact on brand reputation.

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 customers through recognition, awareness, and reputation — but you keep them through brand loyalty.

Last of all, brand equity is the value that customers assign to your brand and its strength within the marketplace. Brand equity represents the perception consumers have of your brand, which directly influences their preferences, purchase decisions, and loyalty. 

Like brand loyalty, brand equity is built over time as a result of consistent, positive customer experiences and effective brand management. Because of its potential to enhance a company’s competitive advantage and its ability to command premium pricing, brand equity is a valuable asset for organizations to maintain.

7. Brand management tools

Brand management may be complex, but there are plenty of tools and software on the market to streamline it and give your team valuable insights that make management more effective.

Common brand management tools include:

  • Social media listening to keep up with what consumers are saying about your brand online
  • Sentiment analysis for reviews and social media to get a feel for how your customers feel about your brand (positive, negative, or neutral)
  • Creative asset management software to ensure that only authorized parties have access to your creative assets, protecting your brand identity
  • Brand compliance software to ensure content adheres to all brand standards before it goes live to the public

8. Brand innovation

Brand innovation is the process of developing unique and creative ideas and strategies that increase a brand’s relevance and competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Innovation is born out of the need to meet evolving customer needs and preferences while differentiating a brand from its competitors — driving business growth along the way. 

Brands that innovate grow seven times faster than brands that stagnate. Consider Netflix’s origins compared to where the streaming service is now. In 1998, Netflix started a DVD rental service where customers could order physical DVDs by mail. 

As media consumption evolved from DVDs to streaming, Netflix responded quickly. They launched streaming services in 2007 to meet customers' growing preference for instant gratification. Rather than waiting for physical DVDs to arrive by snail mail, Netflix customers could pay a flat monthly subscription fee and get instant access to hundreds of movies and series.

The company continued to innovate to stay on the cutting edge of the streaming market, being the first to offer original content. This move was genius for several reasons: it helped attract a more diverse international audience and promoted a sense of exclusivity among 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.

What happens if a brand is not actively managed?

Woman holding her head and being

No matter how big a brand is, it needs a brand management process to stay profitable and competitive. Here’s why:

Customers’ perception forms regardless

Even if you never consciously do a single thing to manage your brand, your customers are still forming perceptions about you. These perceptions can be positive or negative, but when you’re actively managing your brand, you can have some influence and control over which way the pendulum swings.

Every interaction a customer has with your brand is an experience. When you manage your brand, you can foster consistent, delightful customer service with a warm and helpful brand image. Part of this includes employee training throughout your organization — not just customer-facing roles.

If you don’t actively manage your brand, customer perception can skew negatively because consistent, positive customer experiences aren’t being prioritized. Inconsistent experiences can alienate customers. Without active management, there's a risk of inconsistency, which can lead to confusion or mixed (or negative) perceptions among customers.

Remember, customer perceptions are shaped by personal experiences, opinions, and biases — which may not always align with the brand's intended image. Brand management keeps you ahead of the game, allowing you to influence customer perceptions through marketing campaigns or customer service initiatives.

The struggle to stand out from competitors

The market is competitive, and standing out — for the right reasons — can be the difference between a brand’s success or failure. Even if your brand isn’t being actively managed, it’s still competing with others in your industry. Active brand management gives you an element of influence and control. Brand managers can strategically position their brands with differentiating factors, showing their target audience how they stand out from the competition — and why they offer greater value.

Even if your product is incredible, award-winning, or gets rave reviews, without active brand management, you’re letting go of that influence and control, which gives the competition more influence and control.

Poor reputation management

"Your brand is what customers say about you when you're not in the room." 

~ Jeff Bezos

Reputation, like nature, loves a vacuum. If you don't fill the space with the right image of your brand, then other opinions will take over. Brand management shields your brand from negative associations, mistakes, and misinterpretations.

Online reviews, social media conversations, and customer feedback all contribute to your brand's reputation — whether you’re actively managing it or not. Negative experiences or controversies can quickly damage a brand's image if left unaddressed, highlighting the importance of reputation management. Let the highly public downfall of Twitter (or X, as it’s called now) be a lesson to brand managers everywhere.

Inability to evolve with the times

Your brand will change over time. It’s a natural evolution: times change, customer preferences shift, and the market can be unpredictable. While some of this happens organically, evolution is another aspect of brand management that should be proactively managed.


Customers and the marketplace are your brand’s lifelines. If you don’t ebb and flow with them, you may struggle to keep up with the competition. Being proactive allows you to let natural evolution guide the direction of your brand as it evolves — again, allowing you to maintain some control. As your brand evolves, this control allows you to make sure the changes align with your brand's values and strategic objectives.

Benefits of an effective brand management process

Arrows sticked in goal dart in the middle

Brand management isn't just about avoiding bad results — it actively improves your profits and your reputation. Here’s how.

Increased brand equity, leading to higher customer loyalty and market share

Brand equity develops over time, as a result of customer experiences with a brand. Positive associations with your brand allow you to charge premium prices, increase your stock value, and make it easier for you to sell new products.

You'll also benefit from more customer loyalty, as consumers don't want to switch to generic products which they view as less valuable.

Enhanced competitive advantage through differentiation

Most businesses don't have a unique invention, benefit, or service to sell. Many markets are crowded. Instead, a unique brand identity gives you a competitive edge over similar rivals.

Take car insurance. It's a crowded market without much competition on prices. But some insurers stand out by bucking the trend style-wise—like Sheila's Wheels. Their brand identity is hot pink, playful, and friendly, which aren't traits that most people associate with insurance. It makes them memorable.

Improved customer engagement and advocacy

A clearly defined brand gives customers something to talk about. That's especially valuable, given the power of word-of-mouth marketing. When you have a strong identity and reputation online, customers will feel even more confident advocating for you.

That's especially true for brands that focus on purpose and values. When customers feel that their values align with yours, they're even happier to recommend you to others.

Consistent brand experience, fostering trust and recognition

In the digital age, there are literally hundreds of ways for customers to discover and interact with your brand. Consistent branding across channels and platforms means that they will always recognize your brand, wherever they find you.

One great example of this is card companies like Visa and Mastercard. Their logos appear everywhere from tills to online stores, apps, emails, websites, and ATMs. Each logo is a marker of trust and reliability for card users.

Efficient resource allocation and cost-effectiveness 

Spending time on establishing a brand management process is an investment. It might feel like laborious, behind-the-scenes work, but it does pay off. With brand guidelines in place, there's less risk of misdirected campaigns or content that gets overlooked.

When marketing campaigns fail, it's often because they failed to understand brand identity or values—and they're very expensive mistakes.

Adaptability to market changes, ensuring continued relevance

Brand management is a process, not a one-time thing. In fact, when that process is running smoothly, it makes it easier for your brand to respond quickly to events. It's easier to create content, announce new products, and communicate with customers when you already have a brand framework in place. 

Take big tech brands like Apple. They have a tightly controlled brand style, with annual events to release new products. Customers know exactly how the brand likes to communicate, so Apple's product releases always get plenty of attention.

Protection of brand reputation, maintaining credibility and trustworthiness

When you're actively managing your brand, it's easier to spot problems before they happen. From negative brand associations to regulatory issues, you can identify reputational risks before they start having a measurable impact.

How to build a strategic brand management process

Creative brand management process visualized with icons and symbols

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. Start with a brand analysis and audit

A brand audit takes stock of where you are right now: your messaging, brand guidelines, target market, and competition. In combination with an analysis of your brand marketing performance, it sets the stage for updating your brand strategy.

2. Brand strategy development

Designing a brand strategy is more than just choosing a logo. The strategy has to align with your values, goals, and business plan. It should include expertise from a range of stakeholders, from the marketing team to sales, customer service, and product design. 

The final strategy should include a clear statement of your mission, vision, values, and positioning.


Your brand values are the foundation for everything from your culture and communications to your aesthetic, behaviors, and decision-making.

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.


Brand positioning is the specific space a brand occupies in the market and in consumers' minds. It's 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

3. Brand brief creation and refinement

Creating a brand brief is the first test of your brand strategy. A brand brief puts everything into practice, from tone of voice to positioning.

As you develop the brief and then start using it, you'll be able to keep refining the brand brief, using feedback from your team and customers. You'll also set the foundations for a strong brand identity, where everyone in the business knows what you stand for. 

4. Brand guidelines and communication planning 

As you zoom in from strategy to the brand brief, the next step is brand guidelines: the specific details of how to enact your brand in different content formats. 

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.

Brand guidelines will help you maintain consistency on all those different platforms.

Your guidelines should include:

  • A list of approved communication channels
  • Visual and tone of voice style guidelines for each channel
  • Do's and don'ts for using your brand name and logo
  • Tactics for responding to customer engagement and reviews

Brand guidelines are also important in communication planning. Before you can communicate effectively, you need to know who your audience is, where to reach them, and what you want to tell them.

Writing a communication plan with templates or checklists for different audiences can help keep your messaging on-brand. 

5. Establishing brand governance and compliance 

Setting up a process for brand governance and compliance is mostly about making sure you have the tools to manage the brand effectively.

Your digital brand management stack should allow you to review, approve, and collaborate on assets. If you’re using creative collaboration or online proofing software like Ziflow 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. With Ziflow, it’s easy to create approval workflows that 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. 

You can use the same tools for brand compliance and brand governance. As well as checking creative assets for mistakes, you can spot elements that don't match your brand identity. Enforcing compliance at this stage means that customers will get a consistent experience, building even more value for your brand.

6. Monitoring and measurement

You'll need a system to monitor your brand performance across all channels. Beyond monitoring brand compliance, you'll also be able to see what works for you — and what fails to resonate with your target audience.

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?
  • External perception: What do people say about your brand online? In surveys? How do they respond to your content? Are there differences between the responses on different channels? What materials are most effective?
  • Customer experience: Consider how your sales process, support staff, and online experience influence customer perception. Are you getting complaints or 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.

Be prepared to respond to new opportunities and the changing needs of your audience. You'll also need to monitor the competition to keep track of new messaging and rival products or services.

How do you measure the success of brand management strategies?

Statistics and measuring software for marketing campaigns on the laptop

There are several different metrics that you can use to track brand performance. But the three most important are brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand equity. 

Brand awareness measures your ability to reach new customers. People can only start buying from you when they know who you are.

Once you've got consumers' attention, brand loyalty measures how long they stay with you. Repeat purchases, online followers, and customer advocacy are all signs that you're successfully retaining customers long-term.

If your messaging is on target, and your offering lives up to the hype, then you'll gradually see brand equity develop. Your brand will acquire intrinsic value in customers’ minds — and that's the metric that legacy brands are built on.

Elevate your brand management strategies with Ziflow

A strong brand is the most valuable asset that a company has. But strong brands don't happen naturally. They have to be nurtured through careful brand management, covering everything from compliance to reputation management, innovation, and analysis. 

It's a tall order. However, there are tools that can help you manage your brand and brand assets effectively — even if you're working within a small marketing team. 

Ziflow is an online proofing platform built for amazing brands and agencies. You can streamline workflows, stretch your creative limits, and keep track of regulations and compliance, all in one place. 

Ziflow is the easiest way to manage brand compliance

Get the ultimate guide to marketing compliance from the ultimate compliance platform.

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