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Afraid of the Brand Police?

Brand Governance Will Put Your Fears to Rest

Brand governance is one of those terms that evoke images of the brand police. It suggests a policy of strict rules, regulations, and standards that beat brands into submission. Plus the fear of dogmatic consistency that is devoid of any hint of creativity. But that is more fear than reality.

The true purpose of brand governance is to provide structure, policy, principles, and doctrine that will guide, advance, and protect brand integrity.

The operative word in that statement is “guide” – not dictate. The spirit of brand governance is to inspire creativity – not squash it. But to do so within reasonable strategic parameters that may evolve over time. Brand governance simply wants to ensure that any form of the brand experience is a reinforcement of the brand character, purpose, and values.

Not every company can afford the resources for a dedicated brand governance team or chief branding officer. But brand governance doesn’t need to be ignored. There are different models that can work for anyone regardless of size and complexity. A brand governance plan should include 5 things:

Five Elements of a Brand Governance Plan

1. Doctrine

Doctrine simply refers to the principles that codify brand strategy and branding applications. That is usually in the form of standards or guidelines. Guidelines can be as simple as a few pages. While a set of comprehensive brand standards might have several hundred pages. There also might be elements in the business or marketing plan that could be equally applicable. These are effectively the tools of brand management. It is the “What” of Brand Governance.

2. Structure

Brand Governance must have a structure that identifies and assigns the responsibilities and authority to manage the brand. This could be a single person or a team drawn from different disciplines across the organization. The structure is the “Who” of Brand Governance.

3. Process

Interpretation, guidance, and adjudication are an integral part of brand governance. It defines “How “brand doctrine is applied. The purpose of process is to ensure there is a protocol in which branding decisions can be made. It’s particularly important in organizations that must manage a portfolio of brands. Business, operational, and other considerations factor into How brands are added to or subtracted from the portfolio.

4. Performance

Every plan needs to lead to results. Brand Governance is no different. There needs to be definable metrics that measure performance. Brand performance is built around qualitative goals. Competitive advantage, brand awareness and recognition, brand perceptions, and internal culture are just some of the metrics that can be measured through a brand governance plan.

5. Education

A brand governance plan often overlooks brand education. And if there is any brand education it frequently falls within the purview of HR. It is not a one-time employee training deal, however. Brands have many dimensions that evolve over time. Employees need consistent reinforcement of what the brand is and stands for. They need to understand, believe in, and embrace the brand as part of their corporate culture. That’s the responsibility of brand governance.

Brand Governance is the mechanism and infrastructure for managing brands. Brand Management is the activity and execution of the Brand Governance plan. A good brand governance platform is the foundation for good brand management practices.

3 Brand Governance Models

Any company can tailor a Brand Governance plan to fit the specific needs of the organization. However, it needs to be practical and realistic to fit with the resources that can manage it, the size of the business, and the complexity of the product-service offer. Any size organization can have a brand governance model. Here are three examples

Shared Responsibility Model

Should a small business worry about brand governance? Are there not bigger fish to fry? Aren’t the real priorities cost efficiency, employee retention, leadership, marketing, and sales? Isn’t brand just an esoteric luxury that only the big brands have to be concerned with? Brands have been shown to have value far in excess of the tangible assets for the organization. So why wouldn’t you manage it just like any other asset? Being small isn’t an excuse not to. It’s just a matter of how you do it.

In the shared responsibility model, the responsibilities of brand management are delegated across one or more of the staff who already have other primary responsibilities. This model will only work however if the responsibilities and accountability are clearly defined

Brand Management Model

If you are the size of a company that you have a Chief Marketing Officer you are probably big enough to have a Chief Branding Officer. In fact, research has shown that the emergence of the Chief Branding Officer has and will continue to be a trend for companies that understand the value of brand governance. If you have a portfolio of brands, like P&G, you likely have brand managers for each sub-brand, division, or subsidiary. This kind of brand governance model can become quite complex. In one form or another, it might look something like this.

  • Chief Branding Officer would have C-suite authority and responsibility to oversee the health and well-being of all brands.
  • Brand manager would have line responsibility for a branded product line.
  • Brand management team would be an inter-disciplinary team that helps review and assess branding practices across the organization. They make recommendations on key decisions up to the Chief Branding Office.
  • Brand Design Director oversees the visual expression of the brand working closely with the marketing team.
  • Internal Brand Ambassadors are the conduit between brand governance and employees to ensure effective internal brand communication.

Of course, there are several permutations of this model, some simpler and some even more complex. It’s a matter of whatever is the right fit.

Brand Board Model

Large diversified organizations that have built a portfolio of subsidiary companies require a different kind of brand governance structure. This is particularly true with businesses that are active in the merger and acquisition arena. Brand architecture strategy comes into play as to what to do with brands in a multi-faceted corporate family. Decisions can have profound business implications. In this case, it is common to expand the more traditional brand management model to include a brand board.

A brand board is comprised of multi-disciplinary senior-level executives that should include corporate leadership. This might even include some representation from the board of directors. Their role is to adjudicate brand decisions that have long-term business strategy and financial implications. For example, this might include what to do with an acquired business brand. Or how to brand a spin-off enterprise. The brand board typically acts on recommendations from the Chief Branding Officer.

It’s Time For a Plan

It’s never too late to develop a Brand Governance plan. Regardless of your size or complexity a Brand Governance plan can be tailored to suit what you can practically do. And you can always start with something modest that you feel comfortable with and grow into a more comprehensive solution. At the very least a plan will help avoid some of the most common brand management mistakes. It will be worth the effort.

The goal of How Brand Works is to share our experience, perspectives and philosophy on the different facets of branding intended to enable an effective brand management strategy.

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to help advance businesses of all sizes.