Brands often invest a significant portion of the company budget, time and effort on brand strategy initiatives and creative work. In order to deliver a strong brand image and build brand credibility, enforcing brand standards becomes critical. This is a framework of set standards for a range of visual and verbal components across various applications.
What Are Brand Standards?
Depending on the brand, the guidelines may focus on such components such as signature lock-up and use, color palette, photography style, extended graphic elements, typography, internal culture and brand environments. Enforcing how these various elements are carried out becomes part of delivering a consistent brand experience. This is what it means to conform to brand standards. Take a look at a past post centering on how to enforce brand standards and guidelines in the digital world.
Take the Wimbledon brand as an example. “The Tennis Championships, Wimbledon” is not merely an event, but the oldest tennis tournament in the world — a powerful brand within the sports category. To maintain brand heritage and exclusivity, their marketing team has a very strict set of brand standards in place. The first area where this is evident is the actual brand environment. Courtside sponsorship is not permitted and athlete clothing has to be all-white with brand logos to three square inches or less. Even official sponsors such as HSBC, IBM, Evian and Rolex are difficult to spot on the court.
However, a recent partnership with Ralph Lauren as official outfitter of the tournament seems to be several steps away from maintaining a consistent brand image. The uniforms proudly promote the sport of polo with an image of a man in a helmet, riding a horse — the popular Ralph Lauren Polo identity. Wait…is it polo or tennis? Introduction of the large image draws attention away from the Wimbledon brand and causes confusion. Even an established brand like Wimbledon is capable of such a slip.
HSBC, one of the official sponsors of Wimbledon, is an example of a B2B brand that scores incredibly high in delivering a consistent brand identity. This may be part of why Brand Finance Banking ranks HSBC as the world’s most valuable bank. HSBC has standardized its operations around the world under one brand name and brand logo which means that every branch displays signs with the same brand name and brand logo. Its tagline “The World’s Local Bank” is also used all around the world and as a result has created significant brand awareness with customers. Additionally, HSBC strives to provide consistent quality in its services to always improve its quality, effectiveness and efficiency.
A Chief Marketing Officer or Brand Manager may face many challenges on implementing and maintaining brand standards, especially if the brand is a global organization. It becomes important to openly communicate with the executive team and stress that lack of consistency will deplete the credibility of the brand, dilute the brand position and most importantly pose a threat to differentiation amongst competitors. Attention should be placed on the fact that consistent brand alignment will help a brand build the emotional connection that’s vital for continued brand loyalty.