Should a creative agency be a brand guardian?
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Jeff Bezos
Your brand is one of your company’s most valuable assets, but it needs to be built and used effectively to reap real rewards. That’s where a brand guardian comes in. Their role is to maintain your brand’s integrity across all company marketing initiatives and communications. From emails to social media updates, marketing campaigns to your office reception, they will ensure all aspects of your brand’s visual identity are consistent wherever they appear.
And why is that so important? Well, a consistent brand identity that reflects your company’s values will not only enhance your credibility but also help you build stronger relationships with both customers and employees. It’s why companies such as Apple, Nike and Ikea inspire such devotion from their fans – they get the importance of always being ‘on brand’.
But who should be your brand guardian? Surely such an important role shouldn’t be given to an external agency? Well, we’re not so sure…
Three reasons why you should make your creative agency your brand guardian:
To ensure brand consistency
Brand consistency isn’t just about making sure the right font or colour palette is used. It’s about ensuring brand integrity across all company materials and marketing initiatives.
And while these can be given to an internal marketing team, disparate teams working on different projects and issues accessing the latest brand assets (do you know how many versions of your logo are floating around?) can result in mistakes creeping in. The result – brand dilution. Yes, there are ways to overcome these challenges, but rather than creating long-winded processes and instructions outlining how to manage your brand, why not make your creative agency brand guardians?
After all, they will already know all the nuances of your brand, so are in an ideal position to confirm everything is on message, check there aren’t any deviations from your brand standards, and ensure there is only one version of your logo. And because they will have easy access to all your brand’s assets, if you do need an extension of your brand across different materials or mediums, they will be able to do it quickly and smoothly.
Brand managers come and go
No matter how great your brand manager or marketing team, there is always a risk they will move to pastures new, leaving your brand high and dry. Yes, you probably have brand guidelines and copious handover notes in place, but it’s still going to take time for a new team to bed in.
And what happens if your company merges with another? Will all your brand history be lost forever?
That’s when a creative agency makes for a perfect brand guardian. Offering a degree of permanence which can be missing from internal marketing teams, an agency can be a valuable source of information and continuity to ensure brand fidelity.
And even better, they can be valuable guardians of the past. If your company has recently merged, rather than starting your brand from scratch, just ask your agency for access to the archived materials, so that you’ve got something to work with.
Inject a different perspective
A successful brand shouldn’t always keep things exactly the same but needs to evolve to reflect changes in the marketplace and in response to customer feedback. It’s why brands such as Cadbury, which launched its first chocolate bar in 1897, are still so successful today.
An internal team can sometimes be a bit too close to the brand or simply too busy with their day-to-date work to notice that things need a bit of a shakeup. In contrast, an external creative agency is not only in a great position to see new possibilities but will also
bring with them invaluable insight from different companies and even different sectors on new ideas and winning concepts.
And two reasons why you shouldn’t:
Your brand is so much more than your logo
Your brand isn’t just about the creative output or whether your logo can appear on a coloured background or not. It encapsulates the whole ethos of your company. It’s about how everyone answers the phone, the type of coffee you give to visitors, the artwork up on the walls.
Your brand is the essence of your company, which means an external creative agency is never going to truly ‘get it’. Yes, they will know the hex refs for all your brand colours, and that your tone is ‘quirky professional’, but they aren’t living your brand day in and day out.
Giving someone internally overall responsibility for enforcing your brand standards makes sense as they will be able to witness first-hand whether the whole business is complying with your brand rules. Whether they’ll have time to do that is another matter entirely.
Things can get stale
Just as an internal team can get too close to the brand to be truly creative, so can an external agency. If things have been done a certain way for a long period of time, then it can be a challenge to start thinking outside the box and making it fresh again. And this problem is compounded if an agency isn’t really willing to understand all the different nuances of your brand.
It’s one of the reasons, we always make a concerted effort to creatively engage staff to understand the brand and its values. After all, they are living and breathing it every day, so it makes sense to involve them in the creative process.
So, what’s the answer?
While there is definitely a strong case for an agency to be the sole guardian of a brand, we would argue that there is a middle way – the client and agency working in partnership together.
As we’ve already said brand guardians should live and breathe the brand, so ideally that would be a marketer working at the company. However, realistically they might not have the time or resources to be on it 24/7. That’s where the agency comes in.
Working as an extension to your in-house team, we see ourselves as your brand champions.
We’ll not only ensure consistency across all your materials but will also deliver professional advice and ensure your brand is supported both inside and outside the company.
By working together and providing you with an extra valuable resource, it’s much more likely that everything you produce will tell the same story. And you never know by working together we might be able to achieve an Apple level of fan devotion!
If you are in the process of reviewing your brand, you might be interested in our brand workshops. They serve as a strategic platform to help you find that ‘point of clarity’ and crucially ensure that everyone is on board. Get in touch, if you would like to know more.