How to Protect Brand Identity with Marketing Compliance

January 10, 2017

internal marketing compliance

As a marketer, when you think of marketing compliance, it is external compliance issues that probably immediately come to mind. Adhering to the standards set out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hugely important, and can save you from losing large chunks of money to costly fines, not to mention the trust and respect of your consumers. However, internal marketing compliance should be viewed by your marketing team as equally important.

 

It is internal compliance that allows you to set and maintain brand guidelines that will establish a reputation and recognition amongst your consumers – a reputation that can translate into the long-term success of your brand. Only by continuous oversight and strict adherence to internal policies can you ensure as a marketer that you, your team, and your company are presenting a consistent brand identity to clients, customers, peers, competitors, and the public at large. To say that it’s important would be an understatement.

Related Resource: The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Compliance eBook

Whether you see internal marketing compliance as a big pain in the neck or are yourself a stickler who’s always proclaiming that God is in the details, the need for consistency and continuity in branding isn’t going anywhere. The good news is that if you follow compliance standards accordingly, you’ll not only be protecting your consumers but your brand as well. Here are the steps you need to take to ensure your company – no matter how large or small – is presenting a uniform brand identity to the world.

Setting Brand Identity Guidelines

The primary role of internal compliance standards is to create a set of rules, guidelines, and regulations that are to be followed by all factions of your company to ensure the consistency of your brand and messaging. Whereas external compliance guidelines are established and monitored industry and regulatory agencies, these guidelines need to be drawn up and monitored internally. To create a clear and consistent brand, you should have defined expectations for nearly every aspect of brand messaging, including the following:

  • Brand logo, and when/how it will be used
  • Approved brand colors
  • Brand fonts
  • Acceptable designs
  • Text/Messaging

While initially it would seem that these guidelines take away from the creativity of your marketing team, there is still plenty of room to think outside the box and build your brand story in creative ways. However, these guidelines ensure that creativity takes place within the confines of your brand imaging so that you can establish brand recognition amongst consumers and maintain a consistent dialogue with those consumers.

The Value of Brand Consistency

If you wonder about the value of brand consistency,  look to those brands who have established themselves the best: Coca-Cola, Apple, McDonalds, Facebook, and Google. These are just some of the 25 companies included in Forbes list of the world’s most valuable brands. As a consumer yourself, you can probably bring up an image of each of these company’s logos, and have a pretty good idea of what their messaging is as well. This is what building brand consistency gets you.

Recognition is, of course, a huge benefit of brand consistency, but the advantages of internal compliance go beyond that. As recently discussed by marketing agency, Northstar Marketing, a consistent brand identity is essential for long-term growth and success. Other benefits include the following:

  • Managing Consumer Perceptions: When you set about to create your brand, and what standards will exist within that brand, you are essentially creating the image that you want your consumers to have of your product/company/service. In addition to helping to create and manage consumer perceptions of your brand’s ideals, the sheer act of being consistent in your messaging establishes your brand as one that is stable, professional, and trustworthy.
  • Establishing Brand Attitude: Your brand and messaging tell the world about your product or service, but it also helps them understand your attitude. Is your brand serious, focused, light-hearted, humorous, etc.? This impression is one that can contribute to creating a more personal connection with consumers.
  • Eliminating Brand Confusion: Numerous brands fail to establish consistency. When this happens, it can be a hindrance to the success of that brand. Rather than evoke confidence, an unclear or inconsistent brand message is likely to leave consumers feeling unsure where a brand stands, and if that brand can be trusted. When you establish and adhere to internal compliance guidelines, you are eliminating that brand confusion.
  • Protecting Investments: There is a lot of work and money that goes into building a brand. However, all those resources will be for naught if standards are not followed. An inconsistent brand is one that will fall apart, requiring further investment of time and resources to start the process all over again.
  • Building Towards Long-term Success: Brand consistency leads to brand reputation, which can result in long-term success. When Apple comes out with a new product, no one questions whether they should invest in it. Why? Because Apple has already created a positive reputation that has set them up for future successes (Unless you’re a PC person, in which case all of these same things hold true for Microsoft).

3 Steps for Implementing Brand Identity Guidelines

If a brand is inconsistent, it is likely due to a failure of the company to clearly establish internal compliance standards, educate its employees on those standards, and set procedures to ensure that those standards are implemented. For a successful and consistent brand, these internal compliance standards need to be explained and monitored in the same way that external marketing compliance regulations are. While there are no hefty monetary fees to be paid if these compliance standards fail to be met, the potential loss of consumer recognition and loyalty should be taken just as seriously.

Implementing these brand guidelines will take work, but the results will be well worth the effort. To make the implementation of brand identity guidelines more manageable, consider breaking the process down into the following steps:

1. Establish Brand Standards

Before brand identity guidelines can be implemented, they obviously need to be established. Feel free to involve your marketing team in this process, as it will give them a chance to put their creativity to use. Ask yourselves the message, emotions, and attitude that you want your brand to convey and then go about defining the logo, colors, fonts, etc., which will help to convey those qualities. Detail is the key here. Even the smallest inconsistency in branding (a change in color, size, or location of the logo) can confuse consumers and leave them questioning your brand.

2. Educate Employees on Brand Guidelines

Once your standards and guidelines are established, your employees will need to be educated. Everyone in your company should understand the message that your brand will convey. When it comes to the details of the brand standards, a guide is useful, preferably one with clear visuals. The University of Arizona has created a Residence Life Brand Standards Guide that is a great example of how to clearly articulate what is expected for the messaging of your brand and the use of its logo. Internal compliance guidelines is a topic that should be revisited on a regular basis, and one that should be included in the training of new employees.

3. Monitor Internal Compliance

Execution of brand guidelines is key to brand consistency, so there needs to be a system in place to monitor internal compliance. Whether that means having a dedicated compliance team or just establishing a review and approval process that takes internal compliance standards into account, the ultimate solution will be determined based on the size and needs of each company.

Make Internal Marketing Compliance a Priority

Yes, internal compliance guidelines are another area of work to focus on, but the advantages of brand consistency are well-proven. If you are truly looking to establish your brand and reputation among consumers to ensure the long-term success of your company, you need to put the steps in place that will ensure that brand standards are a priority for all of your marketing team members.

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