One critical aspect of marketing that can go overlooked in the day to day hustle and bustle of managing a marketing campaign is brand management. This is because some may hold the mistaken impression that if you do everything correctly, your brand will take care of itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is that brand has to be managed, just as every other aspect of a marketing campaign. Neglecting to directly and actively manage the public’s perception of your brand can be a huge mistake, and one the prudent marketer will avoid at all costs. Fortunately, brand management can be augmented by the use of brand management software. In this article we are going to cover what this software does and how you should go about vetting a piece of software.
If you’ve read some of our past articles on public relations management, then this may seem like a familiar article. The two are related conceptually, but there are some significant differences. Read on to see what those differences are.
Critical Aspects of Brand Management
Whether you’re using software to manage your brand’s perception or not, there are some underlying concepts we need to cover first. After all, no software in the world can correct for fundamentally bad strategy. By investing some time up front educating you on what you need to do to effectively manage your brand, we will be setting you up for success down the line.
The first thing you need to set up are guidelines for your brand. Think of the best brands in the world. Coca Cola, for instance. What do they represent? Delicious fizzy drinks. Nike? Just Do It. If Nike had some shoes that were marketed with the phrase “Be Awesome”, would this dilute the value of their brand? Absolutely. When you are generating a strategy for your brand management campaign, keep in mind that consistency is going to be key to your strategy. At best, inconsistencies will make your brand forgettable in the mind of the average consumer. At worst, it can scuttle all your other efforts. So, step 1 is to bottom out on the guidelines for your brand. This includes phrasing, fonts, colors, logos, etc.
Next, you’re going to need an army of people to represent your brand. You need a group of people who can spread the message about what your brand is about. Who are the soldiers in this army? Simply put, everyone that your company employs. Every Nike employee serves as a brand ambassador. While the actions of one lone custodian aren’t going to determine the fate of the company, a culture that neglects brand ambassadorship is doomed to collapse. The key to forming your brand army is going to be a consistent and clear message to employees and contractors: you represent the business, and here are the guidelines for doing so.
Once your army is deployed to spread the word, you are going to want to engage in some reconnaissance. This means monitoring online content for mentions of your brand, and gauging the sentiment related to your coverage. Are you being viewed positively, or negatively? One small scale example of this is how local businesses respond to negative Yelp reviews. Addressing problems head on is going to always be better than letting them fester by ignoring them.
It is not enough to be reactive to outside content regarding your brand. Your business must assume a leadership role in managing the perception of your brand. Returning to the Yelp reviews of local business, the savvy local business will directly engage the customer to let people know that they are listening and care about feedback. This turns a potential negative into a positive. There is nothing more positive for the perception of your brand than prompt and quality service of your customers. Keep that in mind. No brand management software will ever take the place of great customer service. It may help in the process, but it won’t replace it entirely.
This brings us to software. Where to begin? Something as simple as Google Alerts can be used to notify the relevant personnel when the brand is mentioned. However, for the dedicated internet marketer a suite of software exists to automate and streamline many aspects of the business.
Core Features of Brand Management Software
Central to facilitating effective brand management by your organization is the ability to distributing the most up to date assets to everyone in the organization. You don’t want some member of your sales team using the last iteration of the logo, while the rest of the team is using the latest prototype. Remember what we said about brand consistency? The ability to make sure everyone is using the exact same assets goes a long way towards ensuring brand consistency. Be sure that your brand management software can help you do this.
In parallel, your marketing material is going to evolve as well. You want to be certain that the sales team is getting the latest and most up to date marketing material possible. If your company has evolved to sell more products or services in other vertical industries, your sales scripts should reflect these changes. The best brand management software will help to ensure that your sales team is always up to date and on point with the latest brand information.
As a preventative measure, the software should also retire old and out of date assets. This will help prevent personnel from using outdated materials in the first place. This is a feature you’re going to want in your brand management software, so make sure that it is included.
All of these first few features are a subset of what is called version control. This is a typical practice in software engineering, which is a field that long ago had to solve the problem of having a large team of people all working on the same set of documents. The verbiage means that you are controlling which versions of an asset (be it a logo, press release, piece of software or whatever) are being distributed to and edited by certain individuals.
Central to fostering the best possible public image of your brand is the protection of your assets. It is surprisingly common for individuals to take images from the web and repurpose them for their own uses. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your logo, as these are not typically repurposed, but other assets in use on your website can be fair game for those who are looking to cut corners in their own marketing efforts. Careful watermark placement in the images on your site can help to mitigate this, and allow you to confidently assert your right to have the material removed should it be repurposed by an unauthorized agent.
Similar to project management software, the best brand management software will help you to facilitate collaboration between members of your team. Connectivity is going to be critical for your brand management agency. This is generally enabled via what is called a brand portal. This is a branded webpage that allows team members to access brand assets. This functionality can be extended beyond core team members to anybody you wish to give access.
Integration with common content management systems (CMS) is also going to be a key feature. You don’t want the trouble of dumping assets into a file and then uploading into your CMS. It’s easiest to have integration so that everything is seamless. This helps to prevent mistakes and make sure that everything is up to date. No more will your employees question the file naming scheme on the logo and try to figure out which is the most recent.
In addition to all the management functionality will be some sort of analytical capability. You want to know how many times your assets are accessed, and from where, by whom, etc. This will let you know which marketing channels are performing best, and can help you track down the source of a problem should any arise. At the minimum you want to know page views, embedded views, and downloads for each asset.
Taking a step back, one critical feature is going to be mobile access. It’s so common for the modern employee to be on the road, at home sick, or at the coffee shop on the weekend and need to perform some small tweak. If they can do this from their phone, tablet, or laptop then they are going to be happy campers. Make sure that the package you are considering has mobile access for all users, and you want to know how many concurrent users can be logged in at any given time.
Related to mobile access is going to be the billing model. In the past, software was licensed to a desktop computer sitting in an office somewhere. Each desktop had a separate license, and you had to pay for each one. Modern software has switched to the software as a service (SaaS) where you pay for access to the software provider’s cloud services from any device in any location. This is going to usually go hand in hand with the mobile access. The upside is that you have a much smaller capital expenditure out of the gate, predictable monthly pricing, and less need for expensive infrastructure.
Brand management is a critical function for any organization. Protecting your brand is the most important function of your marketing department, and indeed your entire organization. This extends right down to each employee.
You don’t have to manage each function of brand management by hand. There is an array of high quality brand management software available to help with the day to day of your marketing team. This software will help with version control, distribution of up to date assets, archiving of expired assets, and tracking of asset distribution.
In addition, you want mobile functionality to ensure that your team can operate wherever and whenever. The growing trend in the workforce is mobility, and this isn’t going to slow down. It’s best to plan for it and make sure your brand management software has mobile capability. Hand in hand with this will come the SaaS pricing model, which will help you to easily plan monthly expenditures.