Brand Creep Tarnishing Your Brand?

Is brand creep tarnishing your brand? A quick audit may prove that you need to gain control of your visual identity. But how?

“A brand is a living entity—and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” – Michael Eisner

For most organizations, their brand is its most valuable asset. Without a great reputation, supported by a superior brand, your organization is certain to face a stronger headwind that can make everything just – harder – from marketing your products and services to attracting the best talent to even motivating your employees to do a great job.

Your brand’s visual identity is to your brand what a flag is to its country. It represents your brand and celebrates it. It evokes pride, honor, loyalty and a sense of history. Just as with most flags and its colors, your organization should feel the same way about your brand’s visual identity. It’s this identity that connects all things about your organization – what it does, what you say about yourself, the products you sell, and what your stakeholders say about you. Your visual identity isn’t your brand, but it sure is the glue that holds your brand together and what amplifies it in the memories of your audience. Think of the Nike swoop; Apple’s apple; and even the colors and mascot of every college or professional football team. You can not mistake when the Gators and the Bulldogs are about to battle, just as you cannot mistake an Apple nor a Nike ad, or product, from a mile away.

How well do your communications, campaigns and materials fly your visual identity flag that represents your brand? Are you missing the opportunity to let the brand make your communications as effective as they can be? Is everything you’re doing part of a symphony orchestra with all instruments of your brand working together? Or are all of the elements your brand and reputation just cacophonic noise?

Time to Test You
So let’s try this simple experiment. Remember the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others?” (I bet for many of you it will be at least stuck in your head for the rest of the day now  ) Gather and print a broad range of your communications materials. Product flyers, ads, social posts, pages from your website, your intranet, a PowerPoint template – you get the picture. Now lay all of these materials on a table in front of your team. Ask yourselves – do some of these not look like the others? Are they all flying the same flag? They absolutely should be. If the answered that question no – well – you have some work to do.

Creep, Creep, Creep
If you are like most, you may find yourself wondering what the heck happened. How did your visual identity get so out of control? Brand creep is the most likely culprit – and it is tarnishing your brand silently- but quickly if you do not address it. No matter how well developed your brand guidelines may be, nor how much you may stress the need to adhere to visual identity and colors, we are all individualists, human, and really rebels at heart. This is particularly true of the many different creative folks that you depend on to make your communications shine.

Individual interpretation of your brand – left on its own – can very quickly lead to beautiful, but off-brand creatives. Brand creep is not only possible, but in most organizations, the norm. It’s spring- lets use yellow this time. Oops I forgot our logo – but our company name was all over it so it is ok. Or worse, what starts as one slightly edgy project – just pushing the boundaries, perpetuates the issue as each new design becomes the starting point for the next new project. Brand creep has taken over.

This is brand creep in its simplest form – when everyone is trying to follow the guidelines but it happens anyway. And, it spreads like wild fire. It’s unfortunately why your table likely seems filled with creative examples that look like second cousins to your brand. I know this from working at the branding agency I founded and it’s the very reason I created Inkbench. Inkbench is a SaaS-based creative collaboration platform designed to help organizations protect their visual identities from the brand creep that I just described.

Regaining Control
Can you really regain control of something like this once it has happened? How is that possible without locking down your communications and marketing machine – or at least bringing it to its knees by introducing reviews and approval loops? The answer is yes- and you don’t have to bring everything to a halt.

The 3 things that need to occur include the following:

  1. Building an appreciation of the importance of a consistent brand.
  2. Providing access to a clear definition of the company’s brand standards.
  3. Provide guardrails to ensure that your teams can continue to produce eye-popping materials consistent with the brand standard.

Building an appreciation for a consistent brand and providing access to a clear brand standard are likely already done. For most organizations help is needed when it comes to enforcing compliance to those guidelines – providing guardrails to keep your teams on the right path as they create. That’s where Inkbench comes in.

How Inkbench Can Help
Enforcing your brand standards but also allowing flexibility to create is not a difficult as it may sound. Most of the people in your organization likely find the process of creating materials more difficult and costly than it needs to be. If you can provide an efficient, safe, and approved way to produce materials, your brand is protected, and everybody wins.

That’s the premise behind Inkbench. All of your visual brand assets – the logos, branding elements, core approved imagery, icons, colors, and fonts are in a single, curated brand library accessible to everyone in your organization. Controls helps guide users on what can be done and what can’t be done in an easy to use design canvas. And, even more importantly, Inkbench allows anyone – even non-designers – to safely use your materials to create and adapt previously created brand compliant materials.

The platform provides an environment where your designers can establish creative templates that can be used by the organization. And, when you decide to update your imagery, tweak a brand element, or retire a campaign, you have the control to make sure it is never used again.

The result is a beautiful, consistent visual beacon for your brand, team members that are empowered to create effective communications, and at a lower cost.

Bottom line: The next time you do that exercise – you won’t end up with ‘one of these things is not like the others’, but a solid brand image that can represent and amplify your brand the way you intend.

To find out more about how Inkbench can help you regain control of your brand and extinguish brand creep, contact us for a demo today.

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Steve Goodman
Author: Steve Goodman
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