Getting employee buy-in on your organisation’s brand guidelines

Brand guidelines in essence are go-to or reference manuals detailing an organisation’s brand identity and the necessary tools to consistently project this identity to its environment. The overall purpose of brand guidelines, as part of a holistic branding program is to ensure that the brand values, culture, structure and operations of an organisation are all aligned.

In terms of best practice, brand guidelines shouldn’t be modelled as strict dos & don’ts that stifle creativity and the implementation of the brand. Instead, best-practice brand guidelines encourage an organisation’s employees to embrace a shared understanding of the brand story and brand vision, instilling belief in the brand’s authenticity and offering relevant instructions on the application of the brand messages across various platforms even providing some opportunity for creative freedom.

At Zaman, in our work with clients requiring a brand strategy overhaul, when it comes to the brand guidelines preparation stage, as a rule of thumb, we have three identified elements that play a critical role in the build of the final guidelines. These are:

  1. Primary user – effective brand guidelines must offer relevancy for each potential user profile in the organisation (HR, accounts, marketing…)
  2. Primary use – in terms of content it must offer value by anticipating the possible needs and queries of its intended users.
  3. Accessibility for use – brand guidelines must be easily available to all and in the appropriate formats.

Companies that have undertaken a successful brand revamp can appreciate that perhaps the most effective way to implement new brand guidelines is to get a buy-in from employees across ranks.

Why?

Employees are the first line of communication between an organisation and its external stakeholders which mind you are not limited to customers but include industry partners, media, suppliers, investors as well as future employees. To this effect, brand guidelines must cater to any situation in which individuals associated with your organisation interact with others as representatives of your brand. Without internal buy-in or understanding of the revised brand even the best thought-out brand strategy is likely to fizzle into non-existence.

So how can you achieve this?

First: Instead of issuing a decree by way of an internal email memo (typical of companies with multiple geographic locations) adopt an engagement-driven approach. Consider scheduling  in a series of “soak & scope” workshops for all employees and use these platforms to clearly outline the objectives of the brand guidelines and create relevancy by demonstrating how each user profile in the organisation is to use them. Bearing in mind:

Primary user + Primary use + Accessibility for use

This type of approach not only creates a spirit of brand ownership throughout the organisation but it also ensures that your organisation is projecting a streamlined message within its environment.

Second: Consider setting up external & internal indicators or cues that can be monitored to gauge the overall adoption of the new brand strategy and the effectiveness of your new brand guidelines.  Typical external cues could be a marked positive change in customer perception resulting in a “higher ranking” versus previous position and that of your immediate competitors.  For internal cues below are a few suggestions that you might consider monitoring:

  1. Everyone in our organisation knows our brand values and can articulate them simply and clearly. (Yes/No)
  2. Everyone in our organisation understands their respective role in the delivery of our brand promise. (Yes/No)
  3. Across all ranks there is a clear understanding of what differentiates our brand from our competitors. (Yes/No)
  4. All departments from finance to frontline service delivery are aligned with our brand objectives. (Yes/No)
  5. Included in our performance management systems is an assessment of the contribution each individual makes to growing and enhancing the brand. (Yes/No)
  6. Our induction programme includes education on our brand and the role it plays in enhancing our organisation and market competitiveness. (Yes/No)
  7. Strengthening and protecting the organisation’s brand is a fundamental driver behind our organisation’s long-term goals. (Yes/No)

Does your organisation have set brand guidelines? What lessons can you share on how your organisation has or hasn’t been able to effect adoption of brand guidelines?