Over the past few years, we’ve seen a massive shift in the marketing industry towards a more agile marketing management structure. This approach has been praised by digital marketers because of its ability to shift and pivot quickly. As opposed to a traditional management structure, in which strategic decisions would take quarters to roll out, agile marketing is built to help teams make quick decisions and effectively react to the market.
Despite its popularity in digital circles, however, agile marketing has drawn criticism from more seasoned marketing professionals. Their concerns range from a lack of strategic decision-making to an increased emphasis on firefighting. No concern is more troubling, however than the concern that branding often gets lost in agile management structures. Too often, a more agile marketing environment is conducive to the brand getting lost in the tactics. So how can you design a brand that will work within an agile marketing structure?
Rethinking Top-Down Brand Strategy
Gone are the days of top-down brand control. If your organization is still counting on multiple layers of approval for branded imagery or messaging to be released, you are a managerial dinosaur. Today, brands need to react, respond, and make quick decisions. You are literally being judged on how effectively you do this—not just by your customers but by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more.
So how can your brand make the shift? If you don’t feel like you can trust your associate-level employees to uphold the brand on an ongoing basis, how can you essentially give them free rein on branded communications? This is a struggle that many experienced marketers have today. To combat this, you really need to rethink the way you built your brand, to begin with. Most brands that were built in the top-down era are not equipped for today’s changing landscape. Instead, the brands that thrive today are the brands that do the following extraordinarily well:
- Focus less on hard-and-fast rules and more on broadly applicable guidelines.
- Prioritize a living, breathing brand over a lifeless brand book.
- Give your team the tools to represent the brand effectively rather than assuming they can’t handle the responsibility.
These items sound intuitive, but they’re rarely observed. So how can you build and sustain a great brand in an organization that focuses on an agile marketing framework?
Being Brand-Savvy in an Agile Marketing World
In the old world of top-down branding, being brand-savvy meant that you knew exactly what paper stock would evoke the right response from your target market. Today, however, the most brand-savvy marketers are taking this control out of their hands and delegating it to their teams. This means that branding has now become less about great design and copywriting and more about building systems and processes that can keep your team on brand every single day, regardless of circumstances.
If you’re used to more centralized control of brand communications, you can still make this shift harmlessly. Your focus will need to be on building a highly-adaptable brand.
Building a Highly-Adaptable Brand Strategy
Your brand isn’t a logo or font selection. Your brand is a system. Your brand is a living, breathing organism. Your brand lives inside each and every member of your team, from your sales staff to your CEO. It’s no longer enough to have a clean, polished brand book. You must build a brand that can adapt and change with your industry.
If you want your brand strategy to succeed in an agile marketing structure, you need to have the following components built into your brand guidelines:
- Your Brand’s “Why” - Whether you have employees responding to comments online or representing your brand at a tradeshow, it’s not enough to explain what your brand is or how it sounds. You have to explain why it is that way. Pretend your employees are actors and you’re their director. What’s my motivation?
- The Thought Process Behind Your Look - You need to give similar visibility to your design team. Don’t stop at showing them how to use your mark. Explain WHY you chose to do things that way. This will equip them with the tools to make dynamic shifts to the brand’s look and feel in the future.
- Examples of Your Ideal Photo Treatments - It’s an Instagram world, and we’re just living in it. Whether your brand is extremely visual or not, you’re going to have plenty of photos entering the world. From your website to social media, your brand is going to be defined by its treatment of photography, so give some guidelines here. Even if it’s only recommended Instagram filters, that’s a big step in the right direction.
- Examples of Your Brand’s Voice - For most writers, it is much easier to emulate a voice if they’ve actually heard it before. You can say that your brand’s voice is “thoughtful, but still playful,” but ten different people can interpret that in ten different ways. Instead, say, “Our brand is thoughtful, yet playful, like Neil DeGrasse Tyson.” This gives your team one common yardstick, helping your voice to remain consistent.
- The Types of Brands and People You Emulate - Much like above, it’s important to have consistent guideposts. By showing your team the types of brands and people that you want to resemble, you give them a study guide. This lets your team know that they should pay attention to the way this particular group responds to things online.
If you’re looking for a team that can help you build a truly agile brand, you should reach out to us. We’re always happy to chat.