Brand management isn't what it used to be. It's gone through countless shifts, has been subject to the latest trends, and marketers and brand designers sprint to keep up with modern-day demands. But while the practicalities have changed, the fundamentals remain the same.
Yes, brand management looks different for each company, and will be drastically different for a startup than for a Fortune 500 company. The differences come down to priorities, in-house capacity, and of course, availability of resources. But if I had to name a single definition, it would sound something like this:
Brand management is either part of marketing or the sole department overseeing the consistency of brand integrity that, at its core, serves to increase the value of all corners of a company.
This definition covers more than just a product. It extends into customer relationships, communication with internal and external stakeholders, and of course, employer branding. And this remains the overarching goal of brand management through the ages.
For example – 8 years ago, every thought leader was preaching about performance marketing. Today, those same “influencers” have turned their megaphones back to brand, brand value, and brand management topics.
Growth managers were quick to jump onto the performance marketing train – it was easy to roll out a couple of PPC campaigns and simply watch the money roll in. Consistent brand creatives and tone of voice? Who cares! As long as you keep landing new customers and the monthly sales graph continues its hockeystick growth trajectory, we can sacrifice a bit of brand. Now, with the latest legislation in data protection in Europe, performance marketing's golden years are officially over. Now that we can't attribute our performance campaigns as easily, marketers are turning to brand teams for guidance in long-term campaigns. For some brands, it's an uphill battle, as they have sacrificed too much and there is simply no brand left to work with – they're essentially starting from ground zero. If you think back to an impulse buy you made from a social media ad, I'd bet that you'd be hard-pressed to remember the brand behind it. I certainly can't.
More established brands are facing different challenges in brand management. With short-form content dominating social media and essentially reprogramming how people are consuming content, it's becoming a challenge to stay consistent with the brand while simultaneously fine-tuning content to fit the modern-day format. In other words –essentially trying to stay true to the brand without adhering to all of the rules. And we can't forget about the latest developments in virtual reality and augmented reality. These two artificial realities are increasingly playing a bigger role in the consumer journey, and can't be ruled out from brands' integrated campaigns – either as a fun campaign in VR or a product showcase in AR, telling a well-thought-out story has become more complicated than ever.
While demands on brand management have grown to include many more interfaces than ye olde website, banner, and social media, the majority of brands are still relying on a simple internal PDF to guide their marketers and brand designers in the hope of maintaining an aligned brand story across all [increasingly diverse] channels. There is a core disconnect between the required dynamic creative assets and static PDF guides that can't hold more than simple text and a couple of images. You can't create the next big thing from a blueprint that doesn't tell you all the details. Having brand guidelines, a product toolkit, or communication framework in an online format that allows brands to actually add content and guides that reflect real-time, modern-day needs is crucial. Brand stakeholders cannot collaborate effectively if crucial parts of the tech stack and workflow are missing from core documents.
And then there's the AI and LLM revolution that allows marketers and brand designers to do more with less time. With the most recent OpenAI update, you can now gather information from your source of brand guidelines and let AI help make key decisions better and faster. But what if you could continuously sync AI with your brand's source of truth? AI would learn from every single page you added, from each new social media post that you publish, and gain insights from key product launches that were distributed across multiple markets. Brand management nowadays is not about having an identity system to support campaigns. It's about having a synchronized toolkit and putting yourself and your team in the best possible position to act fast, learn more, and do better with less manual work.
The only people who can lead this shift in brand management are the creatives themselves. Designers and brand builders who are actually deep into building the brand on a daily basis. But what good does it do if nobody can actually see the work? What good does it do if somebody uses outdated brand assets? How can you focus on building a brand when you spend your days answering what seems like a never-ending sea of asset request emails? The answer to all of these questions is that it's all about how your team can access documentation and how easy it is for them to understand it while implementing it in their own workflow.