How Brand Builders Can Prep For Content Creators

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One of the many things I do for my clientele is to construct a totality of vision. This is especially important with people who develop brands. When one begins to look at the process, pieces and taxonomy that go into constructing a brand, they often forget about smaller and more ancillary pieces. This is not necessarily the fault of the brand builder, as they may have existing knowledge about what previously worked in certain circumstances. In the new world marketing agenda, however, one must think far past the periphery of the basic needs in a brand.

So how can brand builders better develop their list of deliverables in such a way that they can prep for content creators, inbound marketers and other streams of supporting messaging?

It all begins with a client and stakeholder discovery session. This is the backbone to assessing the client’s goals and objectives. Regardless of your place in the marketing process, you will want these in your back pocket as reference points when determining the need for a particular deliverable.

Let’s take a look at the somewhat exhaustive list I recently created for a client to outline possible touch points for their brand. I will outline the specifics of each deliverable, and explain how you can use them as a basis for future content.

Brand Standards & Guideline Manual

If you’re trying to develop a major brand right out of the gate, you should develop a brand standards manual in parallel. The better manuals that I have created and reviewed include a deep and rich understanding of how content should be created and deployed across all touch points. These items can include the following:

  • Demo / Persona (if applicable)
  • Positioning
  • Strategies
  • Styles
  • Brand map/DNA
  • Logo
  • Photography
  • Vidoegraphy

Font usage:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Online

Color usage:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Accent Palette
  • Patterns/Textures
  • Voice/Tone
  • Standards

More often than not, better brand standards manuals include snapshots of photography and illustrations, as well as writing samples and voice directives.

Sub-brand logos:

Sub brands are sheltered by the parent brand, yet they have their own unique “ecosystem.” The better you understand the taxonomy and audience you’re trying to reach, the stronger the sub brand will become. Therefore, all of these elements could apply equally to a sub brand.

sub_eco

Taglines:

Taglines are absolutely fascinating to me. It’s as if someone introduced a beverage to you for the first time by saying, “This is milk. It’s cold, creamy, full of calcium and vitamins, and it tastes like – well … milk.”

Then right behind that first person, someone else came up to you and said, “Well sure, that IS milk. But we have something else over here. It’s CHOCOLATE milk. Same thing – but a lot different.”

So the content creator can’t simply interpret the primary brand with a revised tagline. The unique elements of the sub brand might require significantly different visual content, copy, and social messaging.

Marketing materials:

  • Business Cards
  • Stationary
  • Letterhead
  • Flyer/Rack Brochure

The bullet points above are an outdated marketing approach in some cases, they are still very much in use and helpful in others. The key to standardized marketing materials is consistency. Don’t confuse the audience. All the marketing assets representing your brand should feel like they are part of the collective whole.

Email:

It blows me away that some massive brands pay so much attention to branding, but overlook the importance of inconsistent email signatures and email formatting. It’s complete chaos out there, people! It’s as if a Marshall in the Wild West is keeping everybody on the straight and narrow inside town, but all hell is breaking loose on the other side of the ridge.

It’s not all that tough to establish and enforce an email policy. Please do it, because that stuff drives my OCD batshit cray-cray.

Blog(s):

  • Blog Template
  • PPT Presentation

I’ve had this discussion with many a content creator regarding blogs and PowerPoint templates. I actually find it somewhat amusing when a content creator says they think of the two content pillars as unique.

Think about your own behavior. After you sit through a company’s presentation and watch their PowerPoint, you probably follow up by looking at their blog to see what they have to say online. If there is a visual or contextual disconnect, it might lead to brand disassociation or fragmentation.

Website(s):

  • Web content
  • Digital iconography

You might think that a company or brand always creates website content that is consistent with the brand voice. Seems like a no-brainer.

But over time, the internal team, intern, executive secretary, sales manager, and the CEO’s nephew all end up writing content. Deleting pages, adding pages, making adjustments in your e-commerce, writing blogs, writing emails, link-building across all of these elements. It’s a complete mess.

It’s like having the “independent” neighbor who puts a bunch of unpermitted sheds and garages on his property over the years. They might keep the rain and snow off his ATV, but they don’t fit in with the aesthetic of your neighborhood.

With some documentation and templates, you can achieve consistency in brand and voice no matter who inherits your content development.

Content Marketing:

  • Photoshoots
  • Storytelling
  • Videography
  • Presentations
  • Pod/Vod— casting

Just as with the written word, a consistent visual presentation is essential to brand success. Often when I develop the primary brand for a client, I will list the potential photographers, writers and content teams I intend to use. This is not only for the purposes of establishing that I have the infrastructure, but allows them to maintain brand consistency as they develop content past the relationship with me.

Mobile App (if applicable):

By this point, I hope you’re starting to understand that all of the digital intellectual properties you build on top of your brand can in many cases disrupt its consistency if you don’t maintain primary brand standards. Mobile applications, external services, and vendor relationships should be considered “connective tissue” to the body the brand as a whole.

Video Interstitial (open/bumper):

It’s the little things that go into making your brand feel like a real company versus a hodgepodge. Do you have consistent opening sequences for videos? Are you using consistent music on the opening of your podcast? If you ignore these little things, they start to add up to a big problem. Over time they will degrade the quality of your brand. Kind of like how the quality of your “Golden Girls” recordings degraded when you used the same VHS tape over and over again (Google it, kids). Yes — I just dated myself. Thank you.

Social Media Design:

I do quite a few speaking engagements throughout the year, and many of them are specialized in the realm of social media. The way I described brand consistency for content creators is to think of yourself driving down the highway of your brand. As you look out the window and see your brand’s outdoor advertising, does the Twitter billboard look like the same company as the Facebook billboard, YouTube billboard, Pinterest billboard, etc?

The point is simply this: Different audiences get to your brand through different means. Just Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, you can’t assume that everybody lands on your brand through that channel. Someone may be introduced to your brand on LinkedIn, are you prepared for that, and do you look consistent with the remainder of your inbound marketing?

Employees:

  • Clothing/Uniform
  • Training/Manuals

I’m not going to get into this too deeply, as these are real-world executables. But it is incredibly important for you to understand the value of brand alignment with your enculturation. From a content creation standpoint, employees should be consistently represented in photography and voice. Apple and Ritz-Carlton are two exceptional examples of how to consistently deliver enculturation to a customer base.

Merchandise (if applicable):

  • Reports
  • Vehicles
  • Signage

See comments above pertaining to enculturation :)

Trade Shows:

  • Trade-show booth
  • Branded promotional items
  • Tchotchkes

For smaller brands, the introduction to a product or service often starts in a live environment such as a networking event or trade show. I am a hard-core proponent of “cool swag,” in that it may be the very first thing that speaks on behalf of your brand. But you must make it cool and memorable. Not just a logo pen that ends up in the client’s kitchen drawer, or a squishy ball that lands in her child’s playroom. You can do better than that. If you wouldn’t keep it around why would they?

Oh one last note, stop giving me T-shirts that have something remotely cool on the front and 10,000 pounds of your marketing bullshit on the back — this is now a dust cloth in my house.

Marketing Materials:

  • Boilerplate templates
  • Promotional items (pens, notepads, etc.)
  • Logo “Touch-points”:
  • Building Office elements
  • HR Materials
  • APM (Basecamp, etc.)
  • Time-tracking software, etc.
  • Word templates
  • Invoicing
  • PR Materials:
  • Media kits
  • Leadership biographies
  • PR boilerplate

Amazingly overlooked by the vast majority of companies I have done business with is the value of branding ancillary elements such as invoices, HR materials, and internal documentation. Who represents and extends your brand? Your employees do. Therefore if they are not immersed in the understanding and belief in that brand, how can they possibly extend it at the level you want?

  • Poster presentations
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Customer testimonials

Oh my goodness this sounds fun! Well it should if you are a content creator. I think by this point in the post I have beat into you that consistency is key. Do your best to maintain the value of your brand in the deliverables that you extend, and you are on your way to winning the battle..

Advertising:

  • TV and radio spots (if applicable)
  • Digital banner ads (if applicable)

Advertising media spend is at an interesting crossroads. In some cases you want them to adhere to brand, and in other cases they should live independently based on the nature of the offer. If you are positioning a “Christmas in July” campaign, this may not look like any deliverable you have to offer against your brand. That’s fine. Just ensure that the handoff is done in such a fashion that it is not jarring. My suggestion, more often than not, is to construct a series of landing pages that you can not only define to a specific persona type, but also test against. These inexpensive transitional elements are a good way to optimize your content without disrupting your primary brand.

Training & Support:

  • Videos and product demos (if applicable)
  • Customer-facing training materials
  • Call-center vernacular
  • Support service

It would be obnoxious for me to put this last line item in ALL CAPS, but it is that important. Have you ever interfaced with a company’s support system and noticed it is totally disconnected from the brand? This happens 75 percent of the time for me.

So you spent all of this budget on developing brand, consistent look, a consistent voice and it never trickled down to the most important moment where a customer is on the phone with your call center in a one-to-one environment. Shame on you.

Brand Consistency:

  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Copywriters
  • Bloggers
  • Video/Post Services

Remember that your primary goal in the end as a brand builder is to create the “essence” of the brand. This is a strategic manipulation of all of the pieces we’ve just outlined and more. Moreover, you also need to think about the extension of that brand and how that essence is to be conveyed from this point forward. It’s not enough anymore to deliver a brand in a box. Nothing lives in one location anymore, not geographically, not defined by a persona, and in some cases not even within the industry vertical.

So the more that you can develop an understanding of how you intend that brand to speak on behalf of itself in channels including social media, content marketing, email, and streaming content – the better off the brand will be.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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