If your business was a person, your brand would be its personality. It’d be how you introduce yourself to new friends (er, customers) and how you build a trusting relationship with them. Your brand is a living, breathing entity … and it’s your job to help it grow and improve.
This is what we call brand management.
Creating a brand is thrilling, but it’s not enough. As your business scales, grows, changes, and succeeds, your brand must follow suit. That’s why we created this guide — to cover the basics of brand management and equip you with the tools you need to manage and maintain a fantastic brand.
Shall we dive in?
Brand management is the process of managing your brand reputation and improving your audience’s perception of your brand in a way that builds brand awareness, equity, and loyalty.
Your brand is a living, breathing thing, which means it’s constantly changing. It’s also very susceptible to external factors like news, trends, and current events. In a world where journalists, influencers, and social media users (just to mention a few) influence virtually every narrative, brand management is how you can take control of your business’s story. It is using your branding and brand assets to communicate value and build loyal relationships with your followers, fans, and customers.
In short, your brand needs a manager to ensure its success. Don’t let your brand be like Kanye.
We’ve discussed in other blog posts how important word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is in retaining and attracting new customers. While you can’t always control what others say about your brand, strategic brand management is the process of responding to them in a way that elevates your brand and remains true to your core brand values — all while remaining consistent across teams and channels.
As an example, read how Zappo’s used brand management to make the most of a $1.6 million mistake.
For that reason, brand management extends far beyond marketing. Brand management should be intertwined with sales, human resources, and customer service — basically, any department that “touches” your followers, customers, and even potential employees.
The intangible components, however, include the principles that help you measure your brand management efforts and achieve those brand management success indicators that we discussed above.
You’ll also note that each of these principles can influence the others on this list. For example, heightened brand awareness can contribute to brand reputation, and increased brand loyalty can affect brand equity.
Brand awareness is how familiar the general public and your target audience is with your brand. Brand awareness is important because consumers can’t engage with or purchase products or services from your brand if they’re not aware of it.
Brand equity is how consumers value your brand based on their experiences, perceptions, and associations. (This concept goes hand-in-hand with brand valuation, which is the commercial value of your brand as perceived by the market.) Brand equity is important because a valuable brand can support higher prices and increase your merit among investors, shareholders, and potential buyers.
Brand loyalty refers to how consistently your customers and followers engage with and purchase from your brand. While your marketing can’t necessarily influence this, your customer service department can — focusing on satisfaction and relationship-building can bring customers back time and time again. Brand loyalty is important because it creates brand ambassadors who do your marketing for you.
Brand recognition is how well a consumer, ideally in your target audience, can recognize your brand — through your logo, tagline, packaging, etc. — without seeing your brand name. This concept goes hand-in-hand with brand recall, which is the ability to think of a brand without seeing or hearing any branding prompts. Brand recognition is important because, by recognizing and recalling your brand, consumers keep your brand top-of-mind and are more likely to choose your brand above the competition.
Brand reputation refers to how the general public and your target audience perceive the character, status, and quality of your brand. Your reputation can be influenced by internal factors (customer service, product quality, etc.) and external factors (customer reviews, WOM marketing, news mentions, etc.). Brand reputation is important because it can be some consumers’ first impression of your brand.
Your brand assets are the tangible components of the brand management process, the parts of your branding that your audience can see, experience, and remember. Brand assets include any piece of your branding or marketing that is seen by the “outside world” — customers, employees, or the general public.
Brand asset management is the process of crafting and maintaining these tangible elements as well as keeping them consistent throughout your branding. This could look like:
What constitutes a brand asset? Let’s cover the assets you’re likely working with for your business.
Your brand name is the primary identity of your company. As your other brand assets evolve, your brand name likely won’t ever change. If you haven’t trademarked your brand name, we encourage you to do so.
By owning the rights to your brand name, you have better leverage over unauthorized use and any competitors who attempt to copy or steal your brand. Check out HubSpot’s trademarks and Trademark Usage Guidelines as an example.
Your brand name will also likely be reflected in your website domain and social media pages. Keeping these names, identities, and handles consistent will help customers discover and follow your business.
Your logo and color palette embody the creative representation of your brand. These assets are important parts of your branding as they tap into emotional marketing tactics. If designed properly, they can help you attract and convert customers.
Your typography refers to your fonts and text-based assets and how they’re used in your branding. These guidelines inform any branding or marketing asset that’s designed on behalf of your business, including your website, paid advertising, social media posts, and more — all the way down to the spacing between the letters.
Your graphics include many different brand assets — basically anything specifically designed for your brand or marketing. These could be used on your digital marketing channels (which we’ll discuss next) or developed as standalone assets, such as external slide decks, letterheads, press releases, or even marketing videos.
Your brand graphics will likely be utilized by a wide variety of people (from designers to social media marketers to content writers), so they should be well-organized and have clear instructions on how to use them.
Your website, social media, and paid advertising are a few of the most important iterations of your brand. Millions of people access the internet daily, and your digital channels are likely the branding assets the most viewed by potential customers. For this reason, they must reflect your branding, and they must be consistent.
Also included in this section is your employees’ and executives’ social media accounts, as these are a reflection of your brand and a fantastic marketing opportunity to give your audience an inside look at your company and the opportunity to connect with your brand on a personal level. If your employees desire to use their profiles to market your business, ensure their accounts reflect your brand assets and follow your style guide.
Note: If members of your leadership team also manage a personal brand, chat among your team about how to align (or separate completely) this brand with your business brand. If their brand is connected in any way to your company, it should complement yours.
If your business sells a physical product, your packaging is a critical part of your branding. For some customers (if not most), your packaging might be their first impression of your brand. Also, one-third of customers say they make purchase decisions on the packaging itself.
Your packaging is also the most tangible, experiential way that customers interact with your brand. For that reason, your packaging should reflect your branding — in its design, colors, size, and feel.
Your style guide is a document that instructs employees, designers, and other businesses on how to use your branding. This is an important brand asset because it informs how all other brand assets should be utilized, designed, printed, and more — all the way down to what size your logo should be and what colors are and aren’t allowed in your marketing materials.
Not only does this help others create on-brand designs; but it also informs them of how to follow branding guidelines and legal/licensing restrictions. Take a look at HubSpot’s Brand Guidelines as an example.
Brand management can be a serious undertaking, especially when working with a large brand or perhaps a brand with multiple brand extensions. Also, if you’ve outsourced your branding to a creative agency or individual, it can be difficult to assume the task of managing it.
Check out these brand management companies and services that can help you maintain a successful brand.
Dirigo Design and Development is a Maine-based marketing agency. The company offers various marketing services, including branding, strategy, and reputation management. Notable Dirigo clients include Dunkin’ Donuts, Harvard University, and The Wall Street Journal.
Jax Media Design Group is a D.C.-based agency focused on digital design and development. The company creates digital marketing assets using your brand guidelines and helps you implement them in campaigns. Notable Jax Media clients include Geico, AARP, and National Geographic.
RP3 Agency is a Maryland-based marketing agency. The company offers services for brand strategy and positioning, message strategy, and audience insights. Notable RP3 clients include Coca-Cola, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and Giant Food.
Hangar 12 is a Chicago-based agency that specializes in consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. The company focuses on marketing strategy and brand positioning, as well as digital and social media marketing. Notable Hangar 12 clients include Purdue, Conagra, and Hostess.
Brandgarten is a Wisconsin-based agency focused on telling brand stories using customer insights. The company offers brand development and strategy services as well as brand training for your team. Notable Brandgarten clients include Johnson & Johnson, Alliant Energy, and Organic Valley.
DEKSIA is a Michigan-based marketing agency. The company has cross-industry experience in marketing and brand development and management. Notable DEKSIA clients include Visa, Uber, and Twitter.
Matchstic is a Georgia-based brand identity agency. The company offers services that help you define, promote, and evolve your brand. Notable Matchstic clients include Chick-fil-A, Prudential, and Spanx.
Spire is a Dallas-based branding and marketing agency. The company specializes in B2B brands and offers brand audit, articulation, and integration services. Notable Spire clients include American Airlines, Texas Capital Bank, and Airbus.
Proof Branding is a Nashville-based branding agency. The company offers services that distill, develop, and deploy brands. Notable Proof Branding clients include Vanderbilt University, Barista Parlor, and The Grand Ole Opry.
BLVR is a San Diego-based branding agency. The company works with customers on brand auditing, brand identity, brand development, and brand strategy. Notable BLVR clients include Andis, Tony Robbins, and World Vision.
BrandJuice is a Denver-based branding agency. The company focuses on strategy, innovation, and design services. Notable BrandJuice clients include Denver International Airport, DISH Network, and Red Canary.
modern8 is a Salt Lake City-based design studio. The company offers services for brand strategy, identity design, and asset management. Notable modern8 clients include Yesco, Architecture Week, and School Improvement Network.
Parliament is a Portland-based brand-focused design studio. The company creates brands, products, and experiences for their customers. Notable Parliament clients include Olympia Beer, Nike, and Capital One.
States of Matter is a Seattle-based branding and design agency. The company helps you audit, develop, and deliver their customers’ brand assets. Notable States of Matter clients include Modbar, Dolly, and Blue Nile.
S’more Brands is a Vancouver-based branding and marketing agency. The company offers a Brand Camp that helps businesses develop and manage their brands. Notable S’more Brands clients include Spring Lake Manor and Lemon Wing.
If you’d rather manage your brand in-house, there are plenty of tools available to help. These tools are either platform solutions or online software tools, and some provide free accounts or trials that allow you to test them out.
Brandfolder is a digital asset management platform that helps you collect, organize, and share your brand assets with your team. It allows your team to easily collaborate when creating brand assets, launching new products, or working on marketing campaigns.
BrandVerity is a brand monitoring tool that helps you monitor for noncompliance and trademark infringement. You can customize the BrandVerity crawler to search for your specific guidelines and trademarks and use the tool’s email templates for easy remedying.
BrandWorkz is a system purely dedicated to brand management. It features numerous tools that equip brand and marketing professionals to deliver consistent content through any channel, including digital asset management, workflow and annotation, and brand reporting and analytics.
Bynder is a digital marketing asset solution that provides access to your company’s branding depending on your role within your team. It keeps your branding consistent and helps you keep your team up-to-date with any new or upgraded branding assets.
Canva is an online graphic design tool that helps you create simple, gorgeous designs. It’s helpful for brand management because, with a paid subscription, it allows you to upload your brand assets — your logo, colors, typography, and more — with which you can create designs. Regardless of how many team members you have working within Canva, you can be confident that they’re using the correct brand assets and creating on-brand designs.
Lucidpress is a tool that offers multiple solutions — a design program, brand management platform, and marketing template library. Similar to Canva, you can upload your brand assets to Lucidpress and have your team create your brand and marketing materials within the software. From there, your team can re-use on-brand templates to ensure consistency in your branding.
TrustPilot is a review software that can help you build your brand reputation, create brand equity, and build brand loyalty. Collect reviews from real customers and share them with followers and potential customers to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Wedia is a marketing platform that allows you to manage your creative projects, create and store your digital assets, and distribute your marketing material across multiple channels. It acts as a central location for your team to access your brand assets and allows you to keep your team and creative projects aligned and consistent.
If you’re interested in learning more about managing your brand, there are dozens of fantastic courses available online. We’ve collected some of the leading courses below.
Brand management, as auxiliary as it seems, does affect your bottom line.
Strong brands aren’t built by marketing or product alone but by constantly iterating on your customers’ brand experience. It’s easy to overlook the impact of consistent, intelligent brand experiences — and brand management can help you provide this for your followers, customers, and brand advocates.