The Ultimate Guide to Brand Governance for Small Businesses

Mitha Shameer

January 12, 2023

As a small business, it's crucial to build a strong brand identity among your prospects. Learn how to nail branding right from the beginning through brand governance.

You have an awesome product and a great revenue model. After investing your blood, sweat, and tears, you are now ready to market. There’s just one problem. 

Nobody knows, trusts, or even cares about your brand. Odds are, somewhere along the lines, you have ignored a crucial part of your business — brand governance. 

Neglecting branding is a costly mistake — one that will create problems in the long run. 

As a small enterprise, it’s crucial to develop a strong brand identity right off the bat. 

Sadly, brand governance is usually an afterthought as most companies focus on other areas of product development. It is only after failed marketing efforts that many companies begin to skim the surface of branding. 

What exactly is brand governance?

Brand governance refers to all the actions a company takes to manage how its brand is presented and used in both internal and external domains. With brand governance, you can ensure all the creative and marketing collateral that goes out is consistent, and the messaging stays true to the brand. This is achieved through brand guidelines, approval workflows, and brand asset control.

Why brand governance matters

The marketing space is cutthroat for start-ups and small businesses. In order to survive and carve a niche of your own, playing fast and loose with branding is never a smart move.

Eventually, every business comes to the realization that their so-so designs and lackluster copies were just futile attempts at branding. 

So, why does this keep happening?

Sooner or later, every business must swallow the bitter pill that just having a good product won’t suffice. If you want an edge over other businesses, you must cultivate emotional ties with your consumers through consistent messaging, marketing, and interaction. Keep in mind, your brand is the most precious asset in your company, and when managed properly, the rewards and return on investment are tangible.

Imagine you are entering a competitive market with a great product. Your prospect is already spoiled for choices. 

So, why should they go for your product over everyone else’s?

Standing out in a crowded market takes more than just great marketing efforts and good content — your brand positioning should be loud and clear. 

Show your prospects why your product is a cut above the rest with a great positioning statement, and repeat it as much as you can through consistent content. 

A strong message and consistent content build trust and loyalty which eventually leads a prospective buyer to click on that free demo button on your website. 

Get your brand noticed even on a limited budget

When you are a nascent business, brand governance can help your business stand out, get your customer’s attention, and build trust without breaking the bank. Now, this brings us to our next question — how do you ensure brand governance if you can’t afford to hire a brand manager?

Fortunately, companies today are forgoing the iron-fist method of brand governance that calls for a brand manager to serve as the only custodian of the brand identity by establishing and enforcing brand guidelines across all divisions and teams via a lean approach.

According to this paradigm, not just the brand manager but the entire company is responsible for maintaining brand consistency. Since every employee and team is invested in the brand identity and actively works to retain it as they develop cutting-edge goods and campaigns, little to no top-down control is required. Done correctly, the brand benefits.

When you have a brand strategy, you are better able to provide consistent customer experience and excellent quality, which invokes trust and reliability in your potential customers. This, in turn, boosts brand loyalty, awareness, and performance.

The 5-step guide to achieve brand governance 

When we talk about the lean approach to brand governance, it essentially means empowering teams across your company with the information, tools, and digital solutions they need to ensure brand consistency and get the desired brand identity. 

Here is a 5-step guide you can follow in your company to ensure everyone stays on the same page and makes brand governance a breeze to achieve.

#1. Create a brand book

The first step to building a strong brand identity is creating brand guidelines or a brand book. Brand guidelines serve as an instruction manual on what your brand should look and feel like. Here are a couple of things you should include in your brand guidelines:

Once your brand book is ready, you can send it out to every department so you don’t run the risk of veering off-brand. It also makes it much easier for your content, marketing, and designing team to access these documents anytime and always remains true to your brand. 

# 2. Keep the line of communication open

Your brand identity can encounter minor changes over time, especially if you’re still in the initial iterations of branding. These can be voice changes, stylistic choices, or anything in between. It’s important that nobody is kept out of the loop about these changes. One way to do this is through open communication.

Brand transitions are much smoother when everyone is updated on the new changes across all departments. You can send out a brand newsletter to keep everyone informed of such changes. A brand management platform that offers real-time collaboration such as Artwork Flow can also help things run smoother and avoid any hiccups that may result from ineffective communication.

# 3. Store brand assets in a cloud-based DAM

Hunting for week-old files can be exhausting when there are numerous workflows and projects involved. By putting all of your files, logos, videos, graphics, and marketing materials in the cloud, you avoid back-and-forth emails and drive efficiency across the company. This way, you shift priority to more important tasks and make collaboration easier. Your team also benefits when they are able to access the most updated information in real time and avoid any off-branding mistakes.

# 4. Prioritize employee training 

Consistency is king in brand governance. One way to ensure this is through training. This holds especially true for the design and marketing teams constantly churning out new creatives. 

Only when your employees have grasped your true brand identity will they be able to deliver work that aligns with your branding. Consequently, an essential component of a lean brand management strategy is training your team in the following areas:

#5. Think beyond the logo 

While a logo is a crucial part of branding you cannot overlook, nothing beats content consistency. There is more to branding than goes beyond observable assets, such as colors, logos, and typography.

When you are a small business drowning in a million tasks, there is a temptation to stamp your logo on every copy and call it a day. Sadly, that isn’t enough to grab the attention of your prospective buyers. 

Remember, your buyers are smart people. They won’t just go for any lousy content that you cobble together on the fly. So, take a moment and ask yourself:

Not having a brand guide leaves you with a limited design window, no resources to work with, and no direction. Often, it seems like too much of a cost drain to continuously produce new material and monitor its consistency. But isn’t it better to create an atmosphere that fosters loyalty and trust than losing customers because your environment is inconsistent?

Get your brand right with brand governance

When you get your branding right, marketing and sales become a breeze. Building a strong brand identity takes more than just great marketing efforts. Your brand should be clear about what you bring to the table, how you want your customers to perceive you, and how you intend to connect emotionally with them. Once you get the design and messaging on point, the marketing funnel is a walk in the park. 

Brand governance not only helps with brand awareness but can bring in more sales and engagement when done right. With the right strategy in place, your customers will tell you what your brand is about, not vice versa.

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