Question

Topic: Branding

Who Owns The Brand Style Guide

Posted by sharnel.mcleod on 250 Points
Friends/Colleagues,
I need input/insights from people with first-hand experience in this area as I'm trying to build a business case for development & ultimate ownership of the style guide.

We have a 'bare bones' corporate identity guide (rudimentary at best). The business is going through digital transformation & has hired a # of very talented individuals including designers & content developers with extensive first-hand experience in brand development/mgmt. Our org reports through to the CMO.

Corporate reached out to us as they want to do a "brand refresh" which translates into a new pptx template for their Investor Relations day and thought they might tap us for contributing to their style guide.

Background:
Corporate team is made up of 3 people (Comms VP, social media role & internal comms role). Current situation isn't great - minimal guidance, no reinforced standard work, no digital considerations, etc. The group is claiming ownership of all things 'brand' insisting on treatments/guidance we know are dated or in violation of various rules/best practices).

We envision a gated online style guide that includes all brand guidelines, editorial style guide, digital style guide, code snippets, etc. If corporate had the expertise, I'd certainly defer but that isn't the case.

My question is - who led the development of your style guide and who is responsible for maintaining it? I want to do what's right for the business.
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RESPONSES

  • Posted by mgoodman on Moderator
    I've been involved in a few situations like yours. What seemed to be most effective was having me (i.e., an outside consultant with branding/positioning expertise) working closely with a graphic design professional. In one case the design professional was in-house; in one case outside but local (to the client's office).

    In both cases, the inside team was responsible for maintenance and ongoing management. This seemed to work.

    Other experiences that seem relevant did not have as clear an outcome, or they were "fuzzy" in terms of going-in objectives. Of course, my personal experience is limited to situations in which the client company felt the need to bring in outside expertise.
  • Posted by mgoodman on Moderator
    When I referred to hiring an outside expert in my response above, it was not because that's how I earn a living. It's because most companies can't afford to have a brand style guide expert on staff. So if they need a brand style guide at all they have to seek outside expertise. That way the company doesn't have to add permanent headcount for a project that only requires staffing for a short time.
  • Posted by Mike Steffes on Member
    Sounds like corporate wants to hire your group solely to implement their (corporate) vision. If you balk too much they'll likely just drop you from the project. They're doing their version of what is best for the business. You probably won't be able to convince them...and you can not win in a power struggle against corporate. If they won't listen to your persuasion, you will just have to let things play out. Make your group's work shine and the issue may come back to you in a year or two (or you will find yourself at corporate to do it).
  • Posted by Gary Bloomer on Member
    In an ideal world, the process is driven by one person acting as a brand manager. This person needs both graphic design and marketing experience.

    It's worth noting here that corporate identity guides, brand style guides, and brand refreshes are not one and the same thing.

    The first piece covers use of logos, colors, typefaces, logo placement, and so on.

    The second piece outlines story, history, origin, tones of voice, narrative, ethos, avatars, expectations, outcomes, and experiences (real, aspired to or imagined).

    The third element is more to do with the design, styling, and refinement of logos, logotypes, wordmarks, and slogans.

    If "The group is claiming ownership of all things 'brand' insisting on treatments/guidance we know are dated or in violation of various rules/best practices)." is what's happening it shows a lack of understanding of the process and how integrated and collegial things need to be if buy-in is to be created. Rising tides and all that.

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