Brand Management Platforms.
Do they hero creativity or kill it?

By Andrew Baker, MyAdbox CEO

Key points:

• Every brand is unique, but the mechanics of brand are predictable and consistent.

• Editable template systems protect brands and free up creative teams.

• With more channels demanding more content,Brand Management Platforms have become key Martech solutions for busy marketers.

Read time: 6 mins.

Almost every time I demonstrate our Brand Management Platform, Marketers immediately see the potent virtues of the system. They instantly grasp the way the platform can build and protect their brand, while empowering their users and driving cost and time efficiencies.  

Very occasionally though, I encounter marketers who struggle to comprehend how using editable templates to execute their brand will set them free. Their fear of course is that it will limit the potential of the brand. An understandable point of view – we all think our brand is unique. That’s what we’re all striving for right? Market differentiation from competitors?  

Sure, your Brand position should absolutely be different from your competitors. In this regard, you are different. But the mechanics of your brand are not different and if your brand doesn’t have an overarching brand system and the means to execute it with precision, it will suffer in the long term. Without the rigor of order and consistency, It will become eroded to such an extent that it will look like every other brand out there. Exactly what you don’t want.

How can marketers and creative types breathe life into a brand if it’s all ‘systems’, guidelines, templates and ‘order’? Such things sound like creative limiters, right? Not true

There are countless examples of brand systems out there that are rigid enough to protect the virtues of the brand, yet provide plenty of room for creativity. Think Volkswagen, Nestlé, Aldi, Amex, Coca Cola, Omega… the list goes on and on and traverses every single industry. You can tell the iconic brands – the ones that cut through – because they’re the ones that have concrete systems that guard their strengths and allow them to flourish.

“Too many people hear the word template and instantly think ‘restriction’, “ says Tom Dabner, Creative Director at branding agency, SomeOne. “Frankly, this is often the result of templating brands that have very little to say, therefore not much they can expand on.”  Dabner highlights an important distinction the SomeOne team makes around brand compliance: “When we create brands, we aim for coherency over consistency. After all, nobody falls in love with somebody because they’re consistent. It’s predictable and boring. Being coherent is about a connected flow – multiple assets that fit together and build over time to create a deeper conversation.”

The language of Brand.

Many successful brands rely on Brand Frameworks - and for the larger ones, Global Experience Language (GEL) systems. Around ten years ago, the BBC was one of the first GEL frameworks to be published online and it remains as relevant today as it was back then. The GEL sets out guidelines for creatives to create a consistent user experience and visual identity. Such design systems are a ‘single source of truth’ for brands and the best ones facilitate creative thinking rather than constrict it. As Westpac puts it neatly – their GEL allows them to ‘speak the same language’ and create ‘consistent, coherent customer experiences faster and with less effort.’ 

GELS and Brand Frameworks house important elements like colour palettes, typography, iconography, image guidelines, tone of voice, UX parameters for online use and so on. They are the nuts and bolts of the brand which, when carefully and creatively applied, bring the brand to life.

GEL v. Brand Platforms. Same, same or different?

This logically leads us to Brand Management Platforms. It’s important to distinguish between these concepts. Your GEL is your brand fingerprint. Your Brand Management Platform is the system that empowers your network to rollout content such that whatever is created and wherever it is created protects and builds on that brand fingerprint.

Protecting the brand. Empowering the network.

Brand Management Platforms incorporate Digital Asset Management systems that centralize assets online with sophisticated features that allow users to store, manage, share and access photography, icons, logos, music, moving footage etc to create content. This way, everyone’s on the same page and all assets are controlled carefully and applied consistently. To create content using these assets, Brand Management platforms offer an equally sophisticated editable template system that allows users to customize content for their local audience by modifying the templates of their choice.

Your brand is a template.

For many marketers, the thought process is that their brand can’t be contained within a template system. Sure it can. Let’s not forget that your brand is actually a template, with carefully orchestrated parameters around all the elements that contribute to it – color, type, layout, logo application, imagery etc. Brand continuity is powerful and vital for the customer. They want you to be reliable – they are comfortable in your consistency in their constantly changing world.

Tom Dabner sees a direct connection between the brand principles within templating and creative outcomes.

“Where creativity is concerned, there is always a desire for more — more options, more assets, greater flexibility, more control. With all these assets at your fingertips, you need flexible systems (not strict rules) to help manage and deploy them with control. And thus we see templates as liberators.” Dabner places templates at the center of the branding process – “Well-conceived templates give Brands the ability to create more, in less time, and enable them to take control. Leaving space to continue to grow into their next evolution in their ongoing narrative.”

Right now, the need for strong branding has never been more important. Which is why having a Brand Management platform that rolls the content out reliably so that it is 100% brand compliant is essential– particularly given the explosion of media channels screaming for content. For marketers to have eyes everywhere to ensure consistency of application is impossible now, and is sure to get even harder.

Allowing the creative mind to explore.

But what about creativity? Surely it can’t happen inside a template? From a creative point of view, the challenge of crafting great work is about pushing up against the parameters that are imposed by the landscape faced – think competitor set, channel requirements and the brand fingerprint. Give creative professionals a blank page and many will freeze – while others will drift too far from the brand essence. Templates actually unlock creativity. The brand grid is set and shapes the path, allowing the creative execution to spring forth in the limitless combinations of headline, visuals and copy. Do you think Apple is dull because it’s on the same brand path? On the contrary – great creative executions are introduced by Apple all the time without breaking the grid. It’s so recognizable that if you took off their logo and blanked out their product, you’d 100% recognize that it’s Apple. And that’s the balance. Customer wants new, but they also want the same fingerprint delivered every time. This is the power of setting the foundations with a GEL/Framework and then executing the work with Brand Management platforms.

A complicated landscape requires simple solutions.

The proliferation of media channels requiring extensive content has highlighted the need for Brand Management solutions that can deliver results seamlessly and without fail. As Rich Curtis, CEO of Future Brand in A/NZ recently remarked, ‘Think of the myriad messages, channels and interactions and you realize it has become an impossible expectation to make the brand guidelines foolproof so that compliance is all that’s required.’ And he sums up the argument perfectly in his observation that “Ultimately, brand strategy doesn’t differentiate you, execution does. To avoid a disconnect, strike the right balance between compliance and creativity and your brand will indeed transform your business.”

Final word.

SomeOne’s Creative Director, Tom Dabner, believes well-conceived template systems give brands the ability to create more in less time and contribute to their ongoing narrative.

“The key to success is in creating brand identities and systems that come with enough flexibility,” Dabner says. “In the development of visual & verbal operating systems, less isn’t always more. Templates can manifest themselves in a variety of shapes, styles, uses and functions dependent on requirement. As a result, they become enablers of creativity, as opposed to barriers of restriction.”

If you want to jump the queue and get an early look at the exciting new Platform, get in touch to arrange a demonstration.

Australia - Andrew Baker or 0402 505 988

US andCanada - Elijah Callander  

Europe - Benoit Pflimlin or +49 152 5847 3562