August 25, 2014

Improving brand management budgeting by understanding brand implementation costs

Most brand management executives invest time and money in brand strategy and brand development – the big picture and creative sides of branding. After all, it’s fun to brainstorm and review logo options and come up with clever tag lines. But in a large corporation with multiple business units, brand management executives may not have time to deal with the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes side of branding known as brand implementation.

With all of the moving pieces to brand implementation, brand management executives often feel like they’ve lost control of brand implementation because costs may fall under non-branding budgets, such as departmental budgets, regional operating budgets, fleet budgets or other initiatives. Brand implementation in large corporations usually lacks a central point person and budget center, leading to cost, speed and quality challenges due to poor communications conflicting priorities, and even internal politics.

Last year, we worked with a large corporation that had developed a new brand/business unit offering new services to millions of its current and potential customers all over the United States. The new business unit was given autonomy in its early stages, creating its own brand management plan and hiring its own branding agency. To avoid confusion, let’s call the new business unit “BrandNew” and the parent company “ParentCo.” (Is it any wonder I’m not on the creative side of branding?)

Flash forward a couple of years. ParentCo. decided to integrate BrandNew into its standard brand hierarchy and brand architecture. Let’s call the new brand “Brand New2.” Sounds like a straightforward rebranding, right? Simply replace BrandNew with BrandNew2 on signs, vehicles, uniforms, etc.

Wishful thinking. Since brand management of BrandNew was separate from ParentCo., key information was missing from the BrandNew2 rebranding plan. For example, no one had taken into account the timing of real estate leases and new vehicle purchases. As a result, signs were produced for expiring leases and a thousand new vehicles were ordered with the old branding. The added costs of producing unnecessary signs and replacing vehicle graphics killed ROI for the rebranding project.

Brand management executives can avoid wasting money, time and effort by having a centralized plan for brand architecture and brand compliance across the entire corporation. A single point person or department, along with a brand management budget that includes brand strategy, brand development and brand implementation, can go a long way toward improving ROI. And to keep the brand management point person from going crazy with day-to-day, behind-the-scenes branding tasks, let non-creative types like me handle the brand implementation.