Managing multiple brands at scale presents unique challenges. Unless you coordinate your brand content appropriately, your overall brand strategy can be jeopardized. Does your CMS support your brand strategy?
Michael AndrewsPublished on Apr 21, 2022
Content is the currency of a brand. Your content reflects your brand and expresses its values.
Large global enterprises manage multiple brands, and their brand management can be complex, spanning different brands, teams, and channels.
Content management can either support or hinder success when managing multiple brands. Anyone who is responsible for brand management should understand the ways that a CMS influences the execution of brand strategy.
Brand content and assets require care. While all content expresses a brand, some forms of content play a special role in promoting the identity and personality of products and services. This content influences the perceived value of a product and the customer’s preference for it.
Brands are challenging to manage at scale. The branding agency Landor has noted: “The larger the company, the more likely that it’s developing a fragmented verbal identity.”
A brand strategy should clarify the relationships between products inside and outside the firm. It will:
- Differentiate its products and services from its competitors.
- Distinguish how its products and services are unique or related.
Brand managers are responsible for ensuring that the identity of each brand is clear to customers. They must:
- Be certain that the vast range of content handled by disparate teams is on-brand.
- Make sure that pertinent teams promote appropriately branded content.
Significant effort goes into the creative side of the brand, to make it stand out amid a sea of competing messages. But that effort can be wasted if the execution of the brand strategy is imperiled by poor content management support.
Boost brand strength through content reuse
Enterprises need confidence that the content that various teams deliver to customers supports their positioning. Making it easy to reuse brand content is one of the most important tactics to enhance brand positioning.
Content reuse supports brand consistency. It promotes customer exposure to key messages, which builds awareness, interest, and preference for the brand.
When content and asset reuse are weak, teams tend to develop their own content and assets that drift away from the intent of the brand. Providing reusable brand content reduces the incentive to develop “rogue” content that is not brand compliant.
Reusing brand content may sound obvious, but it is often difficult to implement in practice across large organizations. Reuse depends on having a repeatable process, which requires planning. Assess your needs:
- What content and assets should be shared and reused by different business units?
- What core content and assets should teams be able to access on which to base content they need to develop themselves?
- For what content should access be controlled in some way?
Content reuse planning can spark a broader discussion about how to best organize brand content across the enterprise. Brand managers should consider the operational support needed to execute their brand strategy. They should evaluate what operational capabilities are needed to:
- Align the content with the brand strategy
- Improve brand governance
- Organize to be able to respond to change
When these requirements are understood, they will help your organization implement the right content management structure that complements your brand management, instead of fighting with it.
Align your content around your brand strategy
Many large enterprises face a common problem: their content is not organized the way that their brand is. Their content may be:
- Awkwardly organized
- Scattered in different places
- Controlled by a single department or a function that becomes an unintentional gatekeeper
These problems create barriers to the use of brand content and interfere with the oversight of various brands.
Branding should lead how work gets organized. Brand management transcends specific departments and functions. Brand management needs to mediate:
- The company structure, including business units and subsidiaries
- The functional structure, such as how teams are organized to perform specific tasks
- The customer-facing structure that defines how products and services are grouped and presented to customers
In many cases, overlapping organizational structures produce tensions around the use of brand content. For example, different teams, such as product, channel, and regional marketing teams all need to use this content. But they may not belong to the same business unit and may need to support multiple consumer-facing brands.
The role of brands is to communicate offerings to customers. Make sure that brand content doesn’t get trapped inside internal organizational silos.
Organize your content according to your brand architecture. A brand architecture defines how a company structures and names its brands. It reflects a firm’s category management: its positioning of different products and services with respect to consumer segments, competitors, and its own offerings. It forms a hierarchy, moving from broad to more specific. The brand architecture is customer-facing and will often not mirror the company structure.
Organizations may adopt different forms of brand architecture. They may define and position their brands in various ways:
- Under a “house brand,” where all sub-brands share a common root name and identity
- As a “house of brands,” involving many diverse brands
- As a hybrid portfolio of independent and related brands
The brand architecture can become complex over time, reflecting new business initiatives, extensions to existing products, and acquisitions of external brands.
A brand architecture can follow different patterns. Some common ones are shown below.
The parent company can use various forms of identity for its products and services:
- Master brands
- Endorsed brands
- Related brands
With so many potential brands to consider, consumers need clarity on how brands differ. Branding distills a clear answer to the question of “Why us?” It embodies the reputation an organization has earned and the commitment to customers that it makes. High-value brands will have a unique brand DNA that expresses the company’s heritage or ethos, its legacy or vision, or its emotional resonance with brand fans.
Companies must coordinate content relating to multiple brands. They should be able to organize brand content assets around their brand architecture.
Yet how enterprises buy and set up their CMSs tends to reflect their corporate or functional structure. When this happens, how the content is organized often doesn’t reflect how brand-intensive content needs to be used.
Poor content management practices pose risks to brand strategy. Brand development represents a significant investment. A carefully crafted brand architecture can be upended by sloppy utilization of brand assets.
Operational problems can arise whenever there is:
- Unclear ownership of sub-brands
- Murky delineation of responsibilities
- Autonomy in the decisions that teams make about messaging that could redefine core brand attributes
- Any barrier to how various teams can utilize approved brand content
If responsibilities aren’t clear or activities are siloed, individual teams may become more focused on differentiating their messages from competitors or targeting specific customer segments at the expense of how various sub-brands are differentiated and coordinated. Teams may misrepresent the emotional, relational, or behavioral qualities of the brand. For example, they might represent a brand intended for popular consumption as a premium product. Or they may fail to incorporate updated brand qualities, for example, an emphasis on inclusiveness. These mischaracterizations weaken the strength of brands, making it harder for them to establish relevance with customers.
The damage to a brand can include:
- Muddled messaging
- Inconsistent identity in different channels and contexts
- Clichéd or weak value statements and other quality issues
- Wrong customer targeting for sub-brands
- Fragmentation of USPs across channels
- Consumer confusion over product or category differences
- Delays and missed opportunities to engage customers
Brand management depends on providing clear guidance concerning the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of various groups and teams relating to various sub-brands. It also requires having the means to apply this guidance across multiple teams.
The right content management can support sound brand governance
Brand governance is sometimes viewed as a set of rules. But fundamentally it is about guiding and maintaining the intent that a brand should be communicating. It involves coordinating the common attributes that related brands have and differentiating what is distinctive about each one.
Break down silos in the content and assets relating to specific sub-brands. Content that is separated is hard to oversee and coordinate.
Content that is associated with a common brand category should be managed together. But too often, related brand content is scattered in different places. It may be siloed according to its media characteristics or the channel is to which it delivered.
Manage your brand content independently of the media and channel.
Unify and govern related content and assets that convey a common brand identity and personality whether through:
- Verbal identity, such as naming and taglines
- Messaging, or what you promise
- Tone of Voice, or how you talk to customers
- Visual identity, or how you appear
Unified management of brand content promotes better oversight and helps guide content use. Brand managers want to help teams to reuse useful brand assets and content, but they want to be confident that teams don’t misuse content and assets.
They want to ensure the correct use of already created assets and content, as well as the proper development or adaptation of existing brand format structures.
Implement tools to support brand governance. When managing content and assets at scale, enterprises need more than a PDF of a style guide to direct how brand content is used. They need support from their content management platform. Their tools should support teams delivering the brand’s message, instead of constraining them with antagonistic and outdated “brand cop” policing and interference.
Your content management solution should provide three tools to support the governance of brand content assets:
- Collections grouping related content
- Content types defining the structure and process for specific kinds of content
- Taxonomy tags that describe the variations within content types
Collections are groups of related content and assets that are managed in the same way. They allow content to be organized so that it is clear what content is available and how it can be used.
You can create Collections that match your brand architecture. Collections give you choices. You can create collections of content that is widely relevant to many teams or specialized collections focused on specific sub-brands or products. Collections can support the planning of brand content by bringing a focus to who in the wider organization should be using certain content.
Grouping content into Collections provides many benefits:
- It supports the sharing of content and assets to those who need access to it.
- It enables access to content that can be independent of where in the corporate structure the employee is based.
- It partitions the content to ensure those who shouldn’t use the content and assets don’t inadvertently use it.
- It promotes the governed reuse of brand content.
Collections allow brand managers to coordinate and collaborate with other roles in other parts of the organization.
Collections help brand management in three use cases:
- Reuse and leverage brand content and assets. For example, if many products incorporate a branded technology, teams supporting these products may benefit by reusing common content relating to that technology. Similarly, teams supporting products associated with category brands may reuse common category content.
- Cross-promote related brands. Brand content that is related can be organized within a collection. In the case of complementary products, teams can promote how the brand can serve all the customer’s needs. In the case of brand expansion, collections of content related to the core and expanded products can support messaging encouraging customers to enjoy the full experience of the offerings.
- Enable modularity in brand content. Collections can be used to share content and assets that can be utilized as the basis to build new content (for example, to build out content relating to product line extensions).
Collections also can define permissions and workflows. Permissions specify who is allowed to do what, while workflows specify who must be involved with certain steps in the process. You can set permissions according to a person’s role by specifying what a role can or can’t do. Role-based access can be set for permission to view, create, edit, or delete content.
When content is assigned to a Collection, brand managers can influence how content is utilized:
- Which collections people have access to
- The permissions they have, based on their role
Content types define the structure of content items. Having a defined structure for brand content formats provides several benefits. It can break messages into components that can be reused. The structure can also guide content creators. It can provide guidelines for how content should be developed.
Workflows can be customized according to content type. Brand managers can specify who needs to review or approve different types of brand content. Content types can also provide the foundation for content that needs to be localized so that all localized variations are aligned with the source content.
Taxonomy tags can guide what should be done with specific content and assets. Taxonomies provide even more granular guidance. Taxonomy terms can indicate when and where to use certain content items. For example, tags can indicate if items are intended for a specific stage of the customer journey or if they have a specific tone that’s appropriate for specific scenarios.
Be ready for branding pivots
Brands are constantly developing. Brand identity must adapt to social and technological changes and respond to shifting consumer preferences. And brands need to adjust to support a constantly evolving business strategy.
In recent years, the field of branding has prioritized agility. In some sectors, entirely new brands have been launched to address a specific customer channel. Some financial institutions, for example, have separate brands for online-only services.
Agile brands need agile content management. The content management set-up that is supporting the brand needs to adapt quickly to changing requirements.
Even though brand development is a long-term endeavor, branding work can also entail high profile initiatives that must be acted on quickly:
- A new brand launch
- A rebranding of a product, service, or business unit
- A co-branding initiative
- The relaunch of an existing brand to highlight something new or improved
- The repositioning of a brand to refresh how value is conveyed within the marketplace
- A crisis related to a brand
- Mergers and acquisitions involving external brands
- Spinoffs and divestments of brands
In each of the scenarios, brand managers must set up new projects and migrate relevant content and assets to a new Collection that can be used by everyone who needs to be involved. Make sure your CMS allows you to set up a new Collection quickly.
Flexible delivery is also part of agile content management
To unlock the value of brand content, teams need to deliver the right content to the right channel.
Locating the right content is the first challenge. Many CMSs provide weak support for organizing content in a way that is useful to the teams that need it. The content is stored in inaccessible folders or repositories, or else it is dumped into a poorly organized centralized container, making it hard to access and manage.
The second challenge is delivery to the right channel. A brand will only make an impact when customers encounter the brand’s messages. Various content and asset management solutions emphasize the storage of content but fall short on the delivery of that content. Unless the content can be easily delivered to different channels, it won’t realize its full impact.
The agility of your brand’s content depends on having nimble organization and flexible delivery.
Plan your brand content so that it is organized around how your staff needs to use it and how it needs to be delivered to customers. Be sure that your CMS will support your brand category management.
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