BRAND STEWARDSHIP: HOW TO CARETAKE YOUR BRAND
Do you ever think about taking care of your brand, or do you take it for granted? For many, once a brand is created and launched (or in many cases inherited), it’s left alone to do its thing in the world.
Brand stewardship is the activity of supervising and nurturing a brand, supporting its evolution, and protecting it when necessary. It’s been described as “the leadership and accountability for the long-term well being of a brand.”
Why brands need stewarding
Branding happens proactively, reactively, and passively. It is ongoing with or without the owner’s involvement.
Think of a brand as a child or a pet—a living thing in the world. Stewarding means ensuring it moves in the direction that’s best for the brand while aligning with the owner’s values.
Sometimes, it also means protecting the brand from forces that threaten its health, such as actions by others that betray the brand values, trademark infringements, libel, etc.
Who stewards a brand
Every entity that interacts with a brand plays a role in its being, from employees to customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Certain roles are crucial in the caretaking of a brand. These include:
Leadership: from the moment a brand is launched, updated, or re-launched, the brand’s executives and owners play the most critical role in its health.
As brand steward, a leader’s primary responsibility is to ensure ongoing alignment between the brand, the organization, and the rest of the world.
This includes the internal work of ensuring everyone in the organization understands and engages with the brand and its values, and the external work of ensuring the brand is well represented and understood.
Marketing, communication, and sales teams: those most involved in communicating the brand (both visually and in words) must be empowered to steward the brand in its many iterations online and in print.
Marketing and sales teams must understand the brand, its values, and personality, and have the knowledge and tools to accurately represent and easily create iterations of the brand.
Some type of approval chain or leadership support is important for these stewards to perform the task well.
Don’t forget about stakeholders, too: members, clients, customers, employees, partners, investors.
Anyone with a vested interest in a brand can—given the motivation, information and tools—be a brand steward.
External stakeholders extend a brand’s reach into their own networks and parts of the world. They become brand stewards when they feel a vested interest and understand the benefit of helping to care for a brand they associate with. To do it well, they need the right information at the right times and easy-to-use tools.
What brand stewardship looks like
I love this statement from an article about brand value in the pharmaceutical industry: “At the core of brand stewardship is a clear understanding of the brand and the beliefs on which it is built. Brand stewardship involves a long-term approach to maintaining the brand promise and brand relationships that create and sustain brand equity.”
Step One of brand stewardship is ensuring that the organization and the world at large understand the brand—its voice, its values, its beliefs, what it stands for, what it offers and to whom.
Step Two is repetition. Yes, brand stewardship is repetitive, but that’s not to say boring or deafening. It’s repetitive in the same way that a person shows up in the world as themselves every day.
The process can be carried out creatively and in many forms, but I believe it starts with putting the brand and brand values on the agenda of every important meeting. Other activities that reinforce brand stewardship are presentations and check-ups by leaders, training of leadership and communication teams, ongoing open communication about the brand values, brand-focused events, social media, outreach, charitable activities that align with the values, rewards/awards programs that reinforce the values, entertaining content/media, and so much more.
When a brand steward needs back-up
Brand stewardship needs a great foundation, including a solid strategy like our Essential Story Process, and tools that communicate and show how to execute the strategy, such as a Brand Book and Corporate Phrasebook™.
Over time, brands can evolve into new entities. They can also fall into crisis and require repair or overhauling. Sometimes, brands lose their stewards, become misaligned with their original intentions, with their owners, or with the world in which they live. In all these situations, it’s valuable to call in back-up.
At Phrase Strategy, we support clients with quarterly brand check-ins designed to ensure successful brand roll-out and stave off misalignment with course-corrections. For new clients experiencing some form of misalignment or crisis, we begin with strategy.