Everything you need to know about brand management

What is brand management? And how to do it well

In order to create a recognizable and successful brand, you’ll need to invest in brand management.

People were just trying to pull together their own graphics, whatever way they could. We just totally lost control of our brand.

Joel Connolly, Creative Director - Blackbird

Source: Blackbird & Canva Case study

Key learnings

  • Brand management involves ensuring brand compliance by providing the whole company with easy access to your brand parameters.
  • Good brand management leads to increased brand awareness, which leads to community support and company growth.
  • Brand management is an iterative and collaborative process that takes time and investment in the right tools.
  • A brand isn’t static, because customer preferences and trends change all the time. That’s why monitoring brand performance is crucial. When a brand’s performance is dipping, it might be time to rebrand.

We’ll get into everything you need to know about growing, managing, and adapting your brand strategy.

Table of Contents

What is brand management?

If your team has ever struggled to keep branding cohesive, or felt like you ‘lost control of the brand’ entirely during periods of rapid growth, a clear brand management strategy can help.

Brand management is the steps taken to monitor your brand image, grow brand awareness, and build a strong brand community.

Strategic brand management is all about translating your company’s brand purpose into every piece of content you need for sales and marketing strategies, from business cards to presentations to social posts. By building a cohesive brand, you can develop a strong reputation and improve awareness, both online and offline.

What is a brand management process?

The brand management process starts with a strong brand identity, and involves ongoing monitoring, updating, and analyzing of brand performance. Many brand managers measure brand sentiment and awareness as benchmarks for growth.

Types of brand management

1. Strategic brand management

Strategic brand management is using your brand intentionally to scale business growth. Before you can activate your brand to contribute to sales and marketing initiatives, you need to build an initial brand identity that aligns with business values.

Steps of strategic brand management:

  • Determine your brand positioning and values. Brand positioning is the action of setting your brand apart in the minds of your consumers. Your values should shape your company goals, which will help you decide the best brand positioning strategy to use. Consider your brand values. Do they provide your brand with a purpose that aligns with your company goals?
  • Develop and test brand campaigns. Highlight your USP (unique selling proposition), and try different types of brand campaigns to see what resonates most with your audience. Try brand campaign ideas like using emotional branding, promoting your brand on several channels, using video, or working with brand ambassadors or influencers.
  • Measure brand performance. Set internal and external benchmarks by figuring out key performance indicators (KPIs) like growth rate, engagement, and conversions, and setting goals based on your industry. Brand performance metrics include brand recognition, brand perception, brand consideration, and referrals.
  • Maintain and improve brand equity. Brand equity is a brand’s perceived value according to its customers, and it can be positive or negative depending on how consumers feel about their experience with the brand. To build brand equity, establish brand trust, focus on reputation management, prioritize the customer experience, and grow brand awareness.

2. Digital brand management

Digital brand management is a system for managing digital brand assets, monitoring online brand reputation, and building a brand community. Digital brand strategies should be centered around your target audience, and create an emotional connection that drives brand awareness.

Managing a brand online can include:

  • Creating valuable content for your audience
  • Improving the customer experience with helpful technology
  • Using design and asset management tools, or project management software
  • Incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) and branded keyword research in marketing campaigns

5 core principles of brand management

1. Brands are so much more than a logo and color scheme

A brand is recognized by its logo, brand fonts, and brand colors, but those design choices alone don’t make up the whole brand. Your company’s personality, its product offerings, its voice and tone, its packaging, and its social media presence all contribute just as much to your brand’s success.

The goal of the brand decisions you make are to create a personality and relay a set of values that resonate with your target audience. Trying to appeal to every person on the planet won’t work, so making bold design decisions and taking calculated risks when it comes to building your brand and values can help you grow your business among your target audience.

Defining your brand’s core values and personality is an important early stage of the brand creation process.

Learn how to make these important brand choices with our video below:

WATCH: How to define your core brand values and personality.

To learn more about the choices you need to make when branding your business, watch our full Branding Your Business series.

Brand management involves intentionally selecting and leveraging a wide range of brand elements to shape the public perception of your brand. Seek out feedback throughout the process, too: Finding out how the public reacts to every choice you make when building your brand — and acting on their feedback — helps you keep your brand current and effective.

Here’s a few examples of elements that make up a brand:

  • Logo design, like the Golden Arches of McDonald’s.
  • Signature colors, like Starbucks green.
  • Marketing materials design.
  • Product design.
  • Packaging design, like the minimal white boxes for Apple products.
  • Voice, tone, and personality of every written word you share, from your manuals to your communications and marketing materials.
  • Pricing, like Subway’s $5 footlong.
  • Spokespeople or characters, like Disney’s Mickey Mouse, the Geico Gecko, and Dos Equis’s The Most Interesting Man in the World.
  • Sensory cues, including signature scents, flavors, lighting and store design, and music choices, like the scent of Cinnabon at the mall or the black and white glamor of Sephora.
  • Your company mission statement.
  • The customer experience, whether your products are available only in-store or online, or a mix of both.
  • The demographics of who your target audience and current customers are — college students? 30-somethings in the city? Empty nesters? Barbecue aficionados?

2. Brand management is a long-term project

A brand is not built overnight. It takes time to firmly establish a brand that is recognizable and evokes a strong mental association for customers. Some brands may achieve overnight viral recognition — which often disappears just as quickly — but building a brand that will last is still a slow and steady process.

The most instantly recognizable brands have built up their name and branding over many years, which requires a dedicated strategy and ongoing maintenance. Design-centered collaboration tools can make it easier to see the visual progress of your brand and how it’s evolving.

The stronger a brand gets, the less is needed to communicate it. The most well-known brands can be identified with simple visual or copy cues that prompt memories, emotions, and connections in the audience’s minds.

And over time, as customer preferences and trends evolve, rebranding (or just refreshing your brand) can help improve your company’s perception from your target audience.

3. Brand management creates monetary value

Branding has tangible monetary value. As mentioned above, the benefits won’t come overnight, but establishing a beloved brand means customers will be more willing to buy products and help your company grow at scale. A company’s brand, and the stories they tell, have become a strong point of connection between brands and their customers.

Need more proof of the impact that brand management can have? According to a 2021 study of 20,000 consumers of 152 brands across 11 years, brand love — meaning the emotional connection that customers build with a brand — contributes positively to market value and profitability in the long term.

4. Brand management requires company-wide compliance — and great brand management tools

A company brand informs the visual design of materials that all teams create within the company: that’s why sharing your brand guidelines is so important. If you leave employees to their own devices, especially those who aren’t designers by trade, you’ll likely end up with a bunch of off-brand content going out into the world, undermining your branding efforts and the recognizability of your brand.

Helping your teams stick to your brand guidelines is much easier with best-in-class brand management tools. You can design your brand guide from a template or from scratch, as a PDF or downloadable file. Save time and make sure you don’t miss any key elements by starting with a brand guidelines presentation template, like the one below.

To make things even more efficient for anyone designing content, you can build your brand guidelines right into your brand management software platform via brand kits.

By building a Brand Kit in Canva, you set your employees up for design success every time — even those without design experience. They’ll have all the correct colors, fonts, imagery, and design elements pre-selected so they don't need to go digging for a style guide. Check out how to quickly and easily build a brand kit in Canva:

You can also create branded templates that give every employee an on-brand starting point to create all types of content.

Learn about how brand templates can save everyone a lot of time by helping employees and external collaborators design on-brand assets in minutes. By having your design team put in the time to design templates, they’ll save time later on when they don’t have to spend time correcting off-brand assets.

WATCH: Design with brand templates.

5. Brand management helps a company build brand equity, so measure it often and monitor your success.

Brand equity is the added value that your brand brings to your company thanks to positive perception from your community. Brand equity reflects how well your target audience knows your brand, and how the public feels about it.

Measuring certain metrics, like company revenue, rate of sustained growth, market share, average transaction value, and brand awareness can help you evaluate the success of your brand management efforts.

Learn more about this topic in our guide to building brand equity.

Examples of brand management

Companies who have successfully grown their business through brand management strategies have a deep connection with their target audience, and a strong digital presence.

For example, Zappos is known for its customer service, which is communicated through prompt responses on social media, flexible return policies, and accessible customer support throughout their website.

Dropbox increased brand awareness and reached a $10B valuation in 10 years using a referral program and clear branding carefully crafted by the marketing team.

Dropbox increased brand awareness and reached a $10B valuation in 10 years using a referral program and clear branding carefully crafted by the marketing team.

Brand management vs. brand marketing

Brand management is how you shape the perception of your brand and strategically develop your brand to help meet business goals — and brand marketing is all of the efforts that you take to sell your brand and products.

The brand team is in charge of creating the brand, building and updating brand templates, creating and updating brand style guides and disseminating them to the entire company, planning and leading on rebrands and other types of brand strategy, and ensuring brand compliance on every kind of content.

From in-app copy to social posts to internal presentations to sales collateral, everything created by any employee (and even by external collaborators) needs to represent your brand properly. And it’s the mission of brand teams to make that as easy as possible.

Using brand management to support company growth

A strong brand is easier to market. Instead of advertising and building customer awareness from zero, marketing teams at companies with a strong brand have an identity to work off of and build upon. Once you’ve established a recognizable and memorable brand, marketing teams can use the public perception of their brand to craft creative and successful marketing initiatives.

Brand management is a long-term project, and anyone taking it on should plan a thoughtful brand strategy for defining and building their brand in both the short term and long into the future.

Arm your employees with the best brand management tools available, and you’ll empower every one of them to create visually exciting materials that help your company grow.

Frequently asked questions about brand management:

What is a brand framework?

A brand framework is a guiding structure that keeps your brand management focused on your core brand identity and strategic goals. It is commonly visualized as a pyramid or Venn diagram showing the core features of your brand such as brand promise, personality, attributes, and positioning.

What makes a brand successful?

A brand is successful when it has a clear association in the minds of its audience that is recognizable, distinctive, and consistent — and triggers positive emotional associations for the public that are directly linked to the company’s products and personality.

What are the key activities associated with brand management?

Brand management involves analyzing the competitive landscape and brand equity, setting brand strategy, determining brand positioning, creating and communicating brand guidelines using presentations with clear instructions, and guiding the execution of the brand strategy within marketing and throughout the company.

What is a brand personality?

A brand personality encompasses the human characteristics that customers associate with a brand. The brand personality is how they might describe the brand if it were a person, often with strong emotional implications, like silly, rugged, sophisticated, fun, or passionate.

What makes a brand unique?

A brand is unique when it is instantly recognizable and clearly differentiated from its competitors both visually and by its voice and tone.

What is the role of a brand manager?

A brand manager develops a brand strategy that supports the business goals of the company and executes that strategy to build positive brand perception in their target market.

Bonus: Brand management in Canva

Our Design school team has put together a series of quick tips on how to use Canva to manage all your brand assets, set up brand controls, ensure brand consistency and more: How to manage your brand in Canva

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