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How to Operationalise and Templatise your Brand to Scale Marketing

To say competitive in 2022, it’s critical to operationalize your brand by establishing the systems, processes, and technology needed to set your team up for success. With the right tools in place, you can empower your organization to scale its marketing activity, extending your brand and maximizing overall productivity.

How to Operationalise and Templatise your Brand to Scale Marketing

Without operationalizing your brand, you’ll never stop treading water.

The article will cover:

  • Establishing the foundations for operationalizing your brand,
  • Implementing and gaining quick wins, and
  • Accelerating to scale your brand and marketing output.

Content Summary

Introduction
Three Key Recipe’s in Operationalising your Brand
Recipe 1: The Foundations of Operationalised Brand
Recipe 2: Quick wins for Operationalised Brands
Recipe 3: Accelerate and Scale your Brand Output

Introduction

Marketing leaders and their teams face challenges on a number of fronts. Foremost among them, the need to deliver on-brand customer experiences across a growing number of channels with more personalisation, empathy, speed and agility than ever before.

Digital, social and print channels call for greater output, more consistently, encompassing more elements than we’ve ever had to produce. Around three-quarters of all marketing teams estimate they’re creating 10 times the number of assets today that they needed to produce just a few years ago.

At the same time, marketers are working in smaller teams with budgets that have shrunk over the past decade even as the demands of internal stakeholders have increased, keeping cost and productivity front-of-mind.

Without operationalising your brand, you’ll never stop treading water. As marketing leaders in the 21st century it’s critical to operationalise your brand, and to do that you need to establish the systems and processes — powered by technology — that can support the increasing production of high-quality, on-brand marketing materials.

Three Key Recipe’s in Operationalising your Brand

  • Recipe 1: Establishing the foundations for operationalising your brand
  • Recipe 2: Implementing and gaining quick wins
  • Recipe 3: Accelerating to scale your brand and marketing output

The benefits of doing this are broad and the returns are great. They include:

  • Rapidly increased output volumes,
  • Reduced cost and brand risk,
  • Strengthened brand integrity,
  • Empowered stakeholders to self-produce marketing materials,
  • Improved efficiency from automated workflows, and
  • Reduced internal bottlenecks, freeing marketing teams to focus on high-value work.

Operationalising your brand will enable your organisation to scale your marketing activity, extending your brand and your output in new ways without scaling your investment to match.

We’re here to help. Let’s get started!

It’s like going from being the fun police to being the ice cream man. Instead of being the person who says, ‘This is off-brand’, you give people the tools to create on-brand assets themselves without incurring additional production costs. – Andy Fitzsimon, VP of Strategy at Outfit

Recipe 1: The Foundations of Operationalised Brand

What is an operationalised brand?

Marketing and technology operations are a hot topic, but what is an operationalised brand and why should you aspire to have one?

Operations refer to the day-to-day activities in which businesses engage to build value and earn a profit. In marketing, in its broadest sense, it refers to the processes, people and tools that make up the marketing engine of an organisation.

An operationalised brand is one that is supported by the systems, teams and processes that allow on-brand marketing work to be executed consistently, at speed and at scale.

Operationalised brands are not hampered by structure or resources when faced with increased production needs; in fact, performance and efficiency are maintained or even increased under the pressure of larger workloads.

At the heart of this concept is the ability to reuse and reproduce core brand elements in a systemised automated way, taking the grunt work out of repeatable marketing tasks. Even the largest brands don’t need a bespoke plan for every project. For many, there’s a lot of repetitive work that doesn’t need to be recreated manually each time.

Operationalising your brand does not mean sacrificing quality — if anything, the opposite is true. It helps ensure your marketing materials are always produced in keeping with your brand guidelines, down to the finest detail. What you might sacrifice in originality, you will more than make up for in brand consistency, efficiency and impact over time.

Defining your brand guidelines

The first step to operationalising your brand is to define your brand guidelines or brand style guide, so you can present your brand in a cohesive, consistent way — building recognition and trust with your target market.

Your brand guidelines should set out all the rules and standards governing your brand, including how it should – and should not – be represented. They should explain the foundational elements of your brand, so internal and external stakeholders can develop a clear understanding of your:

  • Company vision, brand mission and brand purpose
  • Brand values, voice and personality
  • Brand story, positioning and messaging
  • Text and language-based components.

Your guidelines should also clearly outline the components and rules governing the visual elements of your brand, such as:

  • Brand architecture, including how corporate, primary and sub-brands work together to maximise brand value
  • Logos, lock-ups and secondary marks
  • Primary and secondary colour combinations, and the proportions in which they should be applied
  • Fonts, font combinations and type scales
  • Use of photography, imagery and iconography
  • Backgrounds and pattern
  • Grids and space.

Empowering the organisation through self-production

Centralised marketing teams with tightly controlled, manual approval processes often find themselves playing the role of the “brand police”. They spend the lion’s share of their working week responding to marketing requests from stakeholders throughout the organisation and ensuring those requests are produced to the required standards and brand guidelines. It’s a frustrating position to be in when marketers overwhelmingly would prefer to spend their time on high-value, strategic projects that generate growth for the brand and the business.

To achieve the full benefits of an operationalised brand, marketing teams should consider empowering stakeholders to create their own on-brand marketing materials by introducing the processes and safeguards, as well as the tools, to support this. This means allowing any stakeholder who requires content to create brand-safe assets.

The key is that your stakeholders do the heavy lifting of actually populating the templates, and once they’re done, they’re sent to marketing to be reviewed and approved. This ensures brand oversight remains with marketing, while at the same time eliminating the vast bulk of the timeconsuming, repeatable marketing work marketing once did.

Operationalise with the right tools

To fully operationalise, most brands need a brand management and templating tool to codify your brand guidelines and enable your team to automate the production of on-brand marketing work; and a digital asset management solution (DAM) to store, organise and distribute your approved, on-brand marketing assets.

Brand management, templating and creative automation platform

Brand management platforms, such as Outfit, enable your team to specify and manage how your brand should appear in every channel using a combination of responsive brand templates and automated workflows.

This means stakeholders throughout the organisation can access and use templates that apply your brand guidelines automatically to create unique, on-brand designed content for different channels.

This facilitates rapid production and reversioning while allowing brand teams to review and approve the work, thereby protecting your organisation from brand fragmentation.

Choosing the right brand management platform
Ensure your brand management platform offers:

  • Responsive templates that can allow authorised individuals to edit, customise and create on-brand marketing assets
  • Dynamic customisation to ensure the appropriate brand rules are applied for each user without the need for manual intervention from designers
  • Permission-based access to ensure individuals can only use their approved templates
  • In-platform workflows that give marketing the ability to review, amend and approve marketing work quickly, for rapid distribution and use
  • An API that enables your brand management tool to be integrated with the other tools in your martech stack, such as a DAM or CRM

Digital asset management software

Digital asset management (DAM) software, such as MediaValet, enables organisations to store, organise and manage all content in a central location, as well as share them with authorised internal and external stakeholders. They enable your entire organisation to get to market faster by streamlining access to assets, reducing bottlenecks and all around improving brandconsistency as everyone uses assets that are approved for their specific role.

Digital assets may include photography, logos and graphics, audio and video files, presentations, PDFs, design files, spreadsheets and documents: anything of value to the organisation and the brand.

DAMs help improve the productivity and efficiency of marketing teams by enabling the use and re-use of approved content, enhancing discoverability, facilitating distribution and increasing the return on individual assets.

Choosing the right DAM platform

Ensure your DAM offers:

  • Centralised, secure, cloud-based asset storage that can preview, render and store the file types and file sizes used throughout your organisation o Customisable metadata fields that can be attached to each asset, allowing them to be grouped, searched and found easily,
  • Custom controls and permissions that define access and use of the system, so only authorised users can access particular assets
  • The ability to share and distribute approved assets to internal and external stakeholders
  • Easy integration with your other marketing tools and distribution partners

To achieve the most streamlined operational processes, your creative production software, digital asset manager and your brand management, templating and automation tools should be able to work together seamlessly to execute automated creative production workflows.

For example, the large number of finished assets created and approved within your brand management platform should be stored in your DAM, which becomes the single source of truth for all approved content, accessible by only those stakeholders with the correct permissions.

MediaValet is helping improve our workflow, enabling us to bring content to market a lot faster. – James Langan, Senior Global Brand Specialist at ACAMS

Recipe 2: Quick wins for Operationalised Brands

Identify your repeatable content

Armed with the above, the next step is to audit the marketing work you produce. Your objective should be to identify which activities are bespoke or need to be created from scratch, and which can be repeated or re-versioned from templates.

While brand campaigns and relaunches often require bespoke, original creative, many marketing activities call for repeatable assets in which the text, imagery or call to action may vary from execution to execution, but the layout and components will essentially remain the same.

Some examples include:

  • Seasonal campaigns
  • Localised marketing activity
  • Personalised marketing materials, such as presentations and business cards,
  • Social media tiles for each channel,
  • Content marketing formats, such as newsletters, blogs and ebooks
  • Digital advertising formats for different media channels
  • Print and outdoor advertising formats
  • Event marketing collateral

In addition to what you’re already creating, consider the urgent needs of stakeholders that may not be satisfied with the current processes or that are resulting in regular breaches of your brand guidelines. This may include:

  • Decentralised brand teams
  • International divisions with regionalised or national requirements
  • Agency, supplier or partner networks
  • Sales, product and customer teams
  • Branch, franchise and agent networks.

Design your responsive templates

When you have your list of repeatable content, you can then begin to scope the templates to be used in your brand management platform. Remember, your on-brand imagery for these assets will be pulled in from your pre-approved assets in your DAM, so you are only considering the structure or layout of the template.

When you have your list of repeatable content, you can then begin to scope the templates to be used in your brand management platform. Remember, your on-brand imagery for these assets will be pulled in from your pre-approved assets in your DAM, so you are only considering the structure or layout of the template.

Your templates will be the beating heart of your operationalised brand. Start by creating templates for the formats and teams that offer the biggest potential productivity, consistency and enablement gains.

  • Work with your team (and brand management platform provider, if you have one) to establish:
  • How many templates you need
  • Whether one responsive template can be used to generate multiple formats
  • Which content elements need to be editable and which should remain unchanged
  • Brand rules governing the changes that may be made, such as which approved images can be used, how big or small text should be, and which brand colours may be used
  • Any multi-edit functionality that may be required (This works well when you have a suite of content, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Display assets, and you want to be able to make a change once and automatically see that change reflected in the other assets.)

Some design elements to consider as you construct your templates include:

  • Colour blocking: Can you denote different brands or sub-brands through the strategic application of colour?
  • Aspect ratios: Keeping the number of aspect ratios you use in mind can reduce the number and type of templates you need to create
  • Grids, hierarchy and type scales: Designing to a grid, and using type scales to establish hierarchy and spacing, can simplify your template design process.

Optimize workflows to support use

The workflows that support the use of your on-brand templates are just as important as the templates themselves. They are the arteries of your operationalised brand, and enable work to move efficiently through your operationalised brand system.

In general, keeping your content review and approval workflows within your brand management platform facilitates greater speed to market and automated prompts when each stage has been completed.

Integrating with your digital asset management solution further increases velocity, allowing users to access approved and up-to-date logos, photos and graphics from within your brand management platform. Integrations also reduce duplicate work, enabling users to search for assets using keywords and other metadata populated in the DAM.

There are a few other workflow management questions to consider; including:

  • Who is likely to use the templates and how much brand oversight will they require?
  • What sort of work needs to be approved by central marketing, and what level of approver needs to review it?
  • Does legal, compliance or any other team need to approve the asset?
  • Who is responsible for adding finished assets to the DAM?
  • Do any external suppliers need to be included to complete the workflow?

Ensure high adoption of new tools

The end goal is to empower all your teams and stakeholders to create marketing assets as good as those created by your best designer – without having to put them through years of training. Essential to this is ensuring any new technology is actually adopted.

Most businesses are already under-utilising many of the technology platforms they have. It’s critical to implement new tools(such as a brand management and digital asset management solution) that are intuitive and easy to use, particularly by those stakeholders with no design or branding experience.

While team-based administrators may need training in how to use your brand management platform and update templates, most of your stakeholders should be able to pick up the new platforms without constant hand holding.

It’s also important to consider what your stakeholder journey will be in terms of how they will discover and use assets, as well as use the tools themselves, including:

  • How will they find approved assets to use in each template? Will they have direct access to your DAM from within the brand management tool?
  • How will they find and share the finished assets? How will the DAM be used to facilitate the distribution of the finished assets?
  • Should any other tools be integrated to improve your distribution workflow?
  • How will you communicate that new templates are ready and available for use?

Ensure visibility and Measurement

Together, your brand management platform and DAM should offer the marketing team increased visibility into your organisation by providing data about the on-brand assets your users create, store and distribute.

This data is helpful because it enables marketing teams – sometimes for the first time – to measure:

  • Output
  • Velocity
  • Efficiency
  • Asset use and effectiveness
  • Cost savings
  • Return on investment

This data can be used to better predict and serve the marketing needs of the organisation by identifying which content is most used and what’s being underutilised – meaning you may need to offer more training. It also enables ROI to be tracked against what it would cost to produce the same marketing materials without an operationalised brand system.

Recipe 3: Accelerate and Scale your Brand Output

Using brand management and templating technology and a digital asset management solution, to automate the production of manual tasks, dramatically reduces the volume of repetitive production work that marketing teams, designers and external agencies must complete.

Stakeholders can self-produce the marketing assets they need, often in less time than it would take to brief a designer. For marketing teams, this means:

  • Reduced request, review and approval bottlenecks;
  • Improved speed to market,
  • Increased focus on strategic, high-value tasks.

When the efficiencies that come along with an operationalised brand are realised, teams begin to do more.

Adding utility through automations and integrations

Integrating your brand systems with other tools, such as CRM, marketing management, data visualisation and billing systems, can extend your ability to operationalise your brand into new areas, saving time and increasing output across the broader organisation.

Example Use Case:

A member-based technology organisation wanted to enable sales to generate personalised content to reduce countless hours in data entry and admin without having to train staff in how to use a new tool.

To help facilitate this, a custom integration was developed to enable the functionality of the brand management platform to work directly in the customer’s CRM tool.

The easy-to-use functionality saw high user adoption among the sales team, which was able to automate the creation and sending of personalised, branded letters, invoices and receipts to lists of customers at the click of a button, saving the sales and accounts team countless hours in repetitive admin.

The sky truly is the limit when it comes to reaping the benefits of API-based integrations to operationalise brand activity. In this way, operationalised brands can eliminate work altogether from both the marketing and design teams, and the broader organisation, supercharging the marketing growth engine.

The future of operationalised brands

As a brand’s production operation system matures, they progress on a journey that starts with the crafting of individual pieces and progresses to the scaling of and the automation of on-brand production work.

Operationalising your brand to scale is a path to freedom and empowerment in marketing: the freedom to do the strategic work your brand needs, combined with the ability to over-deliver against the needs of the organisation.

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