Top down management style isn’t working anymore; we are seeing the death of the ‘command and control’ management style.

Employees do not enjoy working within the confinement of rules and rigidity; therefore, if brand guidelines are imposed, it is more likely employees and their chosen agencies will purposefully deviate or ignore the guidelines as punishment for disallowing the flexibility and participation they desire – rigidity and confirmation stifle creativity.

What’s more, agencies won’t put their best people on your account because they know their stars will – rightly or wrongly – constantly moan about not being able to produce great work because of the restrictions you impose. Businesses everywhere are now trying to tap into the power of motivated employees and serious investment is being made in engagement initiatives.

So why are brand programmes still implemented as hierarchical, top-down exercises?

There is a need to engage and motivate employees into using the brand correctly, and running a strict ‘brand police’ regime is not only tiring, it simply doesn’t work. It means telling people off for using a picture or template in the wrong way; consistently policing access to assets. This is bad because:

1. The brand identity becomes something burdensome

2. People try to do their own thing by avoiding the person in charge of brand guardianship

3. The brand guardian is seen as a nuisance to be avoided

4. The brand guardian becomes demotivated

So how do you then implement a brand consistently, if you’re no longer to impose rules and regularity? The answer is, you don’t – you provide a ‘Loveable System’ for your staff and agencies to use.

What’s a Loveable System?
It addresses two needs: A system brings logic and instills order, the organisation of your assets into a system, making decisions easy. ‘Loveable’ is emotional, it means constructing the system in such a way that it helps people do a better job and becomes something they like to use.

In a Loveable System, you will find an element of play. It is more akin to a cook book, rather than an instruction manual. A cook book provides recipes and tips, but you are the star in bringing the recipe to life – you bring yourself into it. With an instruction manual, everyone who follows the instructions will have exactly the same product at the end; there is no space for creativity or individuality.

There is a balance to strike between achieving consistency across a whole suite of marketing activities and communicating your message in the right way to a particular audience. In days past, consistency was all that matters – repeating the same rules, messages and identity over and over. Today, brands need to be adaptable and authentic. The key is therefore communication and talking differently to different audiences, adjusting to their needs and expectations – just like you would dress differently for different occasions, or change the formality of your speech when giving a presentation versus having a casual chat with a friend.

There are a number of elements that make up a loveable system. We’ve talked about some of them here.

Essentially, it is about flexibility within a clearly defined set of boundaries. Yes, there are some basic rules that are beyond discussion, such as logo placement, colour palette, fonts and so on.

But whilst in the past, these rules would make up the best part of 250 pages of guidelines, we reduce them to the minimum, a few pages at best.

Then we focus on the brand story and its principles, and on showing what these mean in practice – providing recipes for successful development.

The result are guidelines that work as a briefing tool – i.e. ‘for this piece of communication, we want to be understated but not too formal’. In practice, it invites internal comms teams and their agencies to discuss together where on a defined axis a campaign should sit. Thus the platform allows for ideas to be generated between agency and client, setting the tone but without prescribing the solution.

Success, then, isn’t defined by the timely delivery of a brand programme, but on the successful outcomes generated by the hands of the people who use it.

What it also does is move the role of the brand guardian from one of policing, to one of inspiring. Wouldn’t you want to have that brief?

If you’d like to know more, or see more examples of Loveable Systems at work, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!