Branding, Typography

7 Mistakes Global Managers Make

Branding and corporate messaging coveys who you are as a company. Consistency conveys quality. If your first impression is a mishmash of logos, fonts, and displays you can weaken a potential client’s belief in your company’s reliability. Here are common ways managers hurt their image:

Inconsistent use of branding at home.
Does your Powerpoint, white papers, or other presentation materials use different fonts, images, colors, and logos, than your products or website? Lack of attention to detail may translate to loss of confidence in your company.

For example in the biography of “Steve Jobs”, the author, Walter Isaacson, describes how the entire Apple computers organization was driven to be militant about consistent usage of brand attributes by Mr. Jobs. Apples first PR firm, Regis McKenna, put a maxim atop the first Apple brochure, that is often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Mr. Jobs insisted everything, from product design, to consumer packaging, to internal contracts, had to be infused with the company’s defined philosophy. Mr. Jobs also saw the power of good typography as a key element of the Apple “simplicity” brand messaging. The message has never changed even though the company has updated its design throughout different eras. This has led to consumer recognition and then trust and loyalty from their customers.

While working at Disney Consumer products, I saw branding taken to a whole new level. I saw an ESPN brand manual that wowed me. Branding wasn’t just about the logo being applied in a consistent manner, and having a primary and secondary set of Pantone colors. It was about keeping all of the messaging of all communications materials going in the same direction. There were key phrases, copy that was written with the right tone and attitude, to reinforce the brand messaging. There were patterns and textures, a tuft of black fur, varnished black on flat black graphics, all of these could be used in different 2-dimensional and 3 dimensional communications. The sum of these elements should be consistent. Anything less will cause consumers to loose trust in the brand and it’s messaging.

Inconsistent use of branding by partners.
If your enterprise has far flung support offices, do their distant partnerships and alliances rely on locally developed resources which are not in step with the corporate brand? Partners can convey as much about your image as you do.

If a brand can be done in an unusual manner, we have seen it. One of our global clients has brought us in from time to time to help align the branding on a project. This is a good thing. An ad being proposed by an office in Eastern Europe, in a different language, in this instance, Romania, just doesn’t have the same “look”. And it’s not just that the characters in their language are different. It’s got a family resemblance in the way that a close cousin does, but they just don’t look the same as you. Maybe their style is a little different. In the case of the Romanian ad, though the culture of how something is said is different, it was ensuring the message was on target, bringing the proportions in line. Then checking with Romanian print resources to see that the red color was PMS red 485 and not just a tomato red. You can also provide them with a corporate brand manual, or have you main agency guide them by adjusting the elements to be a mirror image of the company brand.

Inconsistent localized messaging.
Cultural nuances and local language leads enterprises to allow geographically distant teams to develop a marketing strategy to fit with their local culture. But is what they know consistent with your enterprise’s mission? Is it reflected in what the localized marketing material says and shows?

We have all heard the legend of Chevrolet who used the automobile product name Nova in the U.S. Then used the same name in Mexico which translate to “No Va” or “It doesn’t go”. Bad name for a car. So the need for transcreation (traslation with cultural or social context) is now an important part of international mass communication. The goal is to communicate within the local culture, and preserve the look and feel consistent with your corporate mission.

As reported by, retailer H&M allowed distant teams to create a localized message but controlled the process: “”In a more sophisticated approach, rather than applying a blanket brand messaging strategy globally, H and M localized their approach to suit cultural preferences, while the actual merchandise is the same worldwide.

H&M’s “Conscious Collection*” website is translated into several languages for prospective consumers all over the world. In the English version, the message for the “Conscious Collection” reveals the importance of organic cotton and why growing it is significant for environmental protection and for worker safety. In the Chinese version of the site, the message is much different: “For the past 40 years, polyester fiber has been the most labor-intensive fiber. The misfortune is that polyester cannot be recycled. So in recent years, we started extensively using recycled polyester!” This message is quite different from its English counterpart, with no mention of worker safety and only subtle associations with environmental protection, namely through recycling. For a collection that touches on universal social equality and environmental consciousness, localization of the brand’s message is quite apparent.””

Silos falling out of step.
Companies often grow in spurts of departments, geographic areas, or through acquisitions which have some level of independence and isolation. The politics of getting standout groups within your enterprise to align lock step with everyone else can be challenging. What got them there, the performance to be acquired or recognized, does not excuse problems with the enterprise’s image, which must be maintained though consistent messaging and branding.

My ad agency was fortunate enough to be involved with a global corporate mash-up. Yes the term mash-up is not limited to just the music world. When a corporate M&A brings several other business into the fold, we witnessed the expert handling of a merging of identities of the course of 3 years. Even with such expert handling, there is a tremendous reluctance for former “Brand X” employs to feel as if they are homogenous with the rest of the “Brand Y” empire. The desire to stand out was pushed by a “silo” within the company, expressing itself with it’s own interpretation of the branding standards. It took the strong steady hand of the global Marketing V.P. to gently transition the cultures together. Continual reviewing of outgoing marketing material and adjustments to it, while allowing acknowledgement of heritage in a more cohesive format is the answer.

Internal communications don’t look like external communications.
The assumption that an internal presentation is ok if it’s off brand, sends an erroneous message to employees and stakeholders, and can sometimes end up externally, which denigrates the overall view of the enterprise.

The most obvious example is that senior executive is tasked with pulling together a global presentation about the company training centers. He has a Powerpoint program and the company logo. He knows what fonts to use, but he has not loaded them into his Powerpoint. He has the brand color palette in a branding manual, but has not loaded them in. In the end, the presentation looks like a poor rendition of the company’s brand. The mid-level executives, even transactional employees who are face to face with the customer, view the report, their reaction is less than overwhelming. The not so subtle message is, that our company brand position is not that important.

In terms of HYPERLINK ""branding, companies need to exercise the same effort towards branding internally as well as externally. A defining global brand requires that the company makes sure that all of its internal communications fit its brand values, just as it does for external communications. If the company’s brand is well though out, then is creating value for the company as a blueprint for all of the internal brand practices, ultimately paying of by creating a branded HYPERLINK ""customer experience. The executive in the example above is not entirely at fault. It was probably a Sunday afternoon when he pulled his presentation together and he should be armed with ready-to-go communications tools that standardize the branding process.

The bottom line is “Communicate your own brand positioning to your own people before you communicate it to your customers”.

An emergency delivers an additional public black eye.
Most business operate as if they assume nothing bad will ever happen to them, or if it does, planning won’t help anyways. A public relations nightmare hits your company and you scramble to get communications out quickly. These days, transparency and immediacy are critical elements of any crisis response. In our online world, consumers immediately go to an organization's website when news breaks. Furthermore news outlets link to the websites in their online stories. Make sure you can quickly update your website to include news and information about the current situation, including social media such as your company's HYPERLINK ""Facebook, and Twitter feed. One of the best weapons in fighting reputational damage from a crisis is arming people with the facts. A strongly branded presence online gives you an unfiltered way to provide the facts to the public.

You can be prepared with branded templates that can create distributable web blasts, emails, flyers, maps, charts and graphs all within the look and feel of your customer experience? Just as important as a well rehearsed PR crisis communications plan, a cohesive set of branding tools is a lifesaver. A company that delivers an on time and on brand message in a crisis will have a stronger chance of weathering the storm and restoring public confidence.

Underutilization of resources in social media.
Fans, enthusiasts, and evangelists are valuable resources that can extend your image beyond your known reach. Ignoring new paths in social media can leave your message absent, left to critics, or badly mangled. Have you implemented a social media strategy to build, monitor, and maintain your message online?

My agency developed an ad campaign centered around traffic safety for the city of Pasadena. We were able to extend the impact of our campaign budget by creating a Public Service Announcement (PSA), featuring two characters from our traditional print media campaign, Otis and Dena. We also created a Facebook and Twitter account for Otis and Dena. We posted the PSA on You Tube. In reality the PSA had little to no chance of ever getting noticed on YouTube. So we employed a street team, passed out Otis and Dena stickers with empty cartoon caption bubbles, with a link to the branded Otis and Dena website that carried the You Tube video. In addition, there were empty Cartoon caption bubbles above Otis and Dena on the website. Pedestrians and drivers could leave messages in theses bubbles (filtered by a human) by using Facebook or Twitter. Our client was impressed by monitoring the resulting analytics, and having magnified the budget for a traffic safety campaign using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.