It’s time we rethink brand training. One of my favorite parts about brand management has always been creating and delivering brand training programs. Some of my fondest memories of my corporate days are of helping colleagues all over the world feel connected to something beyond the four walls of their offices.
Brand training goes beyond that, however. It helps entire organizations operate far more efficiently, connect with constituents more meaningfully, and deliver better outcomes through greater focus.
There have been a number of changes in the last decade that make brand training more necessary yet easier to implement.
Needed More But Easier to Offer
The most significant shift comes from consumer expectations. As a society, more of us expect or even require the organizations we work with to have authentic commitments to something beyond money. Even if organizations do have these kinds of commitments, buyers, donors, volunteers, and future employees won’t know it unless the entire staff knows and understands the brand.
Another reason why brand training is more important than ever is the ease with which people can create their own materials. Just because you can create a social media graphic, flyer, or infographic in Canva certainly doesn’t mean you should. Without a proper understanding of the brand, people’s good intentions are likely to do more harm than good.
Newer technologies like Canva, however, make brand training even easier than it was. For better or worse, we are all more comfortable with video conferencing, a platform that can supercharge brand training, especially for geographically dispersed organizations.
Finally, more people understand the importance of a strong brand than they did before. They may not know how to go about it. That’s where a brand training program comes in.
To begin, let’s first step back and review the who, what, when, etc., of a good brand training program.
Brand Training Basics
WHO: Everyone at an organization, ideally. The degree can change based on role, but at a bare minimum, everyone in an organization should be able to say what the organization does and what it stands for. At the other end of the spectrum are those who have to have a thorough understanding of the brand and how it comes to life strategically and technically: Namely, those who develop products and services and those who promote them to the world. There are varying degrees for everyone in between.
WHAT: Following that train of thought, what is part of the brand training depends on the role people play. Graphic designers need to understand color usage, and writers need to understand tone of voice. Ideally, however, brand training will go beyond the bare minimum I mentioned to include:
- Why the work is essential and why anyone should care;
- The ways the organization is different from all the other choices people have;
- The organization’s personality attributes;
- The importance and benefits of consistency;
- How to interact authentically as a representative of the organization with people inside and out of it; and
- Why the logo is sacred and cannot be altered.
WHEN: As soon as possible to start is ideal (once you have your brand strategy sorted, that is), then as part of new hire orientation. Plus, if there’s a major change, a refresher course is always helpful.
WHERE: Meet your colleagues where they are, physically and psychologically. The easier it is for them to support the brand, the more likely they are to embrace it.
WHY: People are more likely to what you ask them when they understand why it’s essential. Implementing a brand strategy is no different.
HOW: Ah! This one is chocked full of options! Here are just a few:
- Self-paced, online content;
- In-person workshops;
- Train-the-trainer sessions; and
- Online games.
Brand Training Support
Like most topics, brand training is not a teach-it-and-forget-it scenario. People benefit from continued support, encouragement, and coaching. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that:
Template EVERYTHING. Inconsistency is Enemy #1 of a strong brand, so one way to reduce it is to provide templates. It is so much easier to create templates today, but so many organizations do not avail themselves of the capability. Tools like Google Workspace and Canva make template development so much easier than in years past.
Launch a brand center. There’s no better way than a brand center to distribute and keep templates updated to date. We’ve talked about the power of a brand center and even showed off ours! Brand centers are wonderful ways to drive the consistency on which all brands depend.
Reward successes. Are there people in your organization who took the brand education program to heart? Are they embracing the brand strategy with all their might and seeing great success? Reward them! Prizes, profiles, gifts: whatever works in your organization’s culture.
Create brand champions. Some organizations call them brand ambassadors, some champions, but the result is the same: people within the organization whom you have deputized as brand experts. They will need a bit more training and tools to take on this role, but having them in the field helps ensure access to answers. It reinforces the idea that the brand belongs to everyone, not just marketing.
Show them the data. As your brand grows, provide regular updates on how consistent brand execution is paying off.
Share the spotlight. Even if you are responsible for the brand, share the credit for its success with everyone in the organization. You may be in charge, but the brand should be everyone’s responsibility.
Banish the brand police. Finally, always put the focus on building the brand, not on adhering to brand guidelines. Instead of saying that something is off-brand, talk about the opportunities to make it a more powerful brand-building tool.
I’ve left a lot here to unpack, but don’t let it intimidate you. Brand training is a lot like exercising. Are you afraid you can’t commit to training for a marathon? Even walking a bit more every day will help make you more fit. Brand training is the same way. Start small, but start.
Need some help with that? Let us know. That’s why we’re here.
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