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What is Brand Stewardship & Why You Should At Least Consider It
Embracing Brand Stewardship
There’s nothing more important to a company than its brand. It’s what makes businesses unique against others in the same niche. Some may say that customers connect with and are loyal to businesses, but that’s not entirely true. Brands must earn that loyalty and connection, so shouldn’t you take care of yours?
Brand managers who see the light have begun to embrace brand stewardship, understanding that the integrity of their brand must be protected at all costs. Here are the important components of brand stewardship, along with steps you can take to protect your brand throughout your organization and the customer experience.
What Is Brand Stewardship?
Brand stewardship is the process of nurturing, taking ownership of, and protecting your company's brand.
That may seem like a simple definition in concept, but the process of brand stewardship is, in fact, complex. If you were a land steward, you would be tasked with caring for and protecting a tangible space. But a brand isn’t tangible: It’s an intangible sum that is derived from several components, including:
- Business name
- Visual assets
- Marketing and advertising
Each of these factors must be considered when developing your brand stewardship strategy.
3 Elements of Brand Stewardship
Brand stewardship starts internally, and these three elements are the foundation of that internal effort.
1. Leadership Buy-In
Your marketing team may have brand management covered, but brand stewardship should be a priority for every team. Everyone in the organization must have a cohesive view of the brand and know the role they play in it.For that to happen, leaders within the organization must set an example by prioritizing brand stewardship and maintaining communication with the marketing team.
2. Employee Ownership
One of the challenges of establishing brand stewardship as a company effort is creating a sense of ownership in every team member. It’s important to establish that your employees play a role in communicating the brand story.
Begin this effort by clearly communicating the value of the roles of each team member, explaining what their work contributes to the organization and how their efforts create a better customer experience.
Also, to tell the company’s story, your employees have to know it. Develop a plan that will encourage your staff to become brand ambassadors.
3. Powerful Strategy
Your brand may be intangible, but your strategy to protect and nurture it shouldn’t be. You need a written marketing strategy that encompasses brand stewardship, which includes documenting the company’s history, story, and brand identity. Your brand stewardship plan should also include the steps you will take to ensure the brand’s consistency across the organization.
Plan of Action: Real Steps to Embrace Brand Stewardship
Now that you’ve established a foundation, you need to take action by identifying the steps to put your brand strategy to work.
Conduct a Brand Analysis
You need to have a clear view of your brand, which means conducting a brand analysis. There are three things to consider here:
- How does your team view your brand?
- How do your customers view your brand?
- How does your brand compare to its competitors?
You can gather the information to answer these questions by conducting internal interviews, surveying customers, reviewing support tickets, reading reviews, and conducting a competitive analysis.
The goal here is to better understand the general perception of your brand and identify where gaps exist between that and the brand image you want to communicate. These gaps indicate where brand stewardship is falling short.
Define Your Brand and Assets
With a view of your brand’s current state, you can create a detailed definition for it. Include information about your brand’s personality, mission, target market, value proposition, and core values. As part of this, you’ll want to identify and come up with a way to manage your brand assets.
Digital assets are more than just logos and images: They are a visual representation of your company, and protecting those is an important part of brand stewardship. You want anyone who communicates on behalf of your organization to have access to the same assets for brand consistency.
Brand Stewardship and the Customer Journey
With the customer feedback you’ve gathered, you now understand how customers perceive your brand and whether that aligns with your brand identity. Additionally, you can use this information to identify where along the customer journey you can find more opportunities to create the brand perception you want.
Every customer touchpoint is an area of potential improvement toward the brand identity you want. A large part of brand stewardship is ensuring that every customer interaction is in line with your brand guidelines.
You may find that your brand is strong and that your job as brand steward is to simply protect it, but it may also become clear that your brand is in serious need of significant updating or repositioning.
These are significant changes to undertake, and it’s essential to take a measured approach to them. Abrupt changes to your brand can confuse and feel less than authentic to your target audience. Think about evolution, not revolution, as doing so will allow you to align your brand with the customer experience.