With marketers executing multiple campaigns in real time across mobile, email, social and other platforms, a brand’s identity and reputation have never been more fluid — or at risk. In an instant, the wrong brand content can send a company into a tailspin.

Brand misfire examples abound, from Adidas’ insensitive email to this year’s Boston Marathon participants, to Dove’s rollout of its “Real Beauty Bottles” of various body-shaped bottles. All of these missteps created major backlash across social media. Luckily, these are solid brands with historical legacy to help them weather bumps in the branding or content road.

Regardless of the channel, whether these types of mistakes come in the form of email, ads or social posts, they are almost guaranteed to be shared virally and carry extra visual impact when the company’s digital assets are paired with memes, videos and other images. With this tenuous dynamic at play — not to mention an increasingly competitive landscape — marketers must establish proactive content approaches in advance to ensure brand alignment and avoid brand dilution.

In addition to having a strong and proactive creative brand strategy, marketers must play a more aggressive game of defense to help mitigate brand risks in today’s busy content workflows. Slowing down a brand’s digital engagement isn’t an option if they wish to remain relevant, nor is creating an analysis-paralysis web of approval channels. However, working to foster more effective collaboration among marketing team members instead of sticking to traditional functional silos and hierarchies is paramount.

As various members of the marketing team deliver and manage content for internal and external use, it is critical to proactively protect the brand. This means clear communication via a contiguous development cycle and respectful dialogue between creative, marketing operations and marketing leadership teams. Establishing transparent workflows that give each person a voice but also incorporate brand-elevating boundaries can empower teams to maintain a consistent image while preventing rogue content missteps and serious issues like rights management infringement and noncompliance with internal standards.

It also allows key stakeholders to provide strategic input on content from ideation to execution and ensure that proper intellectual property and privacy protocols are being followed. And with streamlined brand collaboration, marketing teams can better evaluate and learn from the success or failure of campaigns.

Unified brand strategies are critical for protecting not only companies, but also customer loyalty. When brands push out tone-deaf content and posts that offend customers, loyalty suffers. Consumers often have emotional connections with a brand, and people who feel let down by a brand’s actions are less likely to trust their products or services moving forward.

Even when brands quickly respond with an apology and further actions to make amends, the damage is still palpable. Uber has taken heat over the last six months for a variety of crises ranging from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, allegations of intellectual property theft, and profit-at-any-cost strategies. All of which involved content shared across communication platforms and resulted in a #deleteUber social media campaign and backlash that not only saw hundreds of thousands of Uber customers jump ship but, most recently, the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Brand security requires a steadfast focus on maintaining a consistent identity that aligns with leadership goals for continued growth and customer engagement. However, knowing that brands have to develop content and cohesive digital assets to fuel multiple 24/7 communication channels, the rules have changed for de-risking the content development process and ensuring brand protection. This is the case whether developing new proactive content or developing content to mitigate a controversy.

Today’s marketing teams must be connected and collaborative. It is up to marketing executives to ensure there is mutual transparency on their teams to help protect content before it becomes public to mitigate brand snafus and, ultimately, to help generate and sustain long-term brand success.

 

commentary via MediaPosts