You invested months of your time into creating a new brand identity. You tightened up your messaging, swapped out your fonts and even updated your design to better reflect your brand. And it’s looking great! Your marketing department is implementing it exactly the way you envisioned.
But some of the teams in your organization seem to have missed the memo. While the new branding is popping up in your new marketing campaigns, your web development team is still using the old font and outdated CI/CD to build and update apps. Yikes!
Now, you not only need to go back and correct the app design issues, you also need to check on every other team to make sure these types of mistakes aren’t happening elsewhere.
Yeah, that can be incredibly frustrating and stressful. Especially if you don’t know where the breakdown in communication was.
Luckily, there is a strategy you can use to minimize these problems in the future. Here, we’ll talk about how you can use cross-functional collaboration to improve brand management across your organization.
What is Cross-Functional Collaboration?
Cross-functional collaboration is the process of bringing people together with different types and levels of expertise – internal and external – to work toward a common goal.
However, cross-functional collaboration extends far beyond the limits of traditional team collaboration, by connecting people from different departments, teams, companies and sometimes different geographic locations and time zones – with various skill sets and job functions – to work toward a specific objective, together.
Why is Cross-Functional Collaboration Necessary for Brand Management?
While it may seem like there is little to no connection between the two, cross-functional collaboration is actually what makes effective brand management possible.
Consider this: successfully managing your brand requires the buy-in and work from people across your organization. You need your marketing teams to roll out campaigns and produce collateral that are on-brand. You need HR to hire individuals that fit your company culture. You need sales representatives and frontline employees to embody your brand as they interact with customers. And so on.
However, your employees can’t effectively maintain your brand identity, by working in vacuums. Those that try, inevitably end up drifting away from the company vision or tweaking the branding to match their own preferences and ideas. As a result, you end up with an inconsistent brand image and subpar brand experiences, as the core message and purpose of your brand is lost.
On the flip side, by encouraging communication between employees and creating a shared sense of responsibility for brand projects, you can facilitate the creation of on-brand assets and, by extension, cohesive brand experiences.
How Does Cross-Functional Collaboration Impact Brand Management?
Though it’s easy to see how working together could have an impact on the consistency of your brand, it can be difficult to identify the exact role it plays in brand management.
So, to provide some clarity, we’ve compiled a few specific examples on how collaborating cross-functionally can help you manage your brand effectively.
1. It keeps brand implementers (internal and external) on the same page
No matter how big or small your organization is, in order to create authentic brand experiences, you should have multiple people managing your brand. This includes your interns, employees, independent contractors, partners, managers, executive teams, and external agencies.
While this is great from a workload perspective, it can mean trouble for businesses that don’t have a way to keep everyone in sync. The reason being: different ideas and perspectives can dilute your branding and create an inconsistent brand image.
However, when people from different departments and teams choose to communicate and collaborate, the story is very different.
People with different responsibilities and objectives are able to work together to build the brand image, by using a shared set of company goals. Teams can co-create various types of branded assets – like advertisements, blog posts, graphics, packaging and product designs – to market the brand. And projects can be rolled out faster, with minimal risk that the content will need to be reworked or outright removed from customer view.
2. It enables you to build rapport with stakeholders
You know just how important it is to put your best foot forward with your partners, employees and freelancers. Not only does doing so affect the work they do for you, but it also plays a major role in their willingness to be advocates of your brand. (After all, they have friends, families, and access to the internet too.)
But you can’t build good rapport with them, if your communication, project management, and feedback loops leave a sour taste in their mouth. In fact, it’ll probably have the opposite effect.
Luckily, this isn't a permanent problem. By designing a plan to keep all employees in the loop and getting more people involved in important projects, the work will not only be a whole lot simpler, but stakeholders will also feel important and cared about.
And that means more positive reviews for you on Google and Glassdoor, more name drops at holiday parties and more referrals to their partners and customers. In essence, lots and lots of free marketing.
3. It allows for faster innovation cycles and increased speed to market
With new trends constantly emerging, there’s a lot of opportunity for brands to show off their style and connect with customers in new (and unique) ways. However, it can be difficult to balance innovation and creativity with brand consistency, when your window of opportunity is small.
So how do you do it successfully? You get your teams to collaborate. You pull people from sales, marketing, product development, IT and HR to discuss new ideas and plan new initiatives.
Having a mix of people with different backgrounds, priorities and preferences will increase the likelihood that the ideas that emerge will be on-brand and well thought out. It will also accelerate your speed to market, because you’ll have multiple people problem-solving, thinking through roadblocks, and working on asset and product development.
4. It helps you avoid faux pas
The last thing businesses want to do is launch a product or a marketing campaign that flops. But unfortunately, it happens all the time.
In some cases, this can be chalked up to a hasty timeline or siloed innovation. In others, it can be attributed to a poor approval process or lack of communication. Whatever the reason, the common thread is often the absence of collaboration.
Take Tesla for example. In 2019, they attempted to launch the Cybertruck as a modern alternative to the traditional models manufactured by Toyota and Ford. However, at the official unveiling, there was a serious disconnect between the sales pitch for the product and its actual functionality. This became painfully apparent as Elon Musk boasted the unbreakable nature of the truck’s windows and then proceeded to nearly shatter one with a metal ball. Naturally, both the product and Tesla’s brand took a hit.
However, this wasn’t an unavoidable situation. Had the sales and marketing team been in the loop on the actual structural integrity of the windows, they likely wouldn’t have told Musk to demonstrate it in such a bold fashion.
Bottom line: cross-functional collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have facet of your brand management work. It’s a necessary strategy that will help you avoid all sorts of missteps and faux pas, including tone deaf advertising, poor customer experiences, and product designs that are rolled out before their MVP is reached.
5. It’s brand management in action
Brand management is about a lot more than just creating on-brand products, services and assets. It’s about designing experiences that support and highlight your branding. It’s embodying your brand in every interaction with stakeholders. And that means your employees too.
In some ways, this can be a lot more difficult than simply rolling out branded products or designing social media campaigns, though. After all, how are you supposed to brand the daily employee experience? It all comes down to your company culture and the way you implement your values.
Think about it this way: your culture and core values drive the interactions you have with your employees on a daily basis (or at least they should). But this can extend far beyond office pleasantries. By implementing internal processes that match your values and fit the company culture you’re trying to build, you’ll be able to actually brand the experience your employees have in their meetings and day-to-day work.
Consider Disney, for a minute. With 12 theme parks across the world, they need thousands of front line employees to interact with guests, clean up trash, run concession stands, and manage the operation of rides.
But Disney doesn't go the traditional route when it comes to defining job functions at their parks or giving their employees responsibility. In fact, they think of their employees as physical representations of their brand. As a result, each and every one is called a "cast member" and given a part to play. They wear costumes, speak and point in specific ways, and occasionally dance and sing for park guests.
Making front line employees a critical part of the brand experience (not just logistics) doesn't only make the parks magical for visitors, though. It has actually made Disney a really popular and desirable place to work.
The truth is, managing a brand today can be incredibly difficult – especially as your business grows and your external partnerships expand. However, by getting people across your organization to communicate and collaborate, you’ll be able to do it with a lot less headache.