Why does brand execution often kill creativity?

Rich Curtis

  • CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ
Rich is the CEO of FutureBrand Australia and New Zealand, a global brand transformation company. In July 2020, Rich bought the local operations from IPG, making FutureBrand A/NZ his independent branding company with the relationships and resources of FutureBrand worldwide.

The launch of a new brand, or indeed a rebrand, is a transformation to be greeted with fanfare.  

After months of research, strategy and creativity has been invested into one of the most valuable assets of your business, it’s no surprise that you would want the world to know. To sit up and notice. To choose and use.  

To launch a brand transformation is not only to spark a connection with your customers but also to excite the imagination of your own employees. One doesn’t work without the other: It’s an opportunity to have employees engage with the brand and internalise what it means so they can deliver meaningful customer experiences (as opposed to assuming the logo will do all the heavy lifting).  

So why is it that once the brand has launched, the brand execution phase can also be the moment at which you kill its creativity?  

Look beyond the launch and you’ll find the nuts and bolts of any brand are invariably the brand guidelines. It’s a technical document. It might appear as a PDF in inboxes. Or perhaps a login to a digital brand centre. Employees might get some new templates or call scripts. Or maybe even new merchandise.  

And as the fanfare fades, the emotional message of a magical experience on offer to customers is met with a functional focus on compliance and consistency to the employees charged with delivering that very experience. 

It’s perfectly understandable but not necessarily logical. You’ve just spent valuable time and money going through the process of the brand transformation. It’s been carefully considered – yes, all those costly nuts and fiddly bolts – so now is not the time to let someone throw a spanner in the works, right?  

It’s not that simple. In fact, our world at large is no longer that simple. A sound brand strategy should set the platform for creative possibilities, especially in light of the operational reality that brand guidelines can’t literally answer every possible question on one page or another.

Think of the myriad messages, channels and interactions and you realise it has become an impossible expectation to make the brand guidelines ‘foolproof’ so that compliance is all that is required. But, with the right strategy, a little creativity can go a long way when you give your employees not only the brand knowledge but also the brand know-how.  

Why kill off creativity at the very moment that the brand transformation becomes real? Why not transform ‘foolproof’ brand guidelines into brand-savvy employees? Why not excite and inspire the very people who should be your advocates for the brand?  

If that sounds like something worthwhile, here are three ways to take full advantage of the opportunity to kick-off creativity.  

1. Team toolkit  

Firstly, to get all your organisation’s people truly excited about the brand, they need to feel enabled. More specifically, they need to be equipped with the right tools and training.  

If you’re planning for people to pick up some brand know-how, give them more than the equivalent of a textbook or an instruction booklet. And, if you’re expecting to give people the tools but not the training, then expect spanners to go flying in every direction.  

With the right brand training, your teams can build their brand capability and apply their creativity to offering customer experiences and interactions that will build the brand. The training will need to be different for different organisations, but make it immersive, interactive and iterative in order to embed itself over time. It’s this kind of brand training that enables some of the world’s best hotel brands to deliver a reassuringly familiar guest experience in all kinds of different and even unexpected ways.  

2. Widen the guardrails  

Secondly, there needs to be more to the brand than guidelines weighed down by what people ‘can’t’, ‘mustn’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do.  

Your brand is not a uniform into which you squeeze everyone and everything in order to comply. It’s a platform on which you can build interactions, experiences and relationships. If your brand is the right fit for your business, you have the opportunity to take a creative perspective and let people play with your brand – rather than assume the worst and simply protect it.  

As the customer experience grows ever richer, you need everyone with a responsibility to the customer to live and breathe the brand in ways that enable them to act in those moments that matter. In those moments, the brand should inspire action not mimic a computer-says-no mentality that renders the brand superficial at best.  

Your brand cannot be just another logo at the top of the screen – the correct size and clear space, of course – it must enable more creativity if it’s to help your people build meaningful relationships with your customers. Technology companies are the ones leading the way here, designing their interfaces to enable customers to experience the brand in ways that are ever more engaging and useful and without a logo in sight.  

3. Brand integration  

Thirdly, it’s not necessarily surprising that brand execution might lack that extra level of creativity given how much teams already have on their to-do list. Consequently, the very last thing they might need is an extra thing to do.  

The solution lies in taking an integrated approach to brand execution that is no different from the interwoven role that the brand plays in the customer experience. Your brand doesn’t function independently, it’s integrated into every step. Don’t create a separate series of brand-related activities, it’s more effective to inject the brand into those activities already happening. This could be daily huddles in retail stores; periodic training events in business development teams; and, annual reward and recognition programs, whether grassroots gatherings or gala events.  

Ultimately, brand strategy doesn’t differentiate you, execution does. To avoid a disconnect, strike the right balance between compliance and creativity and your brand will indeed transform your business.

Tags: brand strategy, brand relaunch, marketing strategy

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

State of the CMO 2021

CMO’s State of the CMO is an annual industry research initiative aimed at gauging how ...

More whitepapers

Latest Videos

Launch marketing council Episode 5: Retailer and supplier

In our fifth and final episode, we delve into the relationship between retailer and supplier and how it drives and influences launch marketing strategies and success. To do that, we’re joined by Campbell Davies, group general manager of Associated Retailers Limited, and Kristin Viccars, marketing director A/NZ, Apex Tool Group. Also featured are Five by Five Global managing director, Matt Lawton, and CMO’s Nadia Cameron.

More Videos

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Nowadays, when everything is being done online, it is good to know that someone is trying to make an improvement. As a company, you are o...


10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

Blog Posts

Why if marketing is all you do, you’ll never be very good at it

OK, so you’re probably thinking: “Here comes another article to badger me about living in my bubble.” And also, “I bet this bubble-bashing piece will go on to explain how I can achieve better results through some heady dose of new life experiences, new routines and annoyingly different opinions on social media.”

Dane Smith and Toby Harrison

Ogilvy Australia

A leader’s role in rebuilding a culture of confidence

Every day, there are new predictions and studies on the future of work, the state of the economy and the unfolding global pandemic. All of which creates uncertainty and heightens the imperative of effective leadership.

Michelle Gibbings

Workplace expert, author

Confused About Your Customers?​

​I've worked in brand and marketing for more than 20 years. But there’s one area where I’ve found myself going around in circles and I must admit I'm becoming increasingly confused.

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in