On-campus events have long been part of the life-blood of university marketing and recruitment activities. But, like so many other things, these activities have been disrupted or transformed over the past 18 months due to the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education sector in general, and on students in particular.Read more
Leveraging Brand Management
Lara Sinclair — 19th May 2021
Brands often come to Outfit having identified a specific brand management problem that needs to be solved.
It may be that the head of brand at corporate HQ is struggling to keep up with the volume of marketing requests and approvals from franchisees, decentralised marketing teams or local agents.
Sometimes it’s that the design team isn’t equipped to cope with the amount of rapid-turnaround, repetitive production work it’s being asked to do, preventing it from working on strategic, longer-term projects.
Lately, we’re seeing scaled-back marketing teams needing to ramp up their activity without first hiring lots of new people.
And sometimes it’s simply that production costs are growing and the organisation wants to get them under control without losing marketing momentum.
We are always happy when our technology can help solve a problem. And the creative ways brand automation can be applied don’t always come from us − sometimes our customers come up with interesting challenges our technology can solve. Those are great days!
Equally, organisations are sometimes surprised by the broader possibilities when it comes to brand automation technology, and how it can be leveraged to solve a wide range of brand, data and marketing process management issues.
In general, there’s a brand automation journey that brands undertake involving some key stages, from defining and enshrining your brand guidelines for your centralised design team, to enabling decentralised stakeholders to self-create, to building automated actions into the process that generate on-brand marketing without human intervention. It’s a continuum.
Having said that, some of our customers have started their journey with some fairly advanced brand automation problem-solving.
So in the interest of knowledge-sharing, we wanted to relay a few of the interesting things our customers have been up to.
Organisations that are looking at a rebrand often turn to brand automation to ensure multiple stakeholders across the organisation are able to apply the new brand guidelines effectively, ensuring brand consistency, minimising risk and reducing the workload of the central marketing team.
Durham University, which is one of the oldest in Britain, underwent a major rebranding recently, strengthening and refining its brand and developing comprehensive new brand guidelines.
The central marketing team was also struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for on-brand marketing collateral from its academic departments, colleges and services for marketing collateral.
Using brand automation, the university created an extensive range of responsive templates that empowered the wider Durham University staff to produce their own on-brand materials, with their own strategic messaging, without being held up by production bottlenecks.
Departments and business units can self-serve their content needs, which in turn enables central marketing to focus on more strategic work instead of managing ad-hoc requests for support.
“Strategically it was the right time for us because we were ready to roll out the new brand,” says Rebecca Richardson, Marketing Operations Manager. “The new, stronger positioning really was a driver to introduce Outfit.
“I think if we hadn't done that brand piece of work, then we might have found ourselves in a very different situation where we wouldn't really have had a comprehensive set of guidelines to build the templates and platform around and we’d have faced the same challenges, just within a system.”
To date, more than 1700 pieces of content have been exported from the platform, and significant budget and time savings have been realised. More than 4682 hours of external and internal time has been saved in two years, reducing costs by an estimated £374,560.
Self-service marketing content
Brands are increasingly turning to brand automation to support the creation of self-service content hubs that enable approved personnel within an organisation to access the full range of marketing materials they are likely to need, and allow them to make minor changes.
Aussie, Australia’s biggest mortgage broker, needed to ensure continuity of service while rolling out a new brand across almost 1000 brokers in local areas − all while ensuring compliance with financial service regulation.
Aussie replaced an incumbent solution − which involved taking online assets offline, updating and re-uploading them − with an all-in-one self-service hub built on Outfit’s brand automation platform which enables brokers to localise and create on-brand digital and print materials.
Approval workflows ensure what’s created complies with Australian financial service regulations and guidelines, and finished assets can be sent directly to print − saving even more time − or exported for digital.
More than 2400 pieces of content have been created in Outfit at drastically reduced production times and with dramatically improved continuity of service, in the process saving more than 5500 hours.
“With time and experience you always realise there's always a better solution out there,” says Hannah Roy, Senior Manager, Marketing.
Brand consistency via metadata-based customisation
Brand automation provides the ability for organisations to generate customised templates according to the business unit or user who is creating the assets − making the observance of complex brand hierarchies and frameworks an automatic outcome of using the system, and in the process improving efficiency as well as brand consistency.
Australia’s Monash University was facing the dilution of its brand. With hundreds of staff across 10 faculties needing design solutions, consistency at scale was proving difficult.
The brand team wanted to empower staff to produce their own collateral instead of acting as the ‘brand police’.
The university introduced brand automation to customise templates according to the faculty and the user, observing all the brand hierarchy rules − freeing up the marketing team to focus on strategic work.
This input and metadata customisation enabled huge leaps in production efficiency. For example, more than 300 design jobs to promote Open Day, with dozens of variations applied and customised, were created through Outfit instead of through the central design team.
“Many staff work in functions that require them to produce collateral,” says Vicki Goodwin, director, brand and marketing strategy. We want them to do the best job they can and don’t want to slow them down and make it difficult.
“Our central team can focus on differentiated design work and our faculties can create their own solutions. Everyone wins.”
Marketing process optimisation at scale
Functionality such as dynamic customisation and resizing can be applied to the responsive templates at the heart of brand automation systems to dramatically improve efficiencies in the marketing production process, allowing brands to scale rapidly without hiring more people to generate that extra output and removing cost.
Technology brand Red Hat was experiencing exponential growth in the Asia-Pacific region, but production costs were skyrocketing while brand consistency was falling as the brand and marketing teams, and their agencies, struggled to produce the volume of on-brand materials they needed for different markets.
Dynamic customisation capabilities and automatic resizing eliminated the need to manually version creative, significantly lowering Red Hat’s production costs while still enabling marketing and production teams across the globe to produce localised materials, on demand, in multiple output formats.
Red Hat has been able to implement and maintain strong governance and cut production costs and overheads, reinvesting time from repeatable production logistics into the creative and strategic aspects of the Red Hat brand.
The product of this partnership with Outfit has turned Red Hat’s global brand into a truly flexible, configurable, dynamic system, with more than 17,000 pieces of content created by more than 1100 users in more than 35 countries.
“I know that every time I see something being built by Outfit, that would otherwise be a custom piece of creative that would have to be taken care of by my team,” said former Red Hat global brand manager Andy Fitzsimon. “As that list grows bigger, I know I’m saving more.”
Integrations with other tools, such as CRM, marketing automation and billing systems, can extend the functionality of brand automation into new areas, saving time across areas of an organisation way beyond marketing by using data to generate large volumes of personalised on-brand assets without human intervention.
A member-based technology customer wanted to enable sales to generate personalised on-brand communications to reduce countless hours in data entry and admin without having to train them in how to use a new tool.
A custom integration was created that saw the functionality of Outfit’s brand automation platform integrated directly into the customer’s CRM tool.
The easy-to-use functionality saw high user adoption among the sales team, which was able to automate the creation and sending of personalised, branded letters, invoices and receipts to lists of customers at the click of a button.
Not only does brand automation save the sales and accounts team countless hours in repetitive admin and data entry − they save it every renewal cycle.
Responsive local area marketing
Local area marketers are not always responsive in a brand-consistent way in a crisis, but with brand automation at its centre, responsive on-brand messaging can be developed and rolled out across organisations in a day, and then adapted to suit rapidly changing local conditions.
Retail franchise Bakers Delight, which has more than 500 outlets across Australia, used brand automation to help it respond during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, enabling it to adapt and maintain its status as an essential service and continue trading while other retailers closed.
During the first lockdowns, a core management team met daily to decide on the organisation’s response to the crisis. The implementation of responsive templates for franchisees proved vital in being able to communicate the impact of those decisions, including distributing new messaging around issues such as social distancing and public hygiene quickly and in keeping with the approachable humour for which the Bakers Delight brand is known.
Social media was a strength of the brand during the crisis as the brand team used automated templates to create a number of bespoke social posts informing customers about operational changes while gleaning insights about which customer queries would need the most attention.
While the volume of transactions fell during that initial period, the basket size tripled, standing the brand in good stead as the initial lockdown ended and the economy reopened.
As brand automation technology develops, look out for more interesting use cases around the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to render designs and solve design problems without human intervention.
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