Blog | October 6, 2015

A Twisted Tale of Managing Brand Guidelines

by Leigh Ann Ledford in Digital Asset Management

Not so long ago, I was fully and happily immersed in the publishing industry. I had lots of files – yes, the physical kind – containing archived marketing collateral and old copies of the magazine I worked for. One of my responsibilities was to sort through media kits and event-marketing collateral that had been meticulously created by our competitors and compile recommendations for our own materials.

I’d approach my boss and say things like, “We really need to up the weight of the paper stock for our data sheets.”

My second year in, the magazine decided to undergo a brand refresh – not an uncommon undertaking for any brand. What I did not fully grasp until going through this brand refresh was the amount of time and effort involved. I will not go into the routing and approval process of all of the new brand assets, as I’d prefer that you finish reading this post. But, for simplicity’s sake, let’s just consider the final and approved new logo.

Like most brands, we worked with teams internal and external to the organization to produce print advertisements, event materials, direct-mail pieces and digital campaigns. My first question was, of course, “How do I make sure they all know about the new logo?”


Enter step one: Update brand guidelines.

This critical step is often done later or as a reaction to incorrect usage of a brand’s logo. I worked for an organization that had been managing 20-plus brands for decades, and we were pretty good at this part. Heck, we had a central-services creative team dedicated to these kinds of projects.

So I went through the process of submitting a request and getting the brand guidelines updated and packaged up for distribution. That takes 5-to-10 days. No problem – we knew this going in. And the brand guidelines themselves end up beautiful, easy to read and printable. They’re going to look great on the thicker stock paper!

Step two: Distribute brand guidelines to anyone and everyone who creates materials for us. Hmmm… this step may be a little bit tougher. I wanted to make sure everyone in the organization knew about the updates, so I emailed the entire company and put them on the intranet so everyone could find them. Oh wait, what about our freelancers and the direct mail company? I emailed them, too, hoping I had everyone’s current contact info.


Step three: Shoot… they need the logo too. Repeat step two, except with the logo this time. I included an EPS, JPG and PDF version to make sure everyone had the format they needed.

Step four: Notify manager that the new logo and brand guidelines have been sent to everyone who needs them.

Step five: Pleasantly smile and respond with, “Oh, ok… no problem,” when my manager says “We’re going to go up two pixels on height for the logo.” Crushing.

I’d like to think my experience is a thing of the past for organizations today. But that’s not reality.

Many of the largest, most well-known brands publish their brand guidelines to the web, minimizing the distribution burden. But this does not address the bigger challenge, which is managing changes to how the brand is communicated. The constant addition of new social media channels and new mobile devices puts an increased load on brands to re-think their brand communications much more frequently than once a year. These more frequent updates may not be something as large as a logo update, but the process is the same – even when adding something as seemingly minor as new typography or a new color to your brand guidelines.


Webdam recently tackled this challenge by launching Brand Connect, a portal that makes it easy to update, manage and distribute your brand assets. Rather than requiring central creative services (if you even have them) to make these small updates, you can make them yourself instantly!

That would have saved me two weeks of time – not to mention that sinking feeling in my gut when my manager asked for a two-pixel logo change.