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Knowledge Management: Digital Opportunities in Managing Your Brand

Niclas Ljungberg & Phil Morley

Change and innovation occur at an exponential rate driven by digital technology. Although it has already started changing our society and businesses, we are still at the early part of the innovation curve, so expect major changes over the next years.

In this fast paced digital economy, also called the knowledge economy, Knowledge Management is one of the hot topics and something companies have devoted much effort to.

Traditionally, many KM efforts focus on sharing explicit knowledge, such as documents and templates, documenting processes, best practices, and sometimes capturing tacit knowledge, on all levels from the individual through groups to the entire organisation.

Whether intangible or tangible, KM must provide real business benefits and add true value to the users and the organization. There are many areas where it can help do this in a very focused way. In this article, we will look at what a brand is and why it is important, and how KM efforts can be supported by digital technologies to create new opportunities.

In today’s fast moving environment, it becomes increasingly important for the organization to be able to react quickly and coherently. This in many instances gives rise to decentralized organizations, which operate more on the basis of networks rather than traditional hierarchies, as well as through alliances and partnerships.

These networks of interdependent individuals and groups need common goals and guidance to be able to make the right decisions quickly and without constant consultation with the top management. Often, this is achieved by ensuring the sharing of a common vision and understanding of core brand values.


A word often mentioned in branding is ‘vision’, which actually means ‘self knowledge’. KM can play a major role in helping to manage the brand, both internally and externally.

Brands are increasingly being recognised as valuable businesses assets. Today, it is widely understood that strong brands help create strong relationships with all users, command premium pricing, etc.

There is direct shareholder value in managing your brand properly, just look at Coca Cola and many of the world’s leading companies who have more of their net worth in intangibles like their brand than they will ever have in physical assets.

Therefore protecting and managing the brand becomes a fundamental task for any business. In the digital age brands can become even more vital to the ongoing success of business, as the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive and transparent, and the brand may be the only thing that keeps a customer coming back.

Brand management in most companies is mainly directed at the marketing communication community, creating systems to ensure that all marketing and communication activity is consistent.

This is of course important in the marketplace, but analysis reveals that the key drivers of perception for the brand are more than just the corporate identity or the marketing activities.

If every aspect of the business affects the perception of the brand, then every aspect of the business must reflect and reinforce the brand.

Therefore it is paramount that those people responsible for the creation, delivery, and maintenance of these other factors and areas should all be aware of the impact on the brand and the impact of the brand on their activity.

Brand Management Systems

Many existing brand management systems are both inappropriate and ineffective. Traditionally based on prescriptive paper based templates, printed brand manuals and guidelines, they address only a minor part of the audience, typically the marketing community and their supplier agencies for production of communication materials.

While helpful and still required for some organizations (e.g. where not all individuals have PCs or offices may not be technologically “up to speed”), printed “brand books” will become increasingly insufficient as companies will require brand management systems that are much more dynamic, interactive, and constantly updated.

Typically, few people within the organisation know anything of use about the brand. The only thing they might know is the advertising slogan and the logo.

In large organizations with thousands pf employees and diversity and depth of activities, knowledge can difficult to obtain. Often there are intranets that contained the minutiae of detail of the operations of the business, but very little in the way of a foundation for knowledge. Quantity, not quality, of information is too often the solution to the need for knowledge.

Razorfish have implemented several digital branding programmes, often through the use of enabling technologies such as brand intranets, in combination with training and internal communication programmes.

These programmes are often organic and modular in their nature, allowing for change and developments over time while ensuring consistency as the brand and its environment evolves. Feedback, new ideas, new tools and guidance all continually drive the knowledge forward.

A Brand Intranet is an enabling technology that contains all the knowledge and elements necessary for ongoing management and protection of the brand. It outlines and explains what the brand stands for, and also provides specific guidelines so those who are directly or indirectly responsible for the brand treat it in a consistent manner across any brand expression—online or offline, to all users externally as well as internally.

It also serves to educate the users on how to translate an organization’s brand strategy into other strategic areas such as culture & organisation, user relationship, and partnerships and alliances. In short, the Brand Intranet helps to answer questions and eliminate doubt on how to live the brand.

Fundamental is the user centred approach, the people who are involved in activities that are proven to be influential to perception can receive guidance and tools to help them.

Specific advantages of a Brand Intranet can include: integration across multiple terminals and devices, networked and expandable, easy to update, interactive and linkable, low total life-time production costs, available 24/7 with instant access for suppliers and partners, can be seen by as many or as few people as required, cross-referenced and searchable content, portable output through printout or PDF, multi-lingual if required.

While specific components of a Brand Intranet are determined on a case by case basis, possible content is overall brand goals and objectives (vision, mission, positioning, core promises, personality, values), target users and constituent groups, brand architecture strategy, naming and nomenclature guidelines, Corporate Identity guidelines, tone of voice for communications, FAQs, Edentity (i.e. brand expression across digital channels and media—see below), downloadable design assets, recent advertising, User Experience guidelines, Brand training program, Brand tracking program, best branding practices, and brand-related news and initiatives.

Instead of trying to control and offer purely prescriptive solutions it is better to provide staff sufficient knowledge about the role of brands and about the particular characteristics of their own brand so that they are able to apply their knowledge in their activities. This is in fact the only pragmatic solution. The alternative is a massive consultancy task (internal or external) that would keep a large team of people employed for life.

A Brand Intranet project can also become the catalyst of change for a number of other KM or brand projects, not just within the brand or technical team delivering the solution, but also at a senior management level and across the business.

Development of a Brand Intranet opens up the possibility of entirely new opportunities, empowerments fuelled by digital technology that are deliverable, quickly, effectively, and economically.

Process For Brand Intranet

Although each solution is unique, there are a number of basic steps that are common in the development of a Brand Intranet.

Objectives should be identified to closely respond to user needs, to achieve consistent and integrated brand expression and use of brand assets.

Every employee of the organization needs to understand and live up to the brand—in other words, be an active brand ambassador. The Brand Intranet puts any information and guidance regarding the brand a “mouse click” away and will be particularly useful for Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, HR, and Legal.

Key external constituents on a “need to know” basis about the brand include third party agencies (e.g. advertising, public relations, direct marketing), Retailers, Licensees / Franchisees, Distributors, Call centres, or Legal counsel.

An audit of current brand guidelines (electronic or printed), and their associated costs (production, distribution, response times, etc.) can establish starting points as well as clear measurements for success.

As with any programme, establish phase by phase budget & timetable, interdependencies with other internal programmes, and then develop the components (e.g. information architecture, interface design, content production).

Manage expectations, and promote site to key constituents, e.g. through E-mail, company publications and newsletters, or supplier / press communications.

Maintain site regularly, appoint clear owner and Brand Guardian, and invite ongoing advice and feedback from users.
Measure site use, production costs, response time to constituents, monitor inappropriate implementation, and feedback results.

Practical Examples

A compelling demonstration of how a change in mindset about brand knowledge management can be facilitated using an intranet is the case of a Letter Writing Guide. Research had identified that letters were amongst the top influencers of perception amongst customers and normally a negative factor.

Trying to solve this proved to be a problem, due to the diverse nature of source, ownership, and technology. There were literally thousands of letters across every department on hundreds of systems. Each could change over time and many required specialist knowledge to construct.

The solution, instead of prescribing and devoid of brand related jargon, provided the necessary knowledge to empower writers to apply to their own tasks. This created a wave of change in a number of important programmes relating to customer communications.

The Better Letter Guide enables anyone to construct a communication that improves that satisfaction of the customer, whilst reflecting and reinforcing the brand. The customer relationship is improved, the brand strengthened, the employees job is made easier. Everybody gains.

Another example is the Presentation Guide. Many staff were required to create and deliver presentations, both internal and external audiences. The existing system was prescriptive and not widely available. The core knowledge needed was not about the colour scheme, logo position, or font size, all easily resolved. What was needed was advice on presenting.

The solution was a practical interactive guide to presentations, which provides easy to use templates, with a focus on how to deliver effective presentations, giving advice on structure, illustrations, and even breathing techniques.

Extending The Concept Of Brand Across All Digital Channels

Consistent branding across all new media channels is essential. Edentity is a framework that defines the desired brand identity expression and experience across varied digital platforms in order to assure this consistency.

E-dentity is a about adopting a more holistic perspective for the brand in the digital environment. It reflects the realisation that in the digital space branding takes on an entirely new role.

Well not so new, brands have always been about more than logos, slogans, advertising, typefaces and templates. Branding is about every aspect of the users experience when they interact with the business product or service, as discussed earlier.

Digital technology and especially the development of websites have caused the role and definition of brands to be truly realised and shared. This is partly due to the convergent nature of the medium. A website presence for a bank becomes a single touch point for every aspect of the bank. All the back office functions, infrastructure, processes, and of course the people need to be aligned to create a seamless offering.

This convergence is combined with the empowerment that the media offers to the user. They are no longer passive pawns, but have the ability to define the nature of their relationship with business. If they do not like the way businesses react, then click and away.

Edentity is a response to recognising these fundamental changes in the dynamics of the user relationship and the role of the brand. It is a means of aligning all the various aspects of the business to deliver a truly brand-centric experience in the digital environment.

From a brand knowledge management perspective this represents a fundamental shift in approach. From a service or product that is branded at the end of its development to a brand that influences and nurtures the product or service.

It provides knowledge for everyone involved in developing every aspect of the banks offering in the new media environment from programmer to product manager, from customer service to content development.

Interactive tools that combine innovative ideas, engaging programming, and creative design, enable users to see visual representations of the “digital universe” of channels and/or projects, to provide a framework for strategic development.

It can be difficult to sell in as a concept because it is new. A basic intranet offers a fairly low cost testing ground for this revolutionary thinking, and the proof of concept is successful if managed properly.

In one case, the new Edentity became the source of inspiration, guidance and knowledge for the development of a revised web site, and for the delivery of WAP based service, new ATM communications, and interactive TV.

Key Learnings

It is important to note that there is never a substitute for strategic thinking and quality design. Branding is part art, part science, and digital technology per se or Edentity programmes cannot replace this.

The combination of digital and knowledge is the business driver for success.

Brand intranets are about growth and evolution just the same as the brands they support. The longer-term vision should be based around creating a dialogue and user relationship between the site and employees. It should become a space for discussion, ideas, feedback, and issue solving. The aim is to create a community of brand evangelists.

The concept of providing knowledge and empowering staff to translate this knowledge into action at their local level also for the development and management of a seminar based brand training programme. The combination of face to face training and a source of knowledge, inspiration and information is a potent force in creating seeds of change within the company.

Digital allows you to think in new ways- don’t just cut and paste old ideas, be bold, be creative, be flexible. Be prepared for a struggle - new ideas challenge, but knowledge is enriched by these ideas and empowered employees do make a difference.

For more information, please contact Niclas Ljungberg, Operations Director & Knowledge Management, [email protected].

In this month's edition of Document Management Update:

Lotus unveils Raven Discovery Server. more>>
Deutsche Bank chooses IBM WebSphere Translation Server. more>>
Zurich deploys Autonomy in worldwide risk engineering extranet. more>>
Feature: The need for content management. more>>
eRooms launches eRooms 5.0 - Richard Croasdale finds out how the company plans to differentiate collaboration tool from Microsoft rival. more>>
Documentum launches 4i Portal content edition. more>>





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