6 Signs That You May Be Struggling With Brand Sprawl

Without even knowing it, your business is probably suffering from a problem that affects your bottom line. That problem is called Brand Sprawl. It impacts almost every business that has a brand and exposes that brand to people whether it be consumers, agencies, partners, or other companies. It is:

the messy, uncontrolled spread of unapproved branded materials by both internal and external parties that occurs naturally as a business grows.

As content creation has become easier and more democratized, it is more difficult for Brand Managers to reign in all the variations of approved assets floating around.

So, how do you know if your business is struggling with brand sprawl or how bad it is within your organization? Here are a handful of symptoms that could be signs of rampant Brand Sprawl.

It takes forever to find your digital assets.

We’ve all been there. Spending hours searching aimlessly for a branded graphic, one-pager, slide, etc. Then, once you find it, you have to wonder if it’s the latest version of said asset. But guess what, you’ve already wasted enough time looking so just go with it. 

Design is a bottleneck for the development of new assets.

Designers are often slammed, due to the speed at which assets are needed to be created or updated for businesses. But why does design need to be involved in the development of new assets? If you take the atomic design approach, as long as the individual components of a design are approved then the totality of the design should also be approved, right?

You see outdated or inconsistent assets in circulation.

To those of us who pay attention to things like branding, it’s more noticeable when a brand change happens and hasn’t yet been adopted across the board. Out for your walk, you hear an ad on Spotify, see a billboard, and see a product in person. Maybe it's an automotive manufacturer, a candy bar, or a clothing line. The exposure to whatever brand it is should be consistent. The billboard for the candy bar should match the wrapper on the candy bar in the convenience store across the street.

Brand Sprawl as seen from an airport window.

Creating new branded material takes too long.

Speed to market for new branded materials shouldn't take weeks to build. A single billboard, for example, may contain 10 different brand assets and follow the company's agreed-upon style. If those things are inconsistent or difficult to find, they could require verification at every level before it's published. Or, even worse, particular assets or styles are assumed to be accurate and up to date but in fact, are not.

Rebranding is nearly impossible to wrap your arms around.

When a company suffers from brand sprawl, it means that there are many variations of its brand floating around. This fact alone can make the thought of a rebrand daunting. How on earth can you reign in all the different versions that are out there? That would require thousands of touch points with hundreds of people both internal and external, some of which aren’t even aware of the rebrand, such as the webmaster for your partner company that uses your brand on their website. Apps, websites, advertisements, stores, social media, and more are places where a brand can currently be leveraged.

Your brand lacks consistency across web, mobile, social, print, partners, etc.

This one is obvious but also infuriating. As mentioned, when there are so many different platforms, partners, and people leveraging your brand assets, it requires many touch points to make changes. As such, things are likely to slip through the cracks. Also, sometimes internal-facing apps and websites can get pushed to the back burner but nonetheless cause frustrations with brand inconsistencies.


Brian Felker

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