We recently shocked a global company by presenting print materials we’d gathered from ten of its offices around the world. They had been adamant about their complete brand control.

By issuing detailed and well thought through brand guidelines company-wide, management was confident in their brand consistency. Yet the material in front of their eyes showed significant variations: different colors, different papers and different formats.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve surprised companies in this way. It’s understandable that such inconsistencies exist considering that, when working with digital or printed formats, there has traditionally been many parties involved (internal and external teams, designers, translators, etc) and processes have been complex.

There have been two models of global brand management - neither perfect

Global businesses have tended to go with one of two models when it comes to brand and print management. (1) print centrally and ship to locations around the world, or (2) work with multiple print partners and print locally. Both have problems.

‘Centralized printing’ is costly, inefficient and risky for global brands. Businesses are often met with high shipping costs, import taxes, long lead times, custom issues, high carbon emissions and a host of other headaches. The long delivery times also encourage the stockpiling of materials which can result in wastage when old versions are updated.

One the other hand, ‘decentralized printing’ can create off-brand and inconsistent material. It may also require managing multiple print vendors and design agencies per market, which leads to a loss of control and significant administration time.

Decentralizing brand management risks brand deterioration

Companies that take the decentralized approach often see local teams go ‘off brand’. Localized marketing teams may naturally gravitate towards local design partners and local printers, duplicating work across regions.

We recently spoke with one company operating in over 150 global markets who found invoices from 700 print partners. Imagine the resources needed just to maintain relationships with so many vendors. Now imagine the complexity of controlling the brand on top of that!

As businesses grow, they tend to start getting more and more decentralized in their approach. This results in hybrid solutions and the use of both centralized and decentralized printing, depending on the region.

Brand control is about so much more than color and cost

Of course, the problems don’t stop with color and cost. Brands also need to adhere to CSR commitments as part of overall brand control. There are 400,000 printers on the planet - finding the right ones is hard. There are printers with terrible working conditions, child labor, extremely old machines, fire hazards, transportation that risks the lives of workers, ... the list goes on. How many companies even think about doing a CSR audit on their printers?

Centralize brand management - decentralized operational tasks (localized ordering)
Decentralization results in repetitive design creation and lack of collaboration. However it is important that local teams have access to the materials they can customize for use in their markets. The solution is centralized file creation and the appointment of one or a few lead agencies. From here editable design templates and a DAM solution for sharing can provide the best of both worlds: brand consistency and customized local content.

By ensuring everything from creation to production is on one platform, control is maintained and huge efficiency gains are made.

To learn more, watch our webinar on Brand Control.