Unleash Greatness

Responsible Manufacturing Brand Management

By Rob Hawse

Providing channel partners with brand guidelines and supplying them with on brand fixtures, graphics and swag can help ensure customers experience your product – and brand – the way you want them to.

As a manufacturer, you are in the business of making things, and so it’s natural to focus most of your attention on those processes. After all, making products is your “real” business. Packaging, shipping, marketing, sales, and service are necessary, of course, but because they are not the product, those functions often operate in silos or on autopilot.

The trouble starts with the belief that the responsibility for the product ends when the pallets full of product have been loaded and the semi-tractor trailer hauling them to channel partners or customers pulls away from the dock.

It doesn’t.

In fact, as the manufacturer, the responsibility for the customer experience your product creates throughout its useful life extends beyond the box – way beyond.

That’s because whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not, as the manufacturer, you are the brand mothership. Period.

As the brand mothership, it’s your brand (and by extension, your organization) that will ultimately either be celebrated or blamed for the experiences that those channel partners and customers have with your product.

Not just direct experiences, all experiences related to that product, including the purchase, maintenance, and customer service experiences.

Knowing that, doesn’t it just make sense to create some rules and resources that would allow you to exert at least some control over how your brand is marketed and sold?

To do this, your organization must accept the responsibility for the brand experience and create tools and guidelines that encourage consistency, thereby increasing the chances that products will be successful.

Guidelines should call out rules for all brand touch points, including branding standards, print, direct mail, events, tradeshows, displays, fixtures and more. To encourage compliance, helpful tools should be developed and made readily accessible.

Following are examples of two different processes and standards implemented by two very different manufacturers:


Snap-on Tools, a US designer, manufacturer and marketer of high-end tools and equipment to professional tool users, requires all mobile stores (which they call showrooms on wheels) be laid out the same way.

Franchisees are also required to wear uniforms. Snap-on franchisees are happy to comply with these requirements because they understand that this approach is the key to selling more tools.


Shinola amplifies the image of its products, which include high-end watches, leather goods, and bicycles, as both valuable and collectible art by the use of museum cases at fashion retailer Ron Herman.

All three of these manufacturers have taken full responsibility for their brand experience. What they also know is this: Their brand is not the only one that stands to gain from following manufacturer’s guidelines and using prescribed tools. They know implementing a mechanism for creating consistent brand experiences will be good for everyone who touches the product.

Accepting the responsibility of the brand experience is the first step. Success or failure will hinge on the development of a clear vision of the desired experience and how to achieve it, providing partners with what they need to create it, and the will and wherewithal to follow through.

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