When learning meets branding - what are your experiences?

Jan 22, 2015

Hi everyone!

Here at my company we have stumbled across something we haven't really dealt with before, and I thought to put the question to everyone at this excellent community - because we're a bit stumped really.

One our of clients is a big industrial company which has recently started a brand management department and they have gone about branding absolutely everything. They haven't really gotten to work on guidelines for E-learning yet, but have nonetheless decreed that educational materials are to follow the brand guidelines for powerpoints and prints.  However, since web guidelines and guidelines for educational materials haven't actually been made, we might have an opportunity to influence the way they work with these types of publications.

And that's why I'm putting out the call to you for your experiences working with E-learning under brand guidelines. How do you and your clients work with branding, to make sure learning isn't impaired by the "brand"? What concessions do you make and which are made by branding departments? 

To put it in perspective, we are now reduced to using two colours on either black or white background. Pictures need to be HDR-type and extensively photoshopped and all illustrations be grid-type wire-looking things (bye bye character driven scenarios, simple illustrations etc). The verbal brand is the same as in for example Annual Financial Reports or PR materials. It's all good for those types of publications, but for E-learning... Well, you can probably imagine.

Any experiences, suggestions or insights are greatly appreciated! 



9 Replies
Bruce Graham

Come across it all of the time.

You need to be an Instructional Designer. They need to understand that YOU are the expert at what YOU do, and they have the power to destroy your success.

You need to explain that eLearning/training is NOT PowerPoint. You need to explain that what you are doing is more akin to creating a film/movie from a visual and psychological perspective - it is NOT a .pdf, it is NOT a document.

Also - if it is internal-facing content, it is refreshing for people to see something that is NOT like everything else. OK - perhaps colours and a logo for the Player, but the content....no. Do not let them destroy the creativity that is necessary to get a message over powerfully.

I find that once I explain this to people that they "get it", the BRAND stays, but the CONTENT is imaginative, engaging, and can even be fun.

I am currently creating eLearning for a major/well-known UK brand - to educate their entire salesforce. Their current eLearning was all text/blah/blah. We have designed eLearning with no voiceover, but LOADS of moving words in colours reflecting their brand, but put in a Videoscribe cartoon to reflect the content on every slide. They LOVE it. Also used a few well-placed cartoon fonts for words like "KAPOW!", (this one word replaced an entire slide about how we want customers and salespeople to feel....)

Hope this helps. Very often when they see what CAN be done, you will find that the "branding police" are asked to change by the business to meet YOUR standards. I have seen this many time as well. It's just that it will be the first time anyone in the business has challenged them with any mandate before. Give them some well-versed and fact-based competition. :)

Hope that helps, and let us know how it goes.

David Tait

First off I agree with much of what Bruce has said. 

We come across it on almost all of our projects and the quality of the brand guidelines varies, sometimes they are fantastic, other times they're extremely limited.

In cases where we haven't been given anything that is fit for purpose we'll look at the brand's website to see whether there is anything of use there. This often works and a good argument to make is that you're taking inspiration from other digital communications that the organisation already has.

Part of our process is to create a selection of designs for the client to review. These normally comprise of an on-brand version, a creatively branded version and something that blends the two together.

Often when they see how the on-brand version looks in context they are happy to consider the other options. It's always important to design any elements that you're going to need in each of the versions to really hammer home your point, e.g. callout boxes, image style, typography and even little things like radio buttons etc. The great thing with this is that it gives the brand police enough input to make them feel involved whilst allowing you to put your point across in a constructive manner.

At this stage our designs will have been created in Adobe Illustrator (and given to client as PDF) and to minimise unnecessary work we won't move on to a functional prototype in Articulate until a design has been signed off.

Trina Rimmer

Hi Jonas. Looks like you've gotten some great advice from Bruce and David. Adding to their ideas, branding often has a lot to do with "voice" - the tone the brand uses to communicate with its customers. If you're in the position to influence this conversation, it might be nice to bring up this point. Maybe your e-learning can represent the brand in a way that goes beyond the visuals and still satisfies the need for more uniformity.

Bob S

So here's an realization I've come to...  Many times the corporate visual/brand standards are often imposed on learning even if they don't really have to be because of bad experiences in the past. Most leaders have seen so many bad/boring/offensive/etc training offerings over the years that they are concerned their internal brand will be tarnished with them.  If you are an unknown quantity (new contractor or new to the team), this concern is naturally heightened.

I bring this up, because often you can simply find out what they hate or are afraid it might look/sound like, then reassure you think that would be terrible for their brand and offer classy alternatives they can relate to. To Bruce's and others points.... when you do that correctly the branding guidelines often somehow magically become less relevant.   :)

Jonas Klingström

Thank you for all your really good replies! I will definitely (and immediately) use your ideas on making examples for them to view and work with the "voice". It's good to know that getting around branding police might be possible, or even better get them on our side - I think with your advice we'll have a better chance! :)


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