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Brand Guidelines for Affiliate Marketing: How to Create and Enforce Them

Brand Guidelines

A strong brand can be an incredibly powerful asset. 

And yet, it’s not always that easy to build and protect brand equity. Especially in the often complex, highly interdependent ecosystem of affiliate marketing that includes advertisers, networks, affiliates, and sub-affiliates

This is where experience counts. For over a decade, CAKE has onboarded thousands of customers who have leveraged our performance marketing platform to manage their global affiliate marketing programs. From that collective knowledge we’d like to share with you best practices for creating, monitoring, and enforcing brand guidelines.


Why it’s important to protect a brand

Staying on brand across affiliate marketing campaigns enables the growth of your company as well as sets you apart from your competitors. At CAKE, we’ve found that a consistent brand strategy for affiliate marketing programs helps build credibility and loyalty with existing and potential customers. Staying on brand also influences their purchasing decisions, while fostering trust. So, company growth, competitive differentiators, credibility, loyalty, trust, and more – all good stuff! 

Conversely, failing to follow brand guidelines can lead to poor campaign performance and have a negative impact on brand integrity. Not so great.

This is where affiliate marketing brand guidelines come into play to help you achieve positive outcomes. 


How to develop brand guidelines: 8 must-haves

The first important step is to set the ground rules for affiliate marketing campaigns. Advertisers need to establish and communicate clear brand guidelines that are enforced by terms and conditions (T&Cs) that are passed along to networks, which in turn are shared with affiliates. 

Brand guidelines for affiliate marketing programs should include these eight must-have categories:

  • Promotional policies: Outline the acceptable uses of the company name and specific instances to avoid when referencing the company. As a best practice, it is helpful to provide affiliates with visual examples to illustrate the acceptable uses in addition to the prohibited uses of the company name.
  • Logo usage: Define how the logo can be used including the preferred form, spacing rules, sizing, and acceptable placement. To avoid logo misuse, include examples in this section.
  • Creatives: Provide instructions on how to leverage the approved creative assets (i.e., banners, ads, email images, etc.), in addition to placement rules, sizing, plus examples. Alternatively, provide creative guidelines for affiliates to create their own assets if approved by the advertiser.
  • Trademarks: Include the proper usage of trademark symbols and a link to all trademarked assets.
  • Photography: Offer access to a library of approved photography, plus include acceptable placement rules and specifics to avoid with the photography. For example: altering colors, adding animations, resizing, etc.
  • Content: Determine the permitted typography and approved back-up typography, in addition to channel-specific content policies (i.e., social, email, display, etc.) and misrepresentations to avoid (i.e., promoting discounts, savings).
  • Linking: Specify the acceptable linking strategy from affiliate promotional offers and where to direct traffic.
  • Prohibited activity: List all unacceptable promotional behavior. For example: bidding on branded keywords or promoting offers without approval. 

Ultimately, establishing clear and effective affiliate marketing brand guidelines is the responsibility of the advertiser. The greater amount of detail within the brand guidelines helps affiliates adhere to the protocols and thus facilitates greater brand integrity for the advertiser.


How to monitor and enforce brand guidelines: Actionable tips

Once the brand guidelines and T&Cs are in place, the next essential step includes monitoring and enforcement. For this, you’ll need a way to efficiently collect and analyze your campaign traffic data. 

Utilizing technology makes it easier to keep tabs on your campaigns, partners, and other activities, so you know precisely how ads are used and performing at all times. So, it’s important to rely on technology, but not just any platform. Performance marketing or affiliate marketing software should provide features specifically designed to simplify the process of following affiliate marketing brand guidelines.

Below are helpful solution features and tips to monitor and enforce affiliate marketing brand guidelines:

  • Track sub-affiliates: With many affiliate marketing campaigns, advertisers work with networks that have affiliates, and those affiliates often have partners of their own, called sub-affiliates.

    Sub-affiliates offer substantial value. However, by being removed two or three times from advertisers makes monitoring sub-affiliates more involved, and a platform feature such as sub ID tracking is crucial. With sub ID tracking, you can measure sub-affiliate traffic quality and quantity to ensure all of the partners in your affiliate marketing campaigns are adhering to brand guidelines.
  • Leverage an affiliate portal: An affiliate portal is a centralized hub where affiliates can access approved marketing assets for the offers they are driving traffic. Additionally, they gain access to real-time reporting, compliance tools for email campaigns, and self-service widgets for integrating tracking. To learn about affiliate portals, check out this video about the basics of affiliates portals.

    Essentially, an affiliate portal can serve as an extension of the T&Cs agreed upon by the advertiser and affiliate, plus provides another way for advertisers and networks to clearly communicate specific offer restrictions and descriptions. For example, an affiliate portal provides affiliates with:

    • A clear snapshot of each offer they are approved to run 
    • The accepted types of media compared to those that are not
    • Any other specific requests or requirements from the advertiser
  • Access detailed data: Gain insights into real-time traffic trends such as traffic surges, decreases, as well as high-quality and fraudulent traffic. Leverage these insights to identify where clicks and conversions are coming from to ensure that affiliate partners are driving high-quality, approved traffic to the appropriate offer.

    For example, look for reporting that includes data regarding referrers and other metadata about location, device, operating system, ISP/carrier, language, and user agent.


What next?

Learn more about brand guidelines and other ways to protect brand equity by downloading the white paper, Brand Integrity: 6 Affiliate Marketing Pitfalls and How to Steer Clear of Them



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