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Brand Maintenance and Preservation: What Businesses Can Learn From the U.S. Flag Code

Brand Maintenance and Preservation: What Businesses Can Learn From the U.S. Flag Code

America’s forefathers had style, and a little later, a group of representatives from over 68 organizations drafted up what can be considered America’s brand style guide, or the National Flag Code. Fast-forward to June 1942, when the U.S. Flag Code became public law. The code serves as a guide for the display, care, and etiquette of Old Glory. What they might not have known then was just how helpful the U.S. Flag Code would be when maintaining and preserving a business’s brand.

Positioning Your Brand

Defining a brand and its logo in a brand style guide early in a brand’s history is important. The United States was a little late to adopt its brand style guide in the form of the U.S. Flag Code (about 166 years after independence), but with age comes wisdom. The code clearly establishes the colors, design, and orientation for all uses and presentations of the flag, all of which should be included in any brand’s logo usage guide.

“The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field.” — 4 U.S.C. § 1 (1942)

“The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.” — 4 U.S.C. § 7

Honoring Changes

It’s important for a company’s brand, especially its logo, to stay current with the culture and world it exists in. When a company alters its brand or makes a notable change, that company must publicize the changes. The Flag Code doesn’t just define that new states shall be added to the flag’s field of stars, but it sets a specific date to make such a change public. Not just any date will do, of course.

“On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.” — 4 U.S.C. § 2

Respect in All Things

It’s crucial that companies establish in-depth guidelines that cover how entities outside the brand can utilize the logo. Without these guidelines in place, anyone who interacts with the brand might alter the identity, association, or reputation of the brand. The U.S. Flag code makes certain that every use of the flag is respectfully in compliance with the American brand identity by defining how the flag can be used from advertising to retiring.

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.” — 4 U.S.C. § 8(i)

“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” — 4 U.S.C. § 8(k)

Display in the Right Way

Thinking to notable days ahead and planning how a brand should be perceived in the future is just as important as it sounds. The U.S. Flag Code establishes the specific list of dates on which the flag should be displayed and how it should be displayed.

“It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.” — 4 U.S.C. § 6(a)

“The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.” — 4 U.S.C. § 6(b)

“The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.” — 4 U.S.C. § 6(c)

“During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute.” — 4 U.S.C. § 9

Brand Leadership

In the event a change needs to be made to a brand, it’s important to lay out, just as the U.S. Flag Code does, who makes the call. Certain companies may handle changes to branding differently depending on the level or type of change, but any organization with a strong brand management policy has a clear process in place to make changes.

“Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the United States of America, set forth herein, may be altered, modified, or repealed, or additional rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a proclamation.” — 4 U.S.C. § 10

Life and Liberty

Managing your brand means care and respect for what it represents. With all respect to the American flag and what it stands for on this Independence Day, brand managers should take cues from the U.S. Flag Code to mirror the honor that is preserving a brand.

“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” — 4 U.S.C. § 8(j)