Brand Guidelines: the tool your brand can’t survive without
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – a strong brand is more than a logo and a funky strapline. No matter how creative or memorable.
Our post on what makes a strong brand explains how a strong brand has clarity and certainty on its mission, vision, values, personality, voice, and, yes, its logo and strapline.
Clarity and certainty help brands build consistency, which in turn helps create familiarity and recognition – all of which helps build consumer trust and loyalty.
Brand guidelines are the missing piece of the jigsaw; the document responsible for wrapping up all of the clarity and direction in one central location. They set out what the brand stands for, its mission and values, as well as how the various brand identity elements such as logo, strapline, typeface and colours and icons should be used.
Why have brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines (or the ‘brand style guide’ or ‘brand book’) give longevity and consistency to the brand; they ensure it outlives different campaigns, shifts in business priorities and, importantly – personnel (so if the Head of Marketing disappears he doesn’t take the brand with him), let alone ensure it is protected against the perils of individual ‘creative’ interpretation, “oh, but the logo would look great, stretched just a little bit and converted to blue against that yellow background.’ No, it really wouldn’t.
Brand guidelines give a matter-of-fact, this-is-how-it’s-done reference point to anyone involved in brand communications. From PR to HR, graphic design to copywriters, in-house and external agencies. It’s not just business cards and web graphics that need attention – every single communication (visual, written or spoken) between brand and internal and external audiences should reflect the brand identity.
Use brand guidelines to
- Give your brand consistency in look and feel
- Give your brand a clear, distinctive and confident personality
- Give employees and agencies the information they need to communicate the brand appropriately
- Save time and money by reducing the amendment and approval processes on brand materials
How to create brand guidelines that work
First things first. Every brand is different (thank goodness for that) so there’s no definitive instruction on how your guidelines should look, or what they should include. Long or short, detailed or punchy, the most important thing is that work.
Rave recommends: For most businesses, our advice is to keep guidelines succinct, easy to read and easy to digest. Even better if you can make the content snappy and memorable – far better that some of the pernickety detail is overlooked in favour of content that’s easily adopted and built into everyday practice.
Making your guide too detailed is almost as bad as having no guidelines at all. People are busy and don’t have time to wade through reams of technical information. Make it easy for them to find the detail they need to do their job – they’ll thank you for it.
What’s inside? A brief anatomy of brand guidelines
Mission and values
Give your guidelines context. What does your brand stand for? What is it trying to achieve and what is its purpose and business objectives?
Your logo will be used everywhere. On your website, your stationery, your packaging, your social media icons, press releases, business cards and more. Eliminate the risk of logo meddling, by clearly setting out (in pictures) the logos that can be used and how they must be displayed.
Many brands have two versions – a full logo incorporating a brand graphic, and a simple word mark alternative. Explain when each should be used, and how.
The logo guide should set out minimum sizes, as well as spacing (how much white space must be kept around the edges) and as positioning (should it be positioned bottom left, right, top middle or centred?).
Many guides set out how not to use the logo – as well as how to use it.
Do you have online usage alternatives? Social media icons, for example?
Consistent, strong brand colours help give your brand instant recognition. Just think of O2 – the colours are so well integrated within the brand’s identity that even without the logo we know who the brand is.
Your brand may have primary and secondary colours. What are they and when should they be used?
Set out pantone and CMYK references for design and print colleagues.
Remove the temptation for people to flirt with copy and create their own ingenious brand strapline. If you have one, set it out clearly.
Typeface (or font)
What’s the brand font? Does it differ for print or digital? Setting this out clearly (and maybe asking IT to wave their magic tecchie wand to ensure all computers have the brand font set as default) will help eliminate the rogue bold lilac (it’s always bold lilac) faux-handwriting-script that can creep into ‘creative’ signatures and emails.
Imagery or Photography
A picture tells a thousand words and all that, so make sure you set clear guidelines on the type of photographs and other imagery that can – and can’t be used in conjunction with the brand. Don’t just describe – use pictures to help people see what you mean.
How should photography be used in conjunction with the logo? Can the logo (or other brand iconography) be embedded onto the photographs – and if so, where? And how? Full colour? Black and white? Transparent? There’s no single rule, but by setting out clear guidelines you’re helping give your brand consistency.
Tone of Voice
‘A strong brand depends on strong communications with a clear, identifiable voice.’ We think this is so important we’ve written two posts on the subject – (almost) everything you need to know about brand tone of voice and almost everything else you need to know about brand tone of voice.
Whether you have a separate tone of voice guide or not, make sure your brand guidelines set out how the language, pace and style of writing should reflect your brand values and personality.
Case study examples
By creating brand guidelines that set out its characteristics and asset usage in full you’ll be giving your brand a fighting chance of always being represented, just as it should.
Want more, and want it now?
Can’t wait for our next post? You might find these previous blogs worth a read.
- What makes a strong brand
- (Almost) everything you need to know about brand tone of voice
- 5 ways to build your brand and win customers with inbound marketing
- 10 ways to make your website awesome (and how to brief your agency)
- Almost everything else you need to know about brand tone of voice
This blog post was written in conjunction with Jo Quint. Click here for Jo’s website