In a way, brands are like people. We need to feel that we know them so that we can trust them, love them, and choose them over others. That’s what we, as customers, need, and that’s exactly what companies desire – to be easily recognized and trusted.
However, the marketplace is crowded with brands. If businesses are to stay on the customer’s radar, they should build a rock-solid image that their clients recognize from the get-go. They should also provide a consistently impeccable experience. And this is where having brand guidelines becomes important.
In this article, we will be providing a handy template to help you build your guidelines. So read on and take notes!
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines, also known as a brand style book, a brand manual, or a brand bible, are a set of rules and instructions that define the visual, tangible, and abstract components of your brand.
What to Include in Brand Guidelines?
The exhaustiveness of the document depends on the size and the preferences of the company. However, there are basic topics that should be covered, such as logo, color scheme, typography, style, mood, voice, and personality.
A more detailed approach may feature information about the company’s story, mission, and values, as well as an overview of the products, the target audience, and the competition.
Who Creates the Brand Book?
As the topics covered in the document spread across a number of areas of expertise, creating the rules should be a team effort. Consider forming a committee that includes the company’s founding members, as well as representatives from all departments. Different POVs contribute to more productive brainstorming sessions and may help build a fuller and richer brand image.
If you don’t have an experienced designer in-house, the visual aspect of the brand can be outsourced to a third-party branding agency. However, all the other members of the company should still be actively involved in the process. After all, nobody knows your business, goals, and ideas better than you and your core team.
Formatting and Updates
In accordance with the needs of the company, the brand book may be distributed in the form of a .pdf doc, printed booklet, leaflet, presentation, or via digital asset management (DAM) system.
Furthermore, as businesses evolve over time, the guidelines should be updated regularly and any changes should be announced company-wide to avoid any misunderstandings.
What Is the Purpose of Brand Guidelines?
The process of creating the brand guidelines enables you to clarify any gray areas regarding your public image, by eliminating inconsistencies and resolving any doubts.
By taking a moment to organize your ideas and work on them with a dedicated team of specialists, you push yourself to make pertinent choices and set a clear direction for your brand. This saves you the trouble of constantly coming back to the same questions and wasting time explaining things over and over again whenever you hire a new employee, switch agencies, or outsource an activity.
However, the purpose of brand guidelines doesn’t end with that.
Once you have your brand manual ready, there are two general areas that may benefit the most – your team’s performance and the relationship with your customers.
How Brand Guidelines Benefit Team Performance
The main purpose is to provide a clear and comprehensive go-to guide available to anyone who uses or manages brand assets. This includes management, existing team members, new additions, partnering agencies, retainers, designers, marketers, salesmen, customer support, and so on.
- Improve Productivity. Brand guidelines eliminate doubt and uncertainty and provide clear instructions on how to proceed in different situations. Thus, they save time and improve productivity.
- Minimize Mistakes. The book ensures that every member of your organization will know exactly how to use brand assets. This will cut down on mistakes that may result in inconsistencies and damage your business image.
- Increase Sales. When your team performs better, your brand delivers a greater experience that customers love. This, ultimately, results in more sales.
How Brand Guidelines Benefit the Company / Client Relationship
The greater purpose of brand guidelines is to help your business stand out. It’s the little details that catch people’s attention and make them notice you. And if your brand and actions lack coherence, your connection with the customer will fail and your business will suffer.
- Create Consistency. Universal rules that apply to every aspect of your brand mean that you will be able to provide a seamless and consistent experience to your customer on every touchpoint.
- Increase Brand Recognition. Consistency in design, style, and actions makes your brand easier to recognize in any situation a customer may come across your marketing messages, products, or visuals.
- Encourage Loyalty. Recognition helps you build a connection with your customer and makes them feel that they know you. This promotes your brand as reliable and trustworthy.
Brand Guidelines Template
To begin with, there is no one-size-fits-all brand guidelines template. Every business is different and their brand book should be created to highlight and describe this uniqueness. However, there are vital components that you should consider.
Depending on the stage of development of your company, and the specifics of your brand, you may opt-out of some of the elements we’ve listed below, or include additional ones that you believe define you.
That said, keep in mind that skipping too many essential details may make things unclear and may, ultimately, hurt the consistency of the customer experience.
Also, when describing the components of the brand, consider adding relevant DOs and DON’Ts that will help anyone who reads the doc to better understand where the boundaries stand.
Many companies choose to leave this part out and consider it to be overkill. However, introducing the reader to your brand provides context to the specifications that will come next. Furthermore, it creates an emotional connection and may inspire a sense of belonging. This may affect the way employees feel towards you, improve your company culture, and help people understand you better.
You should consider including the following information in this chapter:
- Who You Are. Add a short explanation of what the company does and how you identify as a business.
- Your Story. Tell people how your journey began, why you went into business, and what obstacles you’ve encountered.
- Your Values. Share your brand ethics, your attitude towards customers, your work culture, and any other values you consider relevant.
- Your Mission. State why you are doing what you are doing, what your goals are, how you want to achieve them, and what impact you strive to make.
An overview of the business environment you operate in provides additional context to your brand. Knowing how your company is positioned in the marketplace, what it offers, and who it’s up against enables people to make better decisions. They can leverage this information in their day-to-day tasks and act more on-brand.
You may add different components here, depending on your preferences, but the main ones to consider are:
- Target Audience. List your buyer personas, explain their needs, and add any viable market research statistics that may come in handy.
- Products. Showcase your top products and introduce relevant specs and features.
- Competitors. Pinpoint your top marketplace rivals and provide information on how your products are different, what you know about their strategies, their market share, and so on.
The design guidelines are at the core of your brand book. They provide instructions on how to use your logo and any other visual representation of your business. You should list the DOs and DON’Ts, provide examples, and explain the meaning of every component.
Don’t be afraid to go into details. Technical information may seem redundant to some of the people who will read the manual, but to others, it will make it an invaluable working bible.
Here’s what to include:
- Logo. Provide instructions on how your logo should be used in different situations, where it should be positioned, and what minimal space should surround it. Make sure to include clear guidelines about using it in various color schemes (full color, reverse, black on white, white on black, etc.)
- Colors. Define your color palette and provide the CMYK and RGB codes of each choice. Most brands select up to 4 colors, two of which are the main focus, and the other two have supportive purposes. Explain the acceptable combinations, and explicitly specify if there are any colors that shouldn’t be used.
- Typography. List your standard fonts and typefaces, the acceptable variations, and where to use them. You should, generally, choose up to 3 fonts – one for the logo and/or brand name, one for headers, and one for the text body.
- Photography and Creatives Style. Define what visual style the creatives should follow and what type of photographs match your requirements. Consider providing examples to make the patterns clear, and complement them with verbal explanations.
- Stationery. If you have digital or print stationery, go into detail about what information they should include, formatting, technical specs, and so on.
- Text Formatting. Describe how text should be distributed on a page, what line & paragraph spacing is recommended, what the margins around text blocks should be, what the recommended paragraph length is, etc.
While design focuses on visualization, brand identity delves into the human qualities of the brand. The profile you create should describe how you want customers to see you and how communication with your company should feel. A consistent identity creates the feeling that when a client reaches out, there is always the same person at the other end of the line.
Here’s what to focus on to achieve this:
- Voice. Specify what vocabulary is acceptable, what tone of voice team members should use when communicating with clients, and what expressions they should avoid. For better clarity, consider providing example conversations, and a dictionary of word replacements.
- Personality. Describe your brand’s personality as you would another person’s – moods, attitudes, actions, character qualities, etc. Include everything that you believe should define you. To help the profile make more sense to the reader, you can illustrate how it’s related to your buyer personas and why.
- Style. The “personal” style of the brand should be consistent with its visual one. It dictates how you interact with customers, how your identity develops, and how customers respond to your marketing messages.
Every marketing channel follows different rules. However, what they have in common is that in order to be recognized, you should be consistent.
Following a regular schedule, creating post templates, and sticking to a coherent approach in your omnichannel marketing allows you to always stay on-brand. This makes it easier for your customers to notice you in the constant flow of information that they are being exposed to both online and offline.
Make sure to list all channels that you use, including, but not limited to:
- Website. Specify what fonts are acceptable on your website, what colors and visuals, what type of blog posts, and what copywriting style.
- Social Media Platforms. Describe what posts you encourage and what should be avoided, and specify the recommended formatting, tone of voice, and style of the content. Depending on the platform, you can choose a set of favorite emojis, and even develop your own branded ones.
- Email. Provide a list of the types of emails you send out, including the preferred structure, the subject and signature styles, the timeframes and scheduling, and anything else you consider important.
- Offline Media. If you have any TV and radio ads, define a set of rules about the style and feel they should follow, and provide any viable examples.
- Outdoor and Print Advertising. List the obligatory elements that should be present on all print and outdoor ads and provide any other details that may apply.
Consistency is one of the driving forces behind brand success and the best way to achieve that is by creating detailed, bullet-proof guidelines accessible to anyone in your organization who may need them.
A brand book is your company’s bible and should be the go-to source of information for everyone who is in doubt about how to proceed with a brand-related task.
When composing the guidelines, make sure to include all the details that define your brand and that may make it more recognizable to your customers. This will minimize the risk of off-brand mistakes, improve your employees’ productivity, and will, ultimately, improve your brand’s commercial success.
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