Imagine if life came with a script and stage directions. They could help you navigate social situations, guide you through difficult conversations, and even help you make big life announcements! While that’s sadly not available, you can create clear brand guidelines to keep your brand consistent, differentiate it from competitors, and guide your editorial and visual brand identities. And a marketing agency can help make it happen.
What’s the deal with brand guidelines anyway?
Brand guidelines are internal documents or decks that companies can use to decide their brand’s overall direction. These guidelines help to inform visual and editorial decisions. But they also help establish the brand’s overall voice, tone, and mission. The main benefits of brand guidelines are that they:
Repetition is a brand’s best friend when it comes to consistently conveying the same values, tone, and style. Brand guidelines set rules for your brand to follow throughout its iterations, both online and off. And “by having set rules and restrictions, it becomes possible to communicate a consistent brand identity.” The purpose of putting these values into a document or deck is to reference them throughout all brand levels easily. After all, internal consistency matters too.
Give inspiration and value
Brand guidelines are more than style guides that show logo use and color palettes. They are meant to inspire internally and communicate brand values. “Your brand identity is your business personality,” one that must be carefully constructed from the beginning. If your brand values include sustainability, then your guidelines are where you shine a light on why you’ve chosen this value and what it means for your marketing.
Let’s say your brand begins as a plucky startup. You have a lean team consisting of people who have been there from the beginning developing concepts, hashing out ideas, and sweating through seed rounds. But if your brand grows and you suddenly have 100 employees, it can be hard to communicate the same values. Having easily accessible guidelines means “that your employees will always be using your branding in the correct way” and feel a connection to your brand.
Anyone in marketing will tell you that relationships are key. And brands consist of a whole lot of relationships––the ones between your brand and consumers, between executives and employees, and between your brand and partners or competitors. Each of these relationships (and your brand’s interactions within them) are crucial to how others perceive your company. According to a recent article on Chron, brand guidelines “demonstrate the relationship between your company and other parties associated with you,” so you remain consistent.
Serve as a North Star
Perhaps most importantly, brand guidelines serve as the North Start for your brand. They communicate the all-important brand purpose that should guide your employees and motivate your consumers. And, just like the real North Star, you can always turn back to these guidelines when you get lost.
Elements of successful brand guidelines
Now that you understand the importance and function of brand guidelines, it’s time to get to the good stuff: The elements that make up successful guidelines.
If you’re unsure where to start your guidelines, a mission statement is a great first step. It helps set your brand’s tone and can inform other elements, like differentiators, attributes, and brand voice. To create a mission statement, think about your “reason for being” (beyond profits). Does your brand exist to fix a problem? Make something easier for a certain group? Entertain? A mission statement is often only a few sentences, but it can make a big impact. Think of it as an internal compass that ensures all business decisions are aligned with your purpose.
You’ve likely spent time researching your target audience, but do you have a buyer persona in mind? This digs deeper into your audience and helps you get into the mind of those you’re marketing to. Why does this person do what they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What does an average day look like? Of course, this isn’t Big Brother and you don’t have eyes on them at all times, but you do have analytics, focus groups, and social engagement to help answer these questions.
How can you market your brand if you don’t know what you are and what you aren’t? Brand clarity is a section in your brand guidelines that features an “is and isn’t list.” These are often one-worders or phrases that your brand very clearly is and things that you very much want to avoid or not be associated with. For example, your brand could be “friendly, but not pandering,” “professional, but not stuffy,” or “edgy, but not irreverent.”
Similar to brand clarity, the differentiator section outlines what sets your brand apart from competitors. For this section, take what your brand is and isn’t and compare it to the market. How is what you’re offering different from similar products or services? Is it a concrete difference like materials or abstract like values?
To further nail down your brand voice, you can define your attributes, benefits, and core values. Attributes are “surface facts about your company that an observant prospect or potential employee would notice when researching you.” Benefits are a little more open-ended. These are things that customers or clients gain when they work with you or purchase from your brand––such as using specialized AI. Core values are a list of things your company is striving for, like transparency and sustainability.
Toward the end of your brand deck, you can finally define your brand voice––arguably the climax of a brand guideline. The brand voice itself should be distilled to about a sentence, but you should also touch on tone and the timeless human need your brand serves in this section. When you define the brand voice, you can define your editorial style which informs blogs, site content, sponsored content, and public relations talking points.
Visual brand voice
At the end of your brand guideline document, you should also include a section on your visual brand voice. This is where you define the logo and its usages, font(s), color palette, and design parameters. To expand on this concept further, you would need to create a visual style guide.
The digital marketing agency touch
Creating brand guidelines is a big undertaking and one that can serve your brand for years to come. As a digital marketing agency, Savy offers a brand voice deck service that incorporates all the above elements to help our clients better understand their brand and to help our team craft more on-brand content and social services.
You spend years creating your brand. Keep it consistent, help your employees connect to it, and define your purpose with a brand guideline. Let’s get started.