Some call them brand guidelines, style guides, brand books or brand manuals. These documents go by many names and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The common thread is that they all exist to create a consistent set of standards for employees, customers, clients, or anyone engaging with your company’s brand. They provide a flexible resource designed to help establish and maintain your brand’s identity. Whether you’re a graphic designer looking for the appropriate logo and color palette to use on an advertisement, or an accountant creating a PowerPoint presentation on the company template – these guidelines set the standards for how your brand looks and sounds to both internal and external audiences.
Don’t just think of these guidelines as a place to describe what logo and typeface to use, but just as importantly, provide the when and why they should be adopted. Think of this as a guide to present a unified company vision. Brand messaging is equally as important to your visual identity, and your brand guidelines is the perfect place to combine how your brand should look, feel, and sound.
Whether you’re starting from scratch on a blank white-board, or looking to refresh your brand, these five tips will help you along the way.
1. Brands are more than a logo.
When most people think of a company’s “brand” they immediately imagine a logo. But successful brands are developed through both consistent visual identity and messaging. A great brand is something tangible – it evokes emotion, builds trust, and has personality. Create a blueprint for your brand guidelines that lays out all your visual elements, including logos, typefaces, colors, photography, infographics, and more. Describe when and why to use these specific elements and provide context to people who might not necessarily have a design background.
2. Consistency is key.
Strong brands are built on consistency. Brand guidelines create consistency for all your company’s touchpoints. From how your logo should display on the company letterhead, to the messaging written on your website’s homepage, these standards are set in the brand guidelines and provide an evergreen reference point.
3. Show some personality.
Talk about your team and what sets your company apart. What differentiates your brand begins with your employees and company values. You can and should describe your brand personality, brand positioning, and elements of the internal culture. Including descriptions of your personality also serves as a reference for future hires and whether they will be a good fit in your company culture.
4. Test your templates.
Ask a select group of colleagues and stakeholders to test your letterheads, PowerPoints, proposals, email signatures, and more. These templates can get a little wonky on different devices, so test them for things like images getting cut off on your letterhead footers, fonts not displaying properly, and formatting issues with PowerPoint master slides. You should also make sure everyone has the correct company fonts available to download.
5. Conduct a brand workshop.
When you unveil the new brand guidelines, give everyone the opportunity to ask questions and learn why these standards are important to maintaining the overall brand identity. You can show colleagues how to use different logos on a variety of backgrounds, the dos and don’ts of photography and messaging, and why it’s important to stay consistent.
People will inevitably go rogue or forget to use the new tag line in a logo, but having brand guidelines will help minimize these occurrences and create a set of standards to follow from this point forward. Don’t be afraid to update the guidelines as you learn new things about what works and doesn’t work for your visual identity and messaging. Be transparent when updates are made and provide colleagues and stakeholders with a direct contact, usually a brand manager or creative director, for any questions or issues that might pop up down the road.
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