WHY YOU NEED BRAND GUIDELINES
WHAT ARE BRAND GUIDELINES?
What exactly are style guides or brand guidelines? No two sets of brand guidelines are the same, but all brand guidelines serve as a resource for you to return to when you need to reference how to represent your brand. Brand guidelines create a unified brand identity or persona using wording, colors, logo, typography and more. Brand guidelines can give you everything from rules about how to use your brand’s visual aspects to the tools to create cohesive messaging and iconic marketing. As our VP of Account Services with 20+ years of experience working on brands, Lori, explains, “It shouldn’t stifle creativity, it’s more like guard rails.” These guard rails ensure your brand stays on the right path, no matter who works on it over time.
WHAT DO BRAND GUIDELINES INCLUDE?
As mentioned earlier, no two brand guidelines are identical. However, there are a few core aspects that yours should have such as:
- An introduction that states your brand’s identity, values, mission, and personality
- Graphic elements such as icons, shapes, patterns, document styling, and vector graphics
- How to show your brand on materials such as clothing and signage
- Digital styling – this can include email signatures, ad banners, websites, social media and more
- Brand assets & how to use them – this can include typeface, spacing, backgrounds, and more
- Color palette – These are the colors that make up your brand and should include RGB & CMYK color codes for consistency between digital and print as well as the HTML Hex Reference for web.
- Logo design – This includes how to display your logo on different backgrounds as well as size and color restrictions.
- Imagery – This includes the style of photos and icons you consistently use in your marketing materials.
- Brand tone – which words do you use to show your brand’s values and persona? Is the tone funny, serious, or fun?
We know, this seems overwhelming. But going through, sorting, and defining these elements is a great way to get to know and solidify your brand. And once this is complete, it will only continue to serve you in the future. If you have any questions about this process or which elements are involved, feel free to reach out to us!
WHAT PURPOSE DO BRAND GUIDELINES SERVE FOR YOUR BRAND?
So, what is the purpose of going through this multi-step process after all? Brand guidelines are truly a home base to return to so that you can keep your brand concise, cohesive, and reliable in the eyes of your clients or customers and everyone who works on your brand. With core guidelines as a foundation, design decisions can be made more quickly and smoothly. They can also inspire your strategists, marketing managers, and designers. Rather than limiting creativity, these guidelines can make your brand more defined and powerful. Definition and consistency will prove to be key as you launch new products and expand, ensuring your brand isn’t stretched too thin. 71% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand they recognize, making brand consistency crucial for success. Our Creative Director Kelly, with 25 years of experience, urges:
“The more complete the better. No matter what, there are going to be scenarios where you have to deviate. When you can have a base to start with and go back to, especially when you’re trying to push the creative a bit. You have a home base you can go back to and say ‘Am I still within these lines?’”
WHY DO BRAND GUIDELINES MATTER FOR YOUR TEAM?
Brand guidelines matter not only for those looking in at your brand, but also for those who work on your brand–whether frequent or infrequent. It’s more difficult to have miscommunications when, as Lori mentions, “We’re all going back to that same guideline and utilizing the elements similarly.”
Regardless of who works on your brand–whether it’s a freelance designer or a designer who has been working on the brand for years–everyone is keeping the brand recognizable and consistent. Kelly explains from her own experience, “As you keep going and working on projects, you can always go back to that home base. Even when you have to deviate from it, you can always go back and reference it.” Keeping everyone on the same page is extremely helpful when rebranding, or for new employees who are learning the ins and outs of your brand. It benefits everyone from designers to copywriters to anyone else who needs to understand your brand to be familiar with these guidelines.
WHY DO BRAND GUIDELINES MATTER FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Taking meticulous care of your brand’s details also enhances your brand’s professionalism, integrity, and image. When all of your marketing materials have a cohesive look and feel to them, it’s easier to make your brand recognizable and iconic to customers. Clients and consumers are able to depend on your brand and will know what to expect from you. Lori explains, “If you’re all over the place and there’s no consistency in the branding, then there’s no true identity that people can grab onto.” For example, choosing consistent brand colors alone can increase recognition by up to 80%.
While you might have a perfect understanding of your brand’s identity, it’s your customers you want to win over. Lori continues, “The consistency helps elevate the brand–their values, their identity. If consumers are constantly seeing the same type of things associated with that brand, then obviously that’s going to stick with them more.” Brand guidelines are the first step towards this goal. Brand consistency has even shown to boost revenue by 23%.
WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW BEFORE YOU CREATE YOUR OWN BRAND GUIDELINES?
Before you get started creating your very own brand guidelines, it’s important to have a clear sense of who your brand is–its persona, messaging, and what its marketing materials look like. Having a style guide takes your brand to the next level, but it’s crucial to have a good sense of who you are and where you want to go. This guide can be created at the beginning of your brand’s journey or after your brand has been established. It’s never too late to create them, and the benefits will come no matter when you do it.
What’s important is keeping a balance. As our Creative Director, Kelly, says, “You can get in trouble in two ways. You can get in trouble if it’s too rigid and you force it into a guideline and your copy or creative suffers. It can’t be too hand-tying, but it can’t be too loosey goosey.” Having a strategic partner can help you figure out this balance and act as a sounding board during the process.
When it comes to the actual creation of the brand guidelines or style guide, it’s important to use authoritative language to ensure compliance. The content should also be simple and direct. And while it might be tempting to design the style guide, Kelly warns against this. “The style guide is supposed to be clean and simple and it should not take away from what you’re trying to do, which is give clear direction on the brand and what the brand should look like.” Instead of getting lost in the creation of the guidelines, focus on keeping the design easy, simple, and aesthetically pleasing.
Thinking about creating or updating your brand’s style guide? Feel free to reach out to us with any questions and we’re happy to jump in and answer. Our Flight Crew is made up of some pretty incredible people who have been working in branding and design for decades. We’re always looking for ways to make your brand soar higher than ever. Get in touch!
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