Think of the most popular brands in the world. You could recognize them anywhere. Why is that? Aside from their global presence, these brands have one thing in common – they adhere to a strict set of brand guidelines. It may seem obvious to you to always use the same logo or colour in brand communication, but brand guidelines go deeper than that. They provide enough information to ensure that you maintain the integrity of your brand and use it to make money for your company.
Many businesses, particularly smaller or newer businesses, often don’t have a formal set of brand guidelines. However, if they want to grow, they need to ensure that everyone who interacts with the brand receives the same experience. Through marketing and branding, this can be achieved using a brand guide.
What’s in a Brand Guide?
Before we get into some of the benefits a brand guide can offer your business, let’s go over some of the elements that should be included in one. Wherever possible, use examples throughout your brand guide to help illustrate your points:
This will outline the colours that are within and outside the scope of your brand. You should be sure to include CMYK and RBG designations for your colours to ensure consistency between digital and print assets. It may also be beneficial to include permitted and restricted colour combinations if your brand has alternate palettes that it uses.
This will include the typefaces that are used for your brand (or sub-brands), and the hierarchy of fonts that you use. Appropriate sizing and spacing is good to discuss here as well.
Logo placement, sizing, and colouring should all be described, and clear space to leave around the logo. Including some do nots here will be beneficial in reinforcing your point.
Particularly helpful for those new to the company, imagery in a brand guide will help to illustrate the types of images that are used in your materials. This can include both photography and iconography overviews.
It is beneficial to consider including a description of your brand’s tone as well. You can help illustrate this by including a writing sample or just a list of words that are and are not appropriate to represent the brand.
How Can a Brand Guide Help You?
An effective brand guide can unite departments, partners, and agencies and create alignment in how your brand is presented. As businesses grow, it becomes difficult to maintain a consistent level of communication across all functional areas. This is especially true if you have offices in different cities or even countries. When borders and oceans are separating you from your colleagues, it is very easy for differences in expression to arise. Without a guide to follow, confusion may arise among employees on how to represent your brand, which will be passed directly to consumers.
A brand guide acts as a set of rules for you to follow when putting your name on anything, whether it be internal or external. This takes a lot of guesswork out of the creative process and provides focus for any communication. Eliminate recurring questions like: can I resize this? Is the logo too close to the content? Can I change the colour? Or the font? A brand guide will quickly answer all these questions, saving time when creating assets. Keeping your business running efficiently while ensuring your communications are appropriately representing the brand.
Maintaining a consistent representation of your brand will make it more recognizable to consumers. Seeing the same logo, colouring, and typeface associated with your brand every time will help customers associate these specific visuals with your company. There are brands that can be easily recognized without having to sign their name because their logo is readily associated with the company itself. Look at the social media buttons at the bottom of this page, not one of them says where they go. A small ‘f’, ‘in’, and a picture of a bird are all you need to know where the links will take you.
This consistency will also add value to your brand. The more consistent your messaging is, the more reliable you will seem to your customers. Think of Google for a moment. Over the years, their logo has changed, but at the same time it hasn’t. Aside from pre-launch logos and the current G icon, it has always been the word Google, with the same colours, in the same order. Overall, you can see that consistency has always been a factor in their updates. Switching to a competing search engine, Yahoo! has had considerably less consistency over the years. Its colour and layout have seen many changes since the launch of the company. Now think about the relative value you place on each brand. Which do you think adhered to a strong set of brand guidelines?
While it won’t instantly skyrocket your brand to worldwide recognition, creating and using a comprehensive set of brand guidelines will form a great foundation that your company can use to grow its recognition.