What Are Brand Guidelines, and How Do They Work?
You have put hours and hours of relentless work into building your brand identity. The perfect message, logo, and website that your brand boasts didn’t just appear out of thin air. You worked heads-down with your designer to ensure everything was on point. You collaborated with the best content writer to make sure your tagline was impactful. And you put your life and leisure in the backseat when your business cards were being designed. But you could lose all of these assets without laying down a set of prescriptive brand guidelines for others to follow.
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines or brand identity guidelines are a set of guiding instructions and tools that offer suggestions on how to use your branding elements. These guidelines are often used by writers and designers to create marketing material.
Both offline and online brand guidelines are generally presented in a book format. A detailed brand guideline explains how a brand works and how its elements mutually interact to form the brand’s identity.
The guidelines set clear rules and standards that define how the brand should be presented to the world. Businesses can use brand guidelines to ensure consistency and show the world who they are, what they do, and what they stand for. Put simply, a brand guideline is nothing but a rule book that aims to standardize the brand’s overall appearance and feel.
How Do Brand Guidelines Work?
Consistency is indispensable if you want to etch your brand’s name in people’s minds. Every little detail counts, right down to the colors in your logo and the font you use for your company’s email signature.
Brand guidelines are a powerful tool to not just set the rules, but also ensure that they are strictly followed. They can be especially useful when you are partnering with other businesses and individuals that want to use your logo, tagline, or other assets for promotional and social campaigns. It’s easier to maintain the brand image when everyone is on the same page.
Remember, your business will grow and mature with time. By keeping its image and identity consistent, you can make sure your customers always stay loyal to your brand.
9 Components Brand Guidelines Should Include
The best brand guidelines are not those that overcomplicate instructions with complex sentences and jargon. According to experts, simple brand guidelines always produce the best results because they don’t confuse the reader. However, building effective yet simple guidelines is not easy. It takes a reader’s mind to truly understand the level of simplicity required. Apart from simplicity, your brand guideline needs to cover certain important aspects to be truly effective. Read on as we talk about these essentials.
1. Brand story
Your brand story is what introduces you to the world. Therefore, you need a concise summary of your brand’s journey to give an insight into the struggles and achievements of your brand.
The summary should contain information about your brand’s vision, mission, and personality. Note that you can share all the available information or just a portion of it.
Once you have identified your brand story, use it to consolidate all your marketing strategies. Start a podcast, a blog, or a YouTube channel as a promotional initiative, and make sure that your brand story is the main consideration when creating content for it.
2. Mission and core values
Many organizations include their mission and values in their brand guidelines. This is a way to familiarize new customers with a brand’s story. It also helps readers understand the premise on which the brand’s design elements have been built.
3. Brand logo
Although you must include your logo in both offline and online brand guidelines, it’s not important to include all the iterations of the logo. For those who don’t know, companies build different iterations or variations of their logo to use in different situations. You might have a larger logo to go with large treatments, such as billboards or full-spread ad campaigns. A smaller logo would be appropriate for smaller treatments, such as documents or ads, or for special cases like digital applications. Other considerations, such as alignment and spacing, should also be included in the guide.
The reason why it’s important to have detailed guidelines for logo treatment in your brand guide is that any kind of ambiguity in this respect could negatively impact the brand image. Also, observe special care while designing the logo for your company. It should be well-thought-out, with special emphasis on the colors to be used. When deciding on a color scheme, don’t forget to check how it will look in different environments. Even though you may have many ideas for your logo, seeking the design services of a professional will make sure your logo looks professional, regardless of where it is seen.
4. Color palette
In branding, colors play a far more vital role than you can imagine. Your brand’s appearance and feel are going to be determined by the color palette you select. Avoid designs that are too busy, and stick to four colors or fewer.
Backgrounds in lighter colors look great when combined with dark-colored text, images, or other prominent elements in the foreground. Remember that you need to use the same colors everywhere you market your brand. Your ability to plan your colors will make a difference in how the colors look in your emails, newsletters, and social media posts.
You can use your brand colors for different visual treatments. When you include your brand’s color scheme in your brand guidelines, make sure to list the hex numbers, RGB numbers, or Pantone names. This will make the colors easy to locate. It’s also a good idea to create specific palettes for specific purposes. For instance, your brand guide can recommend the use of primary colors as dominant colors and secondary colors as accents.
Marketers and entrepreneurs often underestimate the importance of choosing the right font to represent a brand. But bear in mind that you can’t create the best brand guideline without including typography. It is, in fact, a key component of your brand design. The wrong font or size can make a huge difference to how your logo and brand name are perceived by your audience.
Your brand identity guidelines should specify the fonts you use, their size, and the colors to be used for them. Most brand guides include a list of preferred font styles and families, as well as style instructions, such as the right sizing. Clearly defining your typefaces eliminates all the guesswork for designers and ensures that all communication is consistent and clean.
Does your company use specific doodles or a particular type of photography to reflect the brand’s tone? Your brand guidelines should include all vital information about your chosen type of imagery, including what designers should and shouldn’t use. This will ensure that they create consistent visuals in line with your brand image.
7. Brand voice
Your brand voice is an extension of your brand’s personality. It reflects your brand’s values and goals, and remains unchanged over time. You use your brand voice to communicate your unique viewpoint to your target audience. Your brand voice includes all communication tools you use, including your words and spoken language, as well as brand imagery, such as logos, banners, and advertising content.
Your audience will feel about your brand based on how it is represented. So, it’s important that you describe your brand voice in your brand guidelines. For that, you just need to list the adjectives that best describe your brand, along with instructions on the kind of language to use or avoid.
8. Brand tone
Your brand tone is the way you use your brand voice to build an emotional connection with your audience and express your brand personality. Your brand voice remains the same throughout your communication. However, your tone will change to fit the specific situations you are dealing with or the kind of audience you are addressing. It conveys the context of a message and often showcases the emotional side of your brand. Depending on the situation, your brand tone can be witty, cheerful, grave, and even comical.
It’s imperative to include your brand tone in your brand guidelines. Also, make sure the brand guide’s design matches the tone. For reference, you can include examples of content or communication that best reflect your tone.
9. Image guide
The images should be in line with the brand’s personality. Maybe you only use photographs or perhaps infographics are your forte. Whatever it is, it’s important to mention the type of images you prefer for your brand. This is so that image consistency can be maintained. Select as many images as you want for your brand guide so that they are sufficient for the users to understand the type of visuals you are referring to.
You can also use moodboards to help visualize the emotions you want to instill in those who interact with your brand. No matter what type of and how many images you use, it is important that all the images are high-quality, and that they portray your brand personality accurately.
5 Benefits of Using Brand Identity Guidelines
Here are some key ways in which having brand guidelines can benefit you.
1. Brand consistency
The reason why every brand wants to build the best brand guidelines is that they ensure consistency. A good brand guide, for example, can ensure your logo looks consistent across all marketing materials. It also helps keep your brand’s colors uniform. For your company to gain brand recognition and achieve customer loyalty, brand consistency is imperative. With a consistent brand image, you can build a dedicated consumer base that will strongly advocate for your brand every chance they get.
2. Transparency and quality
Even simple brand guidelines contain best practices and avoidable behaviors. For instance, you can forbid the use of drop shadows behind your logo and prohibit high-contrast colors in the backdrop. Such strict instructions and standards ensure that every communication sent by your brand (marketing email, direct mail, or billboard) is high-quality and professional.
3. Little or no confusion
The rules and standards of your brand won’t be understood by a new employee. A set of brand guidelines will avoid confusion among those who use the brand elements, and ensure that your brand can maintain a consistent image across platforms.
Also, businesses are meant to grow. Hence, it’s obvious that you will eventually look to partner with other brands. And when that happens, you will need more people to be a part of your brand. Your brand guidelines will make sure that your new partners and employees don’t portray your brand wrongly in any manner. In simple words, having a set of guidelines can reduce confusion considerably.
We mentioned earlier that every brand maintains a certain tone of voice. It might be sincere, knowledgeable, or friendly. Having the right tone and efficiently projecting it through all your instruments of communication and brand material will reflect professionalism. However, it’s not just the tone of your brand’s voice that conveys professionalism: using consistent colors and logo iterations is also equally important.
Customers may become confused if you have one logo on Twitter and an entirely different one on your website. Remember, incoherent branding is not good for businesses. Brand guidelines resolve this problem by helping keep the brand’s identity consistent. And all this creates an image of competence and professionalism for the brand.
5. Brand recognition
If you have put in efforts to maintain brand consistency, audiences will instantly recognize your brand. Google is one such example. You will instantly recognize who you are dealing with when you see “G” with four colors. Google’s brand guidelines clearly define which colors are the exact “Google” colors.
Everything boils down to your brand image. The stronger and more consistent it is, the easier it will be for your audience to recognize you and distinguish you from your competitors.
5 Examples of Great Brand Style Guides
1. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters is a lifestyle retail company that emphasizes edgy designs, quirky product shots, and a visually creative style guide. The brand guidelines of the retailer include information about its photography standards and details about its logo.
Urban Outfitters believes in adapting to consumers’ changing preferences. And the retailer does not hesitate to rebrand. The brand has updated everything, starting from its logo to store environments, all in a bid to appeal to modern customers. Theirs are the best brand guidelines to follow for businesses that don’t mind rebranding themselves to stay relevant and trendy.
Netflix, a key player in the on-demand media market, continues to gain popularity. The red logo with the letter “N” is catchy, unique, and hence, easy to remember.
Netflix’s logo is undoubtedly the most commonly recognized aspect of the streaming platform. So, its online brand guidelines don’t focus as much on other aspects as they do on the logo or brand symbol.
This shows that your brand guidelines only need to include aspects that you want people to associate with your brand. Yes, sometimes, you just need the basics to obtain the desired results.
Audi is a household name, so it is only obvious that its brand assets are replicated and promoted in thousands of places. The company’s brand guidelines have been designed to be precise. These guidelines provide guidance for the brand’s appearance in different user interfaces. For any type of branding material, there are specific alignment and ratio rules defined in their guidelines.
4. Wolf Circus
Wolf Circus is an online jewelry company. The brand’s guidelines include everything down to its typeface system. Their brand style manual also includes how certain colors represent Wolf Circus’s brand identity, and how certain others can be used for backgrounds and design elements. Their brand guidelines also specify how to promote the brand’s content. Wolf Circus likes its advertising to emphasize minimalism, while making the jewelry the center of attraction.
Slack’s brand guideline is embedded onto the brand’s media kit page. It covers the messaging and strategy behind Slack’s brand and the visual branding elements, such as the logo. This section covers general terms, trademarks, and so on. It basically reflects the legal side of working with Slack.
Your brand guidelines define your brand identity, and hence, should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. But remember, it’s a dynamic document that must change and grow with the growth of your brand. Do whatever it takes to come up with a well-thought-out and comprehensive brand guide, as it will help you build a brand image people will instantly recognize and remember.
- Brand guidelines offer clear standards and rules that tell people how your brand should be presented to the world.
- Brand guidelines help achieve brand image consistency.
- They are highly useful when partnering with other brands and hiring new employees.
- Logos, typography, color palettes, brand voice, etc., are some of the most important components of brand guidelines.
- Your brand guidelines should be updated if you ever choose to rebrand your business.
Brand guidelines are a set of rules and tools that define how different branding elements of a company should be used.
The easiest and most effective way to build your brand guidelines is to understand who your target audience is, and how you want them to perceive your brand.
Almost all major brands have well-defined brand guidelines, and you can refer to them for inspiration. However, the five brands we have mentioned above definitely set themselves apart from the crowd with their extremely simple yet impeccable brand guidelines.
Your brand guidelines help you maintain a consistent brand image regardless of where it appears.