What Are Brand Guidelines? An Introduction
Your brand is one of the most valuable parts of your business. More than just the image you portray through your logo or the words on your website, a brand is how you differentiate your business from the competition. It describes how you make your customers feel and how they perceive you.
With an effective brand, you highlight the values and vision of your business in a way customers, shareholders, and even employees can connect with. However, building a successful brand requires commitment and consistency. You need to ensure you’re sending the same message across every channel and all your employees are on the same page.
Achieving solid consistency means creating a roadmap for your team to follow about what your brand should look, sound, and feel like. These are your brand guidelines.
What are Brand Guidelines? A Definition
Brand guidelines outline the rules on how people should use your branding elements. There can be various elements to these guidelines, including content style guides, social media rules, and even instructions on how to use colours and logos.
You can create an all-in-one solution for your brand guidelines, or split different segments into various documents, to support particular people in your team. For instance, at Today Digital, our brand guidelines are conveniently aligned into separate parts for each of our publications, with tips on social media, logo usage, and content.
Brand guidelines should be distributed to your designers, writers, and anyone who might help represent or build your brand. However, it can also be helpful for companies to share these guidelines with their community to create an air of transparency.
Why are Brand Guidelines Important?
Brand guidelines are a complete map for people to follow when trying to understand or showcase your brand. Without these guidelines, it’s easy for a perception of a company to become distorted. In simple terms, brand guidelines ensure your identity remains consistent.
Look at some of the most iconic brands worldwide, and you’ll notice they always stick to the same rules when connecting with customers. Their colour choices are permanently aligned, as are their messages and the personality they use on various marketing channels.
Documenting your brand guidelines helps to protect your brand from misunderstandings and misinterpretations. They also ensure everyone in your team is on the same page about the image you’re trying to create. After all, building a brand often requires the input of multiple professionals, from marketing teams and writers to graphic designers.
What Do Companies Include in Brand Guidelines?
The exact structure of your brand guidelines may vary depending on your company. For instance, if you sell a physical product, your policies may cover information on packaging and shipping requirements. If you’re selling something digital, these rules wouldn’t be necessary.
On a basic level, your brand guidelines must include all the information someone needs to embody and portray your brand. This includes colour and font usage, tone of voice, image styles, and even brand sentiment.
Some of the most common components included in a brand guidelines document include:
- Logo usage guidance (size, colours, and where to place the logo)
- Brand visual content such as colour palettes and imager
- Typography and the rules for using the font (type size, line height, etc.)
- Links to other brand resources and contact information for the team
- Writing and copying guidelines with grammar rules and tone of voice
- Brand essence insights, like values, mission statements, and purpose
- Marketing guidelines – like how to act on social media or within emails
How do You Create Brand Guidelines?
Developing brand guidelines is something most businesses need to do during the early stages of setting up their company. From day one, you need to ensure everyone on your team understands what kind of image and essence you’re trying to create.
While the development process for brand guidelines can differ for every brand, it usually involves the following steps:
- Clarify your brand essence: Start by developing a core understanding of what your business does, what it stands for, and your mission. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish as a company and what promise you want to make to your audience. Your values and vision should shine through in everything you produce and promote.
- Develop clear rules: Good brand guidelines is defined by consistent regulations on how to use branding assets. Team members and collaborators should know how and where to use logos, typography, illustrations, icons, and colour. They should also have a clear idea of what your brand should sound like, particularly regarding marketing. Highlight your personality and the kind of language you expect people to use.
- Deliver training: Provide training and guidance on using your brand guidelines for people who need it most. You might need to explain to your marketers how a “fun” personality differs from a “humorous” tone of voice. The more guidance you can give your team, the easier it will be for them to send a consistent message.
Remember, once you’ve established your brand guidelines, you must ensure everyone on your team uses them consistently. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your policies will never change. As your brand and customer base evolve, you may need to update your guidelines. Sitting down with stakeholders to regularly audit your brand presence will ensure your current rules aren’t becoming outdated.
Implementing Your Brand Guidelines
Clear brand guidelines are essential to building a memorable and familiar identity your community can connect with. The more you can deliver the same message or image every time you reach out to your target audience, the easier it will be to develop an emotional link to your tribe.
Build your guidelines as early as possible, and make sure everyone is aware of them, but don’t be afraid to let your rules evolve as your business transforms.