Guidelines for Brand Guidelines!
What are Brand Guidelines?
Your brand is one of your company’s most valuable assets. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors and what customers remember long after they’ve forgotten the product or service you provide.
Since brands are such precious commodities, they must be protected by a formalized set of rules on how they’re used. These rules are known as Brand Guidelines, Brand Style Guides and even ‘Brand Bibles’ for those who like to hammer home their importance. They are a B2B tool that should be widely shared within your organization, amongst partners and creative agencies. Reviewing or adapting them in line with the times and circumstances is critical to keeping them alive.
Ye Olde Brand?
We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through socials late at night, just as you’re about to nod off, you notice a brand that stands out from the rest. It’s a dated brand. A brand with yesteryear fonts and an old color pallet. And no, it’s not retro/cool. You say to yourself, “Someone needs to update their branding”, but then you realize that that someone is you. And you’ve no idea where to begin.
Distributing a new logo isn’t enough
Brands are precious but not ‘precious’ – they work hard. They stretch across many channels, tricky spaces, backgrounds and formats. Their core personalities are formed by the sum of all parts – e.g. how logos, taglines, typefaces, color pallets, tone of voice, imagery and graphics co-exist. And like any persona or message, brands need clarity and consistency to build credibility, identity, resonance and recall. This is why Brand Guidelines are more than a logo. They are a 360 degree walk around the brand covering different touchpoints and scenarios.
Brand Marketing without Brand Guidelines
If you’ve ever seen a company with logo deviations across its website, storefront and print ads – you’ll get it. The absence of a ratified accessible Brand Style Guide results in users making assumptions – and things get ugly quickly.
Allow us to present ‘Ugly Exhibit A’: A leading newspaper was doing a cross promotion with a well known paint brand. It was a big deal and required a bold front page launch. The agency team proudly presented the Editor with a concept showing a paintbrush swiping through the masthead’s logo dripping with paint. “This’ll really grab attention” they rightly stated. The Editor’s face turned a high-gloss, triple coat shade of ‘Atomic Red’ as he fired the agency for displaying a fundamental lack of understanding about the integrity of their brand. Where were the brand guidelines? Not well communicated or available that’s for sure.
OK, so what goes into these Brand Guidelines?
Where do you start?
Where do you finish?
Having a good Brand Style Guide doesn’t mean cramming in as many rules as you can muster. But at a minimum, a solid Brand Style Guide must have these core elements to set standards and consistency:
Everybody loves a story. Particularly an authentic and inspirational one that connects to them. A brand story runs for a paragraph or two and captures the company’s history, its values, mission, what it delivers and why it delivers it. Write it as you’d say it and lose any pretentious vocabulary.
Patagonia displays a best-in-class example of a brand story the entire company lives and breathes from the top down.
The human embodiment of a brand. It’s what people imagine your brand would be if they met it in person. What does your brand look like? What does it sound like? A brand’s personality is the emotional connection customers make that ultimately decides – all things being equal – whether they choose you over your competitors.
Tiffany & Co. include a rich pen portrait of their customer in their brand style guide.
This includes your…
- logo and how it appears in various mediums, sizes, context and orientation
- tagline and how it interacts with your logo
- color palette and how these are represented in CMYK, Pantone or RGB
- typefaces and hierarchy
- imagery; photography, illustrations and design elements
- co-brand partner lock ups
- what not to do
Superb brand style and tone can be seen in TikTok’s brand guidelines.
Tone of voice:
Closely connected to your brand personality, your Tone of Voice or ‘TOV’, is how your brand speaks to its audience and sets itself apart from the competition. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. TOV should extend beyond advertising to include PR, corporate communications and emails.
Levis present a decisive TOV in their brand marketing guidelines
Give people an avenue to ask questions and seek approvals.
Other Brand Guidelines inclusions
- Brand vision/mission
- How to visualize data
- Language examples
- Diversity and inclusion
- Gallery of ‘Best of the Best’ creative examples
Once you go beyond this type of direction, you’re compiling what is known as a Brand Book, which is a more instructive guide to implementation i.e. What you say, not just how you say it. Pre-set advertising templates would be a great example of this.
How to present Brand Guidelines
Regardless of what to put in or leave out of your brand guidelines, your brand culture is brought to life by your people. Your people not only have to implement the functional components of the brand, but also understand its soul and spread that through everything they do. You want them to be more than just used, you want them to be lived.
It’s for that reason, Brand Guidelines cannot thrive in a dusty corner of Dropbox. They need to be brought to life and understood. For this to happen, they must be presented in an engaging and accessible way.
IntelligenceBank’s BrandHub gives your Brand Guidelines a platform – literally! Housing these ‘how tos’ in a live, online brand portal allows them to be omnipresent – positioned front and center, available to all comers in easily digestible segments that include video and audio.
Video storytelling is kingpin right now. Just look at TikTok – it has more traffic than Google.* Incorporating a recorded leadership speech into your brand story has the power to inspire and influence like nothing else. Imagine if Ad Agency legend Leo Burnett, had an online BrandHub available to share his infamous ‘When to take my name off the door‘ speech back in the day.
Hosting Brand Style Guides in an online portal elevates their value and importance. It provides maximum visibility and leaves no one wondering whether they have the latest version. It is the most engaging, fastest, clearest way to achieve cohesive brand marketing – from major campaigns to email signatures.