Learn what needs to go inside every corporate brand style guide.
December 20, 2021
Many business owners ask themselves questions like, "what is a branding style guide?" "How can brand guidelines help my company?" "Do I need a brand manager?" A brand style guide is a blueprint or instruction manual for how your company should be represented. It is important that you are consistent with your brand’s look, visual style, and feel. A brand guideline allows businesses to save a ton of money in research and discovery phases from 3rd party businesses, especially design agencies who heavily rely on discovery or a brand guide.
In the corporate sector, adhering to a branding style guide also ensures consistency with how a business is perceived internally by its employees. We also encourage sharing parts of the branding guidelines with clients, agencies, partners, and customers too. A well-designed and beautiful brand book could be the perfect gift for a new employee or an essential reading for the sales team. Brand guidelines help teams come together and understand the bigger goal they're trying to achieve.
Without a brand style guide: When it's time for a business to update their website they will run the risk of having the scope of work run a lot longer than intended. A website needs photos, messaging, colors, type fonts, and even a certain personality. You will need to spend a lot more time working one on one with your web designer and unexpected costs will occur. In the worst-case scenario, the CEO will discover that the photos they provided are too pixelated, a copywriter will need to rewrite the boring text, and the logo is too complicated to fully comprehend on phones. The project ends with both parties being underwhelmed if it even got finished at all.
With a brand style guide: When the time comes for the CEO to hire a web design agency they can provide their brand style guide to them. This will let the web design agency get a deep understanding of everything they will need in order to create a beautiful website that also meets the CEO's expectations. Things like photography aesthetics will be easily identified and added to the proposal. Having a brand style guide will also give the design agency the ability to recommend incredible talent like writers that will be able to convert more website visitors into customers because they know exactly what your business does and how it wants to say it.
Without a brand style guide: Goals will be set and payments will be made but unfortunately, the execution will either not be what they expected, or it will confuse their audience when implemented. The wrong tone could be chosen for a sensitive topic, or the wrong actors could be hired for a commercial, potentially costing the CEO time and definitely costing them money.
With a brand style guide: The advertising agency will be able to quickly start concepting with the right colors, tone of voice, and art direction. You will also not be charged for potential strategy, or target market research costs because all of the relevant information will be in the brand style guide.
Even the most simple brand style guide can drastically improve brand recognition and give you all the advantages that come with having a strong brand. Below we will show a brand manager how to create an amazing brand style guide that will save their company money and increase its overall brand value. The suggestions below should be the MINIMUM amount of information included in any company brand guidelines.
Why the brand sections matter: Typically a business doesn't want to share every aspect of its brand guidelines with just anybody. It's probably not a good idea to show clients or competitors the brand strategy section of your brand guide. On the other hand, a photographer would greatly benefit from seeing the visual identity section of your brand book. In most cases, it's always best to include the brand information & background section to anyone working for or on behalf of a company.
Brand style guidelines help new employees or independent contractors understand the business they are working for on a more intimate level. It's important to add anything and everything a business would want someone to know. It's crucial that a company attack this information from the perspective of someone who has no idea what the business is or does. In order to build brand consistency, everyone must start from the same core principles that make up any business.
History: Provide a brief introduction to the business and how it got started. This is a great opportunity to set the tone for a company through a clever brand story rather than pointing out facts.
Purpose: The reason why the company exists. What is the meaning behind a product or service? Explain the ethics behind your brand. Detail how your brand connects with customers. It's always important to answer the 5 crucial questions of any business. What do you do? Why do you do it? When do you do it? How do you do it? Who does it?
Vision: Every employee and contractor must understand the bigger goal that the business is trying to accomplish. A brand manager that is able to articulate the vision of the C-Suite executives into a concise and comprehensible paragraph will be able to drive more dedication and commitment from employees.
Values: Identify the guiding principles that your brand follows. What does your company stand for? What is the brand standard? What do or don’t you include in your products or services? Use your values as a compass for your brand.
Leadership: Employees want to know who their leaders are and what role they play in achieving business goals and promoting personal growth.
Many businesses think that this is the only section they need in their brand book and often forget that the brand identity guidelines are only one aspect of the whole brand experience. Brand identity today is considered sexy because it's the most tangible aspect of a brand so it's easy to comment on and compare. This includes everything a potential customer can touch, see and smell. A comprehensive brand guide example should contain things like the color palette, design style, typography, and logo design rules in order to leverage a brands visual identity effectively. All of these aspects are brought together when, for example, designing a company email signature template.
Logo usage: Consider the logo design of a company. What does their logo usage look like? What are the different form factors and how can they be utilized on different mediums like digital and print? The way a logo is used in a digital marketing campaign could be different than how it should be used on a billboard or magazine spread. Clearly defining the dos and don'ts of how a logo should be used will avoid a lot of embarrassing errors that could jeopardize brand recognition or worse, brand reputation.
Typography & font: Brand typography gives your brand a specific personality through text. It influences how readers perceive information. The font you chose for your brand will give your brand a personality. It is important to convey your brand’s message correctly to readers.
Color palette: A color scheme that includes a primary color and secondary color is important in establishing a brand personality. Identify your brand’s purpose and the associated colors. Which colors establish your brand symbolically? Three colors should always be enough to create a good mixture of simple brand colors & brand recognition.
Photography & Graphic Elements: In this part, a graphic designer or creative will be able to truly understand the kind of work they need to generate to promote a business in a way that keeps brand consistency and encourages engagement. Every brand asset creation starts here. This is one of the more important aspects that is often overlooked by a brand manager. Almost everything created for a business including its marketing material has or involves photography and graphic design elements.
Packaging and materials: Does a business use the most premium paper available to print off their marketing material? Are letters wax stamped and personally signed by the account manager involved? The decision a company makes on how it handles its physical assets says a lot about a brand. It's always encouraged to go all out on presentations because that's what gets companies noticed and talked about by their customers. It's best to always avoid cheap materials and flimsy papers.
Like in dating, looks can only take someone so far. Every company must have a foundational brand personality that speaks to its desired audience inside its brand guidelines. This section also helps dedicated copywriters create content like articles and video scripts that stay true to a brand.
Messaging: If what a business says and what a business does don't align, then red flags immediately start popping up in people's minds. It's also important that the company's brand voice also aligns with its visual identity. Consistent branding involves fusing the visual parts of a company with its voice to synergize a brand's perceived value. Over time talented copywriters with great intuitive brand guidelines can and will establish a brands personality through social media posts, commercials, radio ads, or podcasts.
Positioning: Compared to the competition, how does the brand differentiate itself? Is it a luxury? A technological advancement? A cheaper yet just as effective alternative? A company's positioning and how they choose to speak out and represent their target audience help shape a more clear brand image. Always remember the saying, "People like me, say things like this". Always have a powerful positioning statement in a brand style guide.
Emotional Perspective: What is the brand story? How do you wish for it to be told and how will it resonate with your target market? It's extremely helpful to know what emotional angle a business chooses to communicate its services or products. Humans feel before they think, so the first communication touchpoints with a potential customer are some of the most important variables for a company to consider.
A successful brand strategy will meet business goals while simultaneously meeting customer needs. This section of the brand style guide will be useful for social media teams, service employees, sales teams, or basically anybody that is interacting directly or indirectly with the potential customer. It also helps different departments understand how customers are moving down the marketing funnel and helps executives understand bottlenecks in their customer journey.
Target Market: Who are your customers? More importantly, how should they be treated by your employees? What's the experience like when they visit your website or interact with your business? How is it geared towards them in a way that makes them feel heard and understood? Having a clearly defined target market in a brand style guide that can be shared throughout the company can make many aspects and jobs in an enterprise more clear.
Customer Journey Map: What is the first interaction a potential customer has with a business? How does that lead to the second interaction? A customer journey map helps layout all the key potential touchpoints a customer might have and tries to optimize them for conversion. Example journey: A salesman has a networking interaction with a potential client (touchpoint A). The salesman exchanges business cards with the potential client(touchpoint B). The salesman emails the potential client with a conversation summary(touchpoint C). The potential client uses the business card to visit the company's Linkedin page(touchpoint D). The potential customer visits the website from a Linkedin link(touchpoint E), etc.
The point is, no pun intended, that every company should be hyper-aware of their touchpoints and optimize for delight and memorable experiences. There are a vast amount of initial touchpoints and hundreds of potential directions it could go from there. The job of a brand manager is to help identify those touchpoints and better align them with the positioning the brand desires. Always look for new and interesting touchpoints to better advertise to your potential customers.
Marketing Funnel: A marketing funnel helps sales teams and executives get a comprehensive view of the whole marketing cycle. People in different departments will understand where business is coming from and what state of mind to expect customers in. The objective of a marketing funnel is to help employees tailor their language and interactions so they are appropriate for the customer.
A well-made brand style guide will drastically help every business convert faster and get more done more efficiently with less money. It's important to remember that all sections of a brand style guide are just as important as the others. The brand colors, voice, story, positioning, and strategy all play a huge role in eliciting emotions from your potential customer. Brand guidelines are made to help companies save money and create brand equity, which if done right, helps companies leverage their brand and charge more.
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Brand equity refers to a value premium that a company generates from a product with a recognizable name when compared to a generic equivalent. Companies can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable, and superior in quality and reliability. Mass marketing campaigns also help to create brand equity.
When a company has positive brand equity, customers willingly pay a high price for its products, even though they could get the same thing from a competitor for less. Customers, in effect, pay a price premium to do business with a firm they know and admire. Because the company with brand equity does not incur a higher expense than its competitors to produce the product and bring it to market, the difference in price goes to their margin. The firm’s brand equity enables it to make a bigger profit on each sale.
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