What are Brand Guidelines?

What are Brand Guidelines?

Blog Thumbnail Everything brand all in one place

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. Given a brand’s importance, it must be protected by a formalized set of rules on how it’s presented to the world. These rules are known as brand guidelines, brand style guides and even ‘brand bibles’ for those who like to hammer home their importance. They contain standards for how the brand is presented visually and verbally and are a tool that should be shared widely within your organization, as well as partners and creative agencies.

Why are brand guidelines important?

Emailing your logo to someone isn’t enough. It needs to come with instructions on how to use it. Brand guidelines act as a roadmap for maintaining and developing a brand’s identity consistently and effectively. As well as being an instruction manual, brand guidelines also serve a number of other purposes:

They aid brand recognition

A brand’s personality becomes distinctive and memorable over time through every interaction it has with your customer. So whether it’s packaging, merchandising, activations, social media or advertising, having a clear set of brand guidelines provides a playbook that allows creators to maintain marketing compliance and consistently stay true to your brand across all channels.

They demonstrate professionalism

A cohesive and consistent brand image conveys a level of professionalism that your brand takes its identity seriously. This enhances trust and credibility among customers, partners and stakeholders.

They are efficient

Brand guidelines streamline the design and communication process. When creatives and other stakeholders have a set of guidelines to refer to, they can be confident they’re following the correct style, tone and design elements. This eliminates ambiguity and guesswork which ultimately saves time in refinements. 

They build brand equity

Brand equity is the intangible value a brand holds as a result of its positive perceptions and associations which leads to customer loyalty and sales.    

They serve as a base for change

Brands evolve over time, and clear guidelines ensure that these changes are cohesive and aligned with your brand’s core identity. Guidelines prevent any dilution that can occur when changes are made on the fly. 

What goes into brand guidelines?

Having a good brand style guide doesn’t mean cramming in as many rules as you can muster. At a minimum, a solid brand style guide must have these core elements to set standards for consistency. But where do you start? And where do you finish?

Brand story

Everybody loves a story. Particularly an authentic and inspirational one that resonates with 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.

Brand personality

Your brand’s personality is its human characteristics. 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.

Visual assets

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, HEX, RGB etc.
  • Typefaces and hierarchy
  • Imagery, photography, illustrations and design elements
  • Co-brand partner lock ups
  • Examples of what not to do
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.

Contact details

Within the brand guidelines document, it is crucial to provide users with readily accessible contact details. These details serve as a valuable resource for any inquiries, questions, or requests for approval that users might have. Ensuring that users know where to direct their queries contributes to a streamlined communication process and facilitates adherence to brand standards.

Other brand guideline inclusions

  • Brand vision/mission
  • Manifesto
  • How to visualize data
  • Infographics
  • 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 creative 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 your brand guidelines to be more than just used, you want them to be lived.

It’s for that reason, brand guidelines cannot thrive as a PDF in a dusty corner of Dropbox. They need to be brought to life and understood. The best way to achieve this is housing them live as online brand guidelines so they are engaging, accessible and always up to date. 

Delivering brand guidance online allows you to incorporate things such as:

  • A video of your founder making an inspirational address

  • Audio demos showing examples of voice over styles

  • Connections to your wider online creative assets or marketing compliance software
  • Self-serve download tools

  • Streamlined brand request forms

Hosting brand style guides in an online portal also 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.

Brand guidelines are a must

Brands work hard. They stretch across many channels, tricky spaces, backgrounds and formats. Their core personalities are formed by the sum of all parts – 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. They are a 360 degree walk around the brand covering different touchpoints and scenarios and a solid set of guidelines is a critical part of any successful long term brand.

More To Explore