When it comes to developing brand identity, consistency is absolutely essential. But how to achieve brand consistency when several departments, partners, or marketing agencies are involved in your branding process? How can you quickly communicate your brand style?
The secret lies in creating brand guidelines—a brand style guide.
What Is a Brand Guideline
Brand guidelines, also known as a brand style guide or brand manual, is a document that outlines the visual identity and overall personality of a brand. It includes specific guidelines for the brand identity, such as the company logo, brand colors, typography hierarchy, logo variations, and font styles. The brand guidelines also cover the brand voice, including tone of voice, illustrative style, and additional elements such as data visualization and business graphics.
Creating brand guidelines is an important part of any branding project because it ensures brand consistency and helps the audience feel that the brand is on brand. When a brand has a consistent look and feel, it is easier for people to recognize it, and brand recognition is important for building brand awareness.
Brand guidelines provide clear directions on creating a brand style that reflects the brand’s core values, mission statement, and target audience. The guidelines ensure consistency across all brand elements and assets, including the company name, logo usage, color palette, and design elements.
Brand guidelines document a brand’s visual identity, including its brand story, personality, and image. They provide concrete examples of the brand elements, such as the brand colors and logo spacing, and explain how much space should be used between each element. They also provide CMYK color codes and hex codes to ensure that the brand colors are consistent across all media.
A brand guide is a step-by-step guide to creating a brand and ensures that the brand is heading in the right direction. It provides a tone of voice and a clear mission statement for the brand. The brand guide includes all of the rules that apply to the brand, including color schemes, white space, and drop shadows.
Brand guidelines are a living, breathing document that can be updated as needed to ensure that the brand is on brand. The guidelines are easy to access in a digital PDF format, and it is important to ensure that all creative partners and graphic designers working on the brand project have buy-in to the guidelines.
The best brands have strong guidelines that are consistently followed across all media. Brand guidelines help ensure that the audience feels connected to the brand and that the brand is communicating the right message to the target audience. By following the step-by-step guide in the brand manual, businesses can create a strong visual identity that reflects their core values and resonates with their target audience.
The visual components of your brand must also tie into this to create a clear brand identity and personality. Finally, you must prioritize consistency and connection for your business and consumers as you seek to grow your brand, elevate your content and public perception, and increase brand awareness and your return on investment (ROI).
By developing brand guidelines that clearly outline your business and ensure professionalism and consistency in your messaging, you’ll provide a better and more meaningful consumer experience.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Brand Guidelines
Craft a Unique Brand Story
Your brand story is the first touchpoint for consumers to understand your brand voice, brand personality, core values, mission statement, and tone of voice. Your brand voice can be humorous, sarcastic, wild, content, tranquil, authoritative, and instructive. It all depends on the type of brand persona you’d like to build to connect with your target audience, create an emotional connection, and begin to form a clear brand identity.
If your brand is personal to you, you might consider including some information about yourself. For instance, why you founded the company, your challenges and triumphs on your business journey, and what your consumers mean to you.
This is a living and breathing document of your brand and provides consumers with a clear tone of voice that your audience feels they can connect with and support. If your brand is lacking in this foundation, it’s essential to consider undergoing brand discovery. This process will help you better understand your brand, audience, vision, and direction.
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Understand Your Target Audience
Regardless of whether you’ve got an existing or new brand when seeking to sell any products or services, you must first understand your audience, their aspirations, personality, daily life, and why your products and services matter to them—what problem you solve.
This is what’s known in a branding project as a buyer persona. Based on extensive data and market research, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers. It helps you focus your time on qualified prospects, guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers, and align all creative work, both written and visual, across your organization (from marketing to sales to customer service). It helps to ensure brand consistency, that you’re headed in the right direction, and that the wrong message isn’t communicated to your audience.
The best brands use a buyer persona to showcase brand consistency and attract high-value visitors, leads, and customers to your business, who you’ll be more likely to retain over time.
Convey Your Market Differentiator
Your market differentiator (also known as your product or service differentiator) is the identity and description of your products or services that stand out from other products or services in the same market. Brand identity is what makes your products or services different.
Your market differentiator is often spelled out in your brand guidelines and can include your brand colors, brand elements, company logo, brand assets, visual identity, logo variations, color palette, font styles, core values, illustrative style, company name, color codes, data visualization, typography hierarchy, use of white space or drop shadows, and more. Again, it’s anything that makes you different from the competition.
Done well, your market differentiator can also serve as your key identifier and provide your audience with concrete examples of your brand.
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Set Out Visual Guidelines for Logo & Graphic Design
Another essential element of your brand guidelines is establishing a clear and robust visual identity, including your logo variations, color palette, brand image, style guide, logo guidelines, such as logo spacing and logo usage, and additional elements such as a style guide for your graphic designers.
Your brand style guide is an excellent tool for your internal graphic designers, copywriters, and creatives, and your external agency partners. The brand guidelines or brand book include your company logo and other elements to ensure consistency across all marketing and advertising collateral.
Choose a Color Palette & Font
First, consider your color palette, brand colors, hex codes, CMYK color codes, and CMYK values that each design asset will use. Consider the possible color schemes and what they say about your brand identity. Create a brand style guide centered around your brand colors for your creative partners to reference as they develop digital and print assets and design elements.
Additionally, you must select a few font styles that adhere to your brand style guide and allow for brand recognition.
For example, if your brand identity is playful and comical, you might select a sans serif font that is bubbly, bold, and loopy brand elements. If you want to create a brand style that is more professional and academic, you’ll likely select a serif font with standard sizing and a simple structure.
The key is to hone in on your visual identity, stay on brand, and create a consistent brand. This includes considering how much space you’ll have between titles and paragraphs and the overall structure and font sizes on a digital pdf, your website, and other marketing collateral.
Consider Touchpoints for Collateral
The brand rules apply to all components of your brand. Your brand identity guidelines should contain a step-by-step guide for all business partners, and staff to buy in, have clear directions, and create all written and visual collateral. This is often referred to as the brand manual or brand book. Consider all touchpoints and the effect they have on your audience.
Your brand style guide should be robust, easy to understand, and cover every aspect of your company. Then implement it at every user touchpoint, from social media to your website, print collateral, and more.
Define Your Brand Voice & Personality
As mentioned previously, your brand voice is essential to your brand style guide. The brand guidelines document often describes it as your brand’s persona.
You must consider the brand’s products and services and determine the approach and personality. Your brand strategy will work best if you’re consistent. This applies to how often you post on social media each week, how often you respond to comments, questions, and buyer concerns, how quickly you deliver packages and every communication funnel with consumers.
Remember to be kind, be consistent, and maintain a consumer-first attitude. This will ensure your company gets the best user response and positive reviews.
Achieve Consistency & Connection
With a clear understanding of brand guidelines and the importance of developing a clear brand strategy for your company, brand design with hex codes, style guides, other visual elements, and a brand book, all that’s left is to practice consistency and connection.
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You must focus on the consumer’s wants, needs, and personal identity. What problem does your product or service solve? And why should they care? Communicate your brand identity in a clear and friendly manner. Be kind, courteous, knowledgeable, and attentive. Superior customer service is often the most important component of any brand strategy and helps beat out the competition.
Stay on-brand, follow your style guides, and remember our how-tos. Additionally, provide your consumers with easy access to your website and social media accounts. This will ensure fewer roadblocks, seamless experiences, and an enhanced user interface.