The Ultimate Guide to Brand Guidelines and How to Develop Them
Memorable brands don’t spring up overnight. They’re built using a series of rules and standards that enable a company to define itself on the world stage and present a consistent image to the consumer.
Known as Brand Guidelines, these rulebooks define the framework for a company’s visual, verbal and written communication, and set the foundation for a brand to grow into a respected household name. This guide has everything you need to develop brand guidelines for your company, starting with a definition.
Definition: Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are a clearly defined set of rules and standards that communicate how a brand should be presented to the consumer. Like a rulebook for your brand, brand guidelines are designed to help your marketing team ensure brand consistency and demonstrate the company’s mission, vision, purpose and values.
What are Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are the standards and rules an organization uses to maintain brand consistency across channels. Like a playbook for your branding efforts, brand guidelines not only define your brand, they also ensure consistency, which helps the consumer feel confident in their decision to buy from you.
Why are Brand Guidelines Important
Brand guidelines are important because consumers value consistency. Consistency comes from repetition, which drives brand recognition. In other words, brand guidelines are important because they enable the consumer to readily identify your brand from the competition, and trust in the quality of service they will receive when they work with you.
Consumers Value Consistency
By building trust with the consumer you can increase your revenue by as much as 23%. In fact, surveys show that 46% of consumers said they would pay more for a brand that they trust. Those findings corroborate the results of a Lucidpress survey which found that brands with a consistent presentation experienced an increase in revenue by 33%.
Suggested Reading: How to Improve Brand Consistency
Your Team Will Be More Efficient and Productive
Brand guidelines provide the same value as many of the tools in your martech stack because they enable your marketing team with the framework they need to work faster; be more productive, and feel confident in the work that they produce.
Unlike the other expensive tools in your marketing toolbox, brand guidelines are mostly free, and actually enable your team to make faster decisions regarding the creative process – the idea either conforms to your brand standards, or it doesn’t. Time to make a decision? One second.
Your Brand Becomes Tangible
Every company has a brand, but few brands are as tangible as Nike, Coca Cola, or McDonald’s. These brands are successful because they are well defined. Customers are able to visualize what they stand for when they hear their name.
If your brand isn’t well defined, you risk being defined by your product or service, which does not create the strongest impression. Brand guidelines help you pull together all the elements that make up who you are, so you can build an identity beyond what you sell.
As we continue to live much of our lives online, promoting a concrete visual identity is more important than ever. The relevance of image search is rising, which means people are discovering brands on search engines through visuals alone.
Stand Out From the Competition
From c-suite executives to the barista at the coffee shop, we all spend a lot of time on our devices, where we consume vast amounts of content marketing. Sooner or later, the stream of content we consume begins to run together, leading to something called ad blindness, or banner blindness.
A consistent brand voice can break through the ad blindness of the consumer, and help to define your brand from the competition. A consistent brand voice is exactly what has made Wendy’s one of the most popular brands on social media. Audience members have come to expect the brand to have funny comebacks for just about any situation.
Whether you commit to a sassy brand personality or a friendlier tone of voice, staying within your own brand guidelines can help you not only boost brand awareness, but also become a brand that people can’t wait to hear from.
Increase Brand Loyalty
When audience members become loyal customers, it’s not because of the product/service they purchased, but how interacting with that product/service made them feel. GrubHub and UberEats provide nearly identical services—often sharing the same drivers—and yet many users have a preference. Branding plays a strong role.
Today’s consumer develops strong emotional connections with the brands that share their core values. Your brand guidelines should help you translate those values to your audience in a unique way. When you gain a loyal customer, they spend 67% more on average than those who are new to your business.
How are Brand Guidelines Used
Effective brand guidelines are those that can be shared and understood easily by anyone involved in communicating your brand—both internally and externally. Remember, it’s seldom easy for team members who aren’t marketing or design-oriented to understand how to use images or typefaces, or adhere to tone of voice and style guidelines.
To ensure their use, your brand guidelines should be concise, easy-to-read, and digitally accessible. By producing and sharing clear and comprehensive brand guidelines that can be easily understood, your internal team and external suppliers can be confident that they are promoting your brand’s image and values in a positive, professional manner.
What do Brand Guidelines Include
Brand guidelines should define the framework for visual, verbal, or written communication, things like color and font usage, logo application, tone and voice, image styles, graphics usage, brand sentiment, and more.
Dozens of rules governing how your brand communicates might seem like a limiting factor, but it actually helps to embolden the creative process and enable your team with a framework on which to build. As such, your brand guidelines should include:
- Mission and Values – Most organizations include their mission and core values as part of their brand guides. Including this statement introduces new readers to the brand story and helps reflect your mission in the design choices outlined in the guide.
- Logos – Most companies have multiple different logo variations, depending on the situation. Your brand guide should detail which logos are approved for use in which situations. You could go a step further by removing old logos from your digital asset library to avoid confusion.
- Color Palette – Every brand has a small set of brand colors that they use when developing any sort of visual. These color palettes should be included in your brand guide, as well as the hex codes, RGB numbers, CMYK details, or Pantone names to ensure they’re easy to find.
- Typefaces – Many brand guides will include a list of font styles and families that the brand uses, including helpful style guidelines, like the ideal sizing and spacing. Laying out your typography removes the guesswork for designers, ensuring that all of your communications will look consistent and clean.
- Voice & Tone and Grammar Rules – The best brand guides include a section on the Voice & Tone of the company, i.e. how you should sound when you represent the company via written and verbal communication.
- Images, Icons and Design Elements – If your brand utilizes a lot of imagery, then your brand guide should include a section on imagery—what to use and what to avoid—to ensure that all of the images your graphic designers use feel consistent and on-brand.
- Usage and Permissions – Most importantly, your brand guidelines should include a section on usage and permissions, defining who can use which digital assets as well as where and when they can be distributed.
Build Better Brand Guides with OpenAsset
Your business faces an increasingly crowded digital marketplace. Your audience is spread across the globe and constantly tuned in and online. As such, it’s never been more important for firms to promote a uniquely recognizable brand identity that helps differentiate them from competitors, and stand out in the minds of consumers.
A comprehensive and up-to-date brand guideline helps to ensure all stakeholders know exactly how to communicate your brand’s identity, but it’s only valuable if you can use it. If your brand is defined, but your team is inundated with thousands upon thousands of image files, they won’t be able to find the logos and digital assets they need to promote your brand.
That’s where a digital asset management (DAM) system comes in. DAM is a business process and an information management technology that enables organizations with a centralized system to organize and access their media assets. Armed with the power of self-service, your sales, marketing and communications teams can collaborate more effectively; locate the assets they need, and capitalize on opportunities without unnecessary downtime.
By implementing a modern DAM system, like OpenAsset, you also enable your team with the capabilities they need to deliver a consistent brand message, and support omnichannel customer experiences at scale without the extra time and effort. Contact OpenAsset today to get started.