Whether your business is brand new or well-established, having clear and accessible style guidelines is the best way to reinforce design standards and protect your brand’s identity.
It’s no secret that brands with a clear identity and consistent messaging perform better than brands that don’t. In fact, according to Forbes, consistent brand presentation across all platforms increases revenue by up to 23% — that’s a whole lot of return for producing one simple document.
Topics Covered in This Blog Post:
- The Purpose of Brand Guidelines
- Examples of Good Brand Guidelines
- What to Include in Your Brand Guidelines
- Free Brand Guideline Templates
- Implementing and Actioning Your Guidelines
The Purpose of Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines exist to ensure that all applications of your brand assets are accurate and consistent. The goal is to create an instantly recognisable identity aligned with your brand’s mission, values and practices.
Your guidelines should function as a comprehensive manual for anyone who advertises or communicates on your company’s behalf, including employees, affiliates, partner agencies, designers and marketing consultants.
Why Brand Consistency Counts
The importance of reinforcing a consistent brand identity across all mediums and channels cannot be overstated. According to Medium, inconsistent branding can “lose your company customers and damage its reputation”, whereas a consistent brand can “turn customers into followers or brand advocates”.
For example, colour consistency in advertising improves brand recognition by up to 80% — and ultimately, brand recognition leads to higher brand awareness and improved consideration; metrics that directly impact your bottom line.
How Brand Guidelines Ensure Consistency
There are hundreds of ways a good set of guidelines can help you ensure consistency and protect your brand, from clearly defining what sort of photography a designer should use when formatting advertisements to providing copywriters with a much-needed steer on tone of voice when they are writing branded content. Without guidelines, your creative team is flying blind — and that’s never a good idea.
Examples of Good Brand Guidelines
Big Digital Player: Spotify
One of the world’s most memorable digital entertainment brands, Spotify utilises bold colourways, simple and clean styling and direct copy to keep its branding consistent. Spotify’s brand guidelines include a very useful level of detail that avoids any confusion around logo application, copy style and imagery.
International Distributor: Cemento
London-based S-T agency developed a visual identity for Cemento — the UK distributor of a lightweight wall panelling and furniture cement product produced in Italy. The full branding guidelines include instructions for logo applications, logotype design, tote bags, box tape, brochures, postcards and business card designs. The simple, clean and consistent colours, fonts and messaging reflect the nature of Cemento’s business and give the impression of a sleek, stylish and modern brand.
Image property of BP&O
Challenger Brand: Wolf Circus
This minimalist modern jewellery company employs simple and bold colour palettes, clean lines and capital typefaces to engage audiences and keep branding consistent. Like the branding itself, these style guidelines are simple, direct and easy to engage with.
What Should I Include in My Brand Guidelines?
While it’s important to include these elements in your initial brand guidelines document, you should update the information every quarter or whenever new campaigns arise to avoid your employees or agencies using assets that aren’t on-brand.
Your Brand M-V-P Statement
Styled by Medium, the term M-V-P stands for Mission-Value-Practices. Ensure you know who you are and what you stand for before attempting to sell your products or services.
Your company’s Mission is its definitive reason for being — summarise in one sentence what your company is all about and use this mission statement as the bedrock of all your branding.
Your values should be aligned with your Mission, as well as practical, emotionally engaging and applicable in the real world.
Outline how your employees, agency partners and affiliates can put your brand values into practice and what you expect from them as representatives of your brand.
It’s common practice for eCommerce websites to offer first-time visitors an opt-in email offer. You provide them with a discount on their first order in return for their personal information and the ability to send them marketing emails. It’s a great way to incentivise a purchase.
This guide to eCommerce opt-in forms is exceptionally useful for learning about what they are and how to use them effectively.
You should include information on your target audiences and buying personas in your branding guidelines to help designers and copywriters understand who their content needs to reach.
Creating a buyer persona doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be done with just six quick questions.
Your brand assets should not deviate from the colours you choose to include in your colour palette, so you should update your guidelines to include seasonal campaign assets and new accent colours as and when you decide to use these. Include HEX and RGB colour codes.
Google has a specific set of colour guidelines within the brand guidelines for Google Marketing Platform.
Any typefaces used within your logo and marketing materials should be included in your brand guidelines, together with their weights and a web-safe alternative, if necessary. Clearly state which fonts are to be used for titles versus body copy and include style notes for all headers, from Heading 1 to Heading 5 and beyond, if you are using this level of subheading delineation.
Outline how photography, stock imagery, product imagery, animation, graphics and hand-drawn assets should be used and in what contexts to ensure that your brand visuals are consistent.
Tone of Voice and Copy Guidelines
You should include an editorial style guide in your branding guidelines to ensure that any copy written by representatives of your company for any purpose is on-brand. These copy guidelines should cover your blog, product and sales pages, key landing pages, email campaigns, social media platforms, video scripts, offline advertising, packaging and anywhere else your company‘s branding appears.
Free Brand Guideline Templates
Lucidpress Brand Style Guide Template
Lucidpress has provided a handy brand style guide template that will help you create guidelines around your brand’s logo, fonts, colours and tone of voice. You can drag and drop your brand’s assets into the template and populate it with your content.
Designbull Brand and Logo Guidelines Template
Designbull has pulled together a guidelines template that makes it easy to provide information on how to use your logo as well as outline your logo options, typography, colour specifications and best practices.
99designs Brand Guide Templates
99designs has provided a standard brand guide template that you can edit to omit elements or include additional ones. This template also includes some nice extras, such as a layout for an about us section, where you can include your business information and brand story.
Implementing and Actioning Your Brand Guidelines
Ensure that you hold a session with your full marketing team to embed your new brand guidelines and discuss with your team whether or not they are being used correctly during monthly brand review sessions.
Pull all your brand assets into an artboard that is prominently displayed in the office and provide easy access to physical and digital versions of the guidelines for your team and external contractors whenever needed.
Work hard on embedding your company’s Mission with every employee so that each member of staff understands what the company stands for, its core values and how to put those values into practice in a way that can be positively communicated to the outside world.