Clearly defined brand guidelines are the one thing that many businesses tend to overlook – but fail to adequately address your brand strategy from the get-go and you can end up wasting precious time, effort and resources.
Brand Guidelines – why have them?
Brand guidelines set down a consistent, sequential, and replicable approach for the creation of assets, and they’re particularly important when a marketing lead or branding director doesn’t have the time to map out the details of their brand to every contractor, supplier and business partner on their books.
A formal, structured Brand Guidelines document informs your business partners of your brand ‘voice’ and personality, and gives detailed instructions on everything from logo placement, imagery and colour palettes, to typography, icon usage, page layouts and much more.
It ensures brand consistency no matter what collateral you produce – no matter who creates it. Essentially, whether it’s a website, advertisement, internal memo, or brochure, this document makes it quick and easy to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
So if a Brand Guidelines document (also known as a ‘style guide’ or ‘brand bible) is so important, why isn’t everyone producing one?
The main reason is a lack of time. Brand Guidelines don't magically appear out of thin air. They take time and effort to create. However, once you have this document to hand, you’ll actually save time in the long run. There’s no more explaining to every supplier what colour palette you use, or which typefaces, or which words to avoid, or how to use your logo. It’s all set out in your Style Guide, and delivered direct to their in-boxes when they begin working for you.
Just as importantly, when you have a clear idea of how your brand should be communicated, it means you can lead the development of your company’s marketing materials with much more clarity, vision and insight.
In case you’re still not convinced of the importance of a Brand Guidelines document for your business, here are a few key issues that can be instantly resolved when it’s consulted.
Your logo is an incredibly important part of your brand, and you want it to be reflected consistently. In your guide, you can dictate exactly how to use it – and just as importantly, how not to use it – to ensure your brand is working as hard as possible to convey the right image.
Perhaps you have more than one logo, or you have different layout requirements for different types of communications. Again, here’s where you can explain exactly where and how a particular logo should be used.
Designer are creative people, so they can easily go off track and produce work that doesn’t quite hit the mark. A set-in-stone colour palette can ensure there’s no room for misinterpretation, especially when you specify the exact hex code for web use, and CMYK values and Pantone colors for items that will be printed. Shifts between RGB and CMYK can be serious – so getting this right at the beginning can save large amounts of time and money during the print production process.
Fonts and typography
Fonts are an important part of your marketing collateral, and it’s essential to be consistent with your typography throughout, to convey professionalism. You may have many different typefaces, each for a different purpose, and your guide can make it clear which typeface goes where, and how to use it.
Sizing, kerning (the spacing between your letters and words), and leading (the distance between lines of text on the page) can also all be specified in your Branding Document, leading to a more consistent look and feel across all of your marketing comms.
The type of imagery you use is a key influence on your brand. Do you favour stock-shot photography or something more creative? Does your business use illustrations and graphic devices? How about charts and tables? Specific visual styles evoke powerful responses, and people can often identify a brand purely from its choice of imagery. Even more powerful is the emotional response your choice of imager triggers in your potential customers – so there’s no denying the importance of getting this element right, and ensuring consistency from the outset.
It’s vital to have a brand voice that characterises your company – and so when you can give your copywriter written guidelines on your brand’s personality (with particular words and phrases to use or avoid, and the best tone of voice and language that reflects your brand), you’ll make it much easier for them to produce work that sounds and feels right.
However you decide to produce your style guide, it should be well-structured, clear and concise – but whatever you do, don’t be tempted to skip this all-important process. Your suppliers will thank you for it, your projects will run much more efficiently, and your comms pieces will be infinitely more professional, polished and consistent as a result.
Need help developing a Brand Guidelines document for your company? Contact me today to start the ball rolling.