MARKETING FOR SME'S - WHAT ARE BRAND GUIDELINES?
WHAT ARE BRAND GUIDELINES?
Brand guidelines, also called a brand style guide, are a rulebook that facilitates the efficient and consistent application of a set of branding assets. The assets include your logo and its variations if there are any, a palette of colours and stipulated font or fonts. Anyone using your brand guide template for marketing materials should gain a clear idea of how the brand should look wherever it appears.
The principal role of any brand guidelines document is to give guidance to both internal departments and external suppliers such as designers, brand consultants, marketing agencies, printers and signage contractors on how to deploy the company’s branding. The template is indispensable to the proper, rigorous creation of new collateral and brand touchpoints such as websites, e-shots, advertisements, stationery, packaging and pretty much anything that visually relates to the company. Providing guidelines for branding often requires descriptions of what not to do with logos and so on. Some brand templates include instructions on the tone of voice and give examples of the preferred copywriting style.
HOW DOES A BRAND STYLE GUIDE WORK?
A brand style guide should contain the absolute essence of your brand, comprising your mission statement, your vision of the future, your company values, and your unique qualities, all interpreted as design elements. As a design reference tool, the guide should enable anyone using it to consistently present your brand clearly, the way you want it to be communicated, in any medium, without misunderstandings.
Essentially, your guide to brand style will dictate how your company, product or service looks, feels and sounds to outsiders. Working well, the guide to a brand will exert remarkable control over how the brand is perceived, so much so that – major enterprises and trendy design houses, in particular, are fond of this – it may even be referred to as a Brand Bible or Brand Standards Manual. It doesn’t matter what the brand book is called, the point is: straying too far from its commandments is a sin.
WHO GETS TO USE THE BRAND GUIDE?
Apply the contents of the brand style guide with rigour and you can achieve consistency of look, feel and tone, from the boardroom to shop floor, front of house to the storeroom. It should make no difference who uses the guide - a receptionist, a PA, an office junior, a freelance copywriter, a student on placement, or a sales manager -.
All should be able to apply the guidelines with ease, and all should be aware of your unique brand culture.
Having said that, there should always be one person with the final say on brand guideline questions. Usually, it’s the Creative Director or Marketing Director, or you may even have your very own Brand Guardian.
APART FROM STRENGTHENING BRAND IMPACT, WHAT OTHER BENEFITS ARE THERE IN BRAND GUIDELINES?
Well composed guidelines for branding can save precious time, resources, money and a shedload of exasperation. Marketing collateral is simpler in creation and maintenance because nobody is having to design and write material from scratch. Good brand guides are like roadmaps – they show you how to get to where you want to be.
WHY DO WE NEED A BRAND GUIDELINES TEMPLATE?
Mostly, people are recognised by their face. Sometimes you can pick them out by the way they move, or the sound of their voice. But mainly it’s the fact that you’re recognised by, and others get used to that face of yours. Now change your hairstyle, alter the colour of your eyes and make your ears smaller. It’s still you inside, but outside, it’s no longer you. People will look strangely at you, suspiciously even, and worst of all, walk right by you. You are not you. Taking liberties with brand guide templates is dangerous.
Brands operate through consistency. Consistency in the application of all the elements of a brand creates fast recognition and builds confidence. A comprehensive brand style guide is important because it enhances your company, services or products to communicate with customers consistently across all channels and through all personnel.
HOW A BRANDING STYLE GUIDE SAVES YOU TIME, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE HARD-PRESSED
“We are too busy to write a brand guide template! We don’t have time!” Those are common enough excuses for not producing style guidelines. Indeed, brand style guides don’t write themselves. They demand – and deserve – valuable time, knowledge, attention to detail and effort to make them as individual as your business. On the other hand, consider the hours lost in explaining to different designers why your logo should always appear a certain way, or never smaller than a particular size, or without the tagline. You don't want to receive their freshly designed marketing collaterals and hopelessly cry out “Oh my god, where’s the tagline gone?”. Then, there’s the frustration when someone somewhere uses the wrong shade of blue or an inappropriate font. Never mind the imagery that some people might come up with. All these instances are wasting time, time that can easily be saved by a decent brand guidelines template. A brand’s style guide frees you up to do what you do best: the business.
Brand guidelines are an essential safety net for all companies undertaking branding. Regardless of a size brand guidelines are a worthwhile investment for companies who wish to remain consistent throughout their communications. Brand guidelines are an essential part of establishing a recognisable and unique presence in the market differentiating you from your competitors. It shouldn't be overlooked. Investing in brand guidelines in the early stages of the business ensures that your brand voice and image will remain consistent through your growth allowing customers and the general public to familiarise themselves with your tone and style, building brand awareness and trust along the way.
With a wealth of experience and expertise in design, marketing and branding, Propel is perfectly placed to equip companies with highly effective, unique brand guidelines tailored to specific needs.
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About the author: Vincent Bissette is a freelance Brand Strategy and Design Consultant with over 30 years experience of branding and rebranding businesses and organisations, systematically, thoroughly and objectively. He has worked in major Design Consultancies as well as having run his own agency for 25 years, working with SMEs all over the UK to help them modernise their brand, grow their business, attract new customers, penetrate new markets and increase their sales, market share and profit. Throughout that time, there’s not much he hasn't done or many industries he hasn't worked in. He’s a creative, strategic thinker and problem solver with a wealth of experience in diagnosing trouble spots in brands and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Now based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, he works throughout the entire UK.
Get in touch with him on Linkedin here