Establishing Brand Guidelines for Your Business
Does your brand feel like it’s missing something? It’s probably a brand guideline.
A brand guideline defines who your organization is and serves as a comprehensive rulebook that lays out all the elements that communicate that—from your logo, color palette, and typography to the tone of voice, grammar rules, and even your key messaging or brand personality.
While having an official brand guideline document may sound like a “nice to have” document, the truth is it is an essential part of your business that you can’t afford not to have.
The same way a business plan defines key elements of your organization so you know what your business model and offerings look like, your brand guideline sets the parameters of your brand identity and serves as the foundation for how you show up in the world.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to elevate an existing guideline, our branding experts put together this simple guide to walk you through:
- What a brand guideline is
- What a brand guideline can do for your business
- Everything you want to include in your brand guideline
- And how to get started creating one
Follow along to learn how you can establish a brand guideline for your business.
What is the Power of Brand Marketing?
Establishing a brand guideline is a critical step for any business, regardless of your industry, business model, or customer type. Even if you’re the face of your company, defining what your business looks, feels, and sounds like can ensure you remain consistent, memorable, and relatable to your audience.
Some other benefits of effective brand marketing include:
Trust & Loyalty with Customers. Today’s consumers want to know who they’re buying from. By consistently showing up in a way that matches your company’s core values and brand guidelines, consumers can establish a deeper connection with your brand, which builds trust, conversions, and brand loyalty.
Consistent Growth. Business plans, brand guidelines, and marketing strategies alike help define who you are and where you’re going. They keep you focused on your True North and help filter new ideas and opportunities that may or may not align with your brand. It also makes onboarding quicker and easier when you partner with a digital marketing agency or hire a new employee.
Asset Management. Guidelines often include a repository of approved brand assets. This makes it easy for designers, writers, and other partners to access the necessary logos, images, and other materials. It also enables creatives to have some artistic freedom within the brand’s defined boundaries.
- Increased Efficiency. Having clear guidelines reduces the time and effort required to create new materials. Designers and marketers can refer to the guidelines for direction, which streamlines the creative process. This includes gathering assets like logos and images and repurposing key messages, value statements, and more.
What Should You Include in Your Brand Guidelines?
While the brand guideline structure can look slightly different from company to company, there are some core elements that should always be included and others you may want to consider adding to your document for enhanced effectiveness.
Every brand guideline should start off with a clear introduction of who you are, what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. This section includes:
- Mission Statement
- Core Values
- Value Propositions & Differentiators
- Detailed Customer Personas
In this section, you might also want to include your brand’s “personality” traits. For example, if you want to position your brand as a thought leader yet friendly and easy to talk to, a brand personality trait may be “Neighborly Experts.” Defining these core characteristics takes your brand guidelines a step further and helps to ensure people are translating your brand correctly.
When people think of a brand, they most commonly think of the visual elements. Some of the things you’ll almost always find in this section include:
- Your logo should include all acceptable logo variables and define rules for sizing limits, placement, and color.
- Color Palette. Your color palette should indicate primary colors vs. secondary colors and should include the CMYX, RGB, and Hex codes or each.
- Typography. Outline which fonts are to be used for which purposes. For example, indicate headline fonts vs. body text and include acceptable variables for programs that may not offer your fonts.
Another visual element that can be beneficial to your brand guidelines but is often forgotten is imagery. Detailing the types of images, graphics, and photographs that represent your brand helps to ensure every design element looks consistent. You can even include directions for editing techniques and filters so everything from custom photography to stock images looks like they were captured by the same lens.
Your brand’s voice is just as critical as your imagery and helps define how you sound on your blogs, social media, website, and event interviews.
Some items you can include in this section are:
- Brand Tone. Do you want to sound more formal? Friendly? A little cheeky? Maybe geeky? Empathetic?
- Writing Preferences. Identify any grammar nuisances specific to your brand, like if you opt for serial commas or like to capitalize a word that normally wouldn’t be capitalized.
- Slogans and Catchphrases. Note any approved and common slogans that can be used in writing. Be sure to include whether any are trademarked and provide instructions on how to properly place the TM symbols.
- What not to say. This is just as important as illustrating what we do want to say. This can include words or phrases you don’t want to use, either for preference or regulatory purposes or just general tones and concepts to avoid.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re clearly communicating how to apply these guidelines across different mediums, from print to social to digital assets. You may also want to consider and discuss how your brand can be communicated through less formal channels, such as client pitch decks, internal documents, and even just the way employees show up on sales calls or customer service inquiries.
The more informative and communicative you can be, the easier others will understand who you are and translate that into the work they produce for your company.
Create a Brand Guideline for Your Business
Now that you know what a brand guideline is, why you should have one, and what you’ll want to include in it, you can get started on creating one for your organization. You can set aside some time to research, brainstorm, and create your company’s brand guidelines using our “guide to guidelines” above, or you can reach out to us for customized recommendations.
Our team at Reach Interactive has spent years honing our skills in brand strategy and brand marketing, and we can help you clearly define your business so that you stand out amongst the sea of competitors. Schedule a call with our Client Practice Leader today to learn more and get started!
Remember, no matter the size of your company, your industry, or if you’re B2B or B2C, having a brand guideline is one of the foundational documents your business needs.