Whether you’re just establishing your brand, planning a re-launch or in the beginning stages of setting up your business, having consistent branding in place is important. When done well, branding can help you to create a truly memorable online identity that has the ability to change perception, and captivate your online audience.
Your brand goes way beyond the logos and colours you use and should form the backbone of almost every decision you make as a business. You should be asking yourself does this align with our brand, our message, our ethos and our mission statement? Creating a brand that is consistent and aligns all your assets, values and messages takes time and is a large task for a business of any size. So how do you create brand guidelines as a business? More importantly, how do you communicate and maintain these?
What Is a Brand?
The first very important question to answer is what a brand actually is. A brand encompasses your whole business personality, it’s there to define your business, the services you offer and the decisions you make to better connect you with customers. A brand refers to both your online and offline identity and shapes your customer’s perception of you, helping you to better stand out from your competitors.
A successful brand helps to establish brand loyalty, through creating a loyal customer base and attracting new customers that will stay. All of the above should be aligned and communicated through visual elements, the tone of voice you use, your marketing activity, messaging and your website. It is important all elements are consistent in order to be effective.
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Whilst defining a brand, and everything that goes with it is really important, how do you make sure this brand is maintained and adhered to across your business? You put in a set of brand guidelines in a brand book for your employees to refer to. This is what you need to make sure to include:
History Of The Brand
Put your brand into context, giving some history of where you started as a company and how far you’ve come. Think of this section as a bit of a company overview that helps to set the scene for the rest of the guidelines you’ve set.
Core Service Offering
This part isn’t essential, but you might choose to share your core service offering as a company so that your team know what your brand is centred around, and can better put the rest of the guidelines into context.
Values / Mission Statement
Setting your values is really important for establishing and defining your brand identity. Your values underpin the business decisions you make, the work you deliver and the way your team conducts themselves. It’s essential to have these set in stone from the beginning so that you can be sure you’re making the right first impression to current and prospective customers.
Tone Of Voice
This section should define the tone of voice to take in any messaging you send out, including the copy on your website and any campaigns you plan on running. It’s key that your tone of voice is consistent, as this will help to build up a better perception of your brand across all channels and mediums.
Clear instructions on your logo and how to (and how not to) use it, to avoid misrepresentation of the brand. Take a look at some of these examples below:
It’s important to display your brand colours so that any creative materials can be created in line with the brand. This should include both primary and secondary colours, and where and when these should be used.
Your brand should have a specific font or font family, as well as sizing guidelines. Again this should include where and when to use fonts, whether that’s in graphics or for printed literature.
Your guidelines should be put together in a well-presented (and on brand) brand book! These should be shared out amongst employees and made easily accessible so that they can refer to it regularly.
How Do You Maintain Them?
Having a brand, along with a set of guidelines in place is all well and good, but how do you make sure you maintain them? One of the key pointers to remember is not to let the guidelines slip under the radar. Make sure you’re reminding your team to double check any assets or content against the guidelines. Perhaps even enforce a quality checking system, where when the approval/proofing process is going on, the content is checked against the brand guidelines to ensure it’s in line with the brand. Creating and maintaining a brand is a team effort!
With that in mind, do remember that brand guidelines can be adapted and changed over time. Don’t be afraid to try new things when it comes to your brand, see where it can be improved or be better in-line with how you are currently positioned in the market. The important thing is to keep your profile consistent and to reflect this in the messaging you send out to your target market.