Branding guidelines work as a guiding light. A detailed analysis

A few days back, I was in a casual meetup of  some startup owners. We were all conversing about laptops and phones.

All the time we were having the discussion, a half-eaten apple was peeking into my mind.

A little while later, we started talking about shoes and sportswear. And that’s when a small checkmark replaced the half-eaten apple.

Later that night, we were trying to decide what to have for dinner. One of the members suggested fries and burgers. And that’s when a big yellow M appeared in that little window of my brain.

This incident made me wonder about the power of branding.

The half-eaten apple. The small ‘check’ mark. The big yellow M.

What do they all have in common? They are mere logos that have established a consistent and recognizable brand. And how did they do so? Through branding guidelines, which are also known as brand style guides.

They told the world all about their brands through well-created branding guidelines, and now the world needs no introduction about them. They just look at their logos and voila.

A well-built brand style guide transforms your brand’s heart and soul into a design that tells everyone all about your brand.

So, what is it, and why and how should you create it? We will tell you all about it in this post. Keep reading to learn how to portray your brand in the best way possible.

Branding guidelines – what is it?

Brand Style Guide - Branding Guidelines – what is it?

We have all seen and utilized the instruction manuals that come with the electric appliances we buy, right? A Brand style guide is just like those instruction manuals, but for a brand.

So, essentially, the brand guideline is a rulebook or a document that represents and defines your brand. They not only help you create a unique identity for your brand, but they also communicate your brand voice to your existing and future customers.

The brand style guide explains what your company offers to the world. It demonstrates all the unique traits of your brand, such as your logo, your brand colors, font selection, images, and much more.

In simple words, a brand style guide is a powerful marketing and advertising tool to create a recognizable brand that stays with people. Anyone who goes through it will fully understand everything about your brand and business.

Your brand guidelines mainly constituents of:

Your brand guideline is mainly helpful for marketing and advertising departments of your company to ensure consistency and to keep a reliable and credible brand image.

Why do you need branding guidelines – The Benefits and Purpose

Brand Style Guide

Either you own a large-scale established company or a small-scale startup, brand guidelines are the key tool to make your brand known and consistent. Let’s look at some of the top benefits of brand style guides that make it so important.

Brand Consistency

Brand Style Guide - Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is the biggest and the most important benefit of branding guidelines.

 Let’s examine a scenario to understand this benefit a little better.

All of us have a favorite coffee shop in our neighborhood. Now imagine your favorite local coffee shop just opened up a new branch near your office. Sounds great, right?

You visit there as soon as you get a chance but wait. What’s that? When you reach the shop, you find the same name and logo, but the colors and fonts used are different. You will feel confused, right? You won’t feel comfortable as you are unsure if it’s the same coffee shop or not. The reason? The inconsistency will confuse and alienate you from the said business.

That’s precisely why brand consistency is crucial to any business.

If you want your brand to be trusted and recognized for its credibility and reliability, then you must be vigilant of maintaining a consistent brand voice.

It is the key to have an exclusive brand identity. A brand style guide enables all the different departments of your company to maintain the same brand standards. It ensures that all the communication regarding the brand remains consistent and unswerving. Plus, it helps you make your brand more reliable and credible for old and new customers.

You may find it helpful: How Does Branding Empower Small Businesses?

Brand Recognition

You’re driving on the highway. You are starving, and suddenly you see a big, bright, yellow M written on a red background staring back at you. You feel a rush of relief and happiness as soon as you see that yellow M.

But why would a simple M make you happy when you are hungry? It is because you know that M. You recognize that M, and you associate this logo with its brand as soon as you see it. A simple M can make you think about hot crispy fries and burgers from McDonald’s.

This is the power of brand recognition.

Branding guidelines provide enough information to clients so that they can identify, recognize, and recall your brand as soon as they see any of your assets anywhere. It ensures that all your brand assets remain the same across all the different zones of marketing.

Sets Standards and Rules

Brand guidelines help you lay out an established set of rules that must be followed at all times. From your brand colors to the overall look, from your brand message to its logos, every rule and standard will be covered by your brand style guide.

Thus, it can be said that with a brand style guide in hands, you can be sure that none of your brand assets get altered or modified on their way to the customers. No matter where or when a client sees any of your brand representations, they will see the same thing.

Helps you avoid confusion and stay focused

When you own a business, what’s your objective? To make it grow, right?

When a business grows, more and more people and mechanisms get involved. Maintaining consistency and avoiding confusions can become quite challenging. That’s when a brand style guide can be really helpful. It ensures uniformity in all your branding and marketing assets all across the company.

Boosts up your brand value

Brand Style Guide

The perceived value of your brand automatically boosts up when your brand becomes consistent, recognizable and its identity becomes cohesive.

Your target audience sees your brand as more professional, reliable, and trustworthy. By employing brand guidelines, you help maintain the integrity and quality of your brand’s reputation.

In short, a branding guideline done right will help you, your business, and your brand in multiple remarkable ways.

What are the constituents of a comprehensive branding guideline?

Now, you know what brand guideline is and why you should have them in order to help your brand in multiple ways.

Now, let’s delve a little deeper to understand the different things that are included in a comprehensive brand style guide.

Essential Elements Of A Brand Style Guide

So, what must be included in a comprehensive brand style guide? Well, guidelines can differ from company to company, depending on how consistent you want your brand to appear.

However, there are six essential components of brand guidelines that remain constant for most brands. Let’s delve right in to know about these 6 primary elements.

1. Brand Story

This is the introduction of your brand to the world. Here, a simple and straightforward summary of your brand is given to let the viewers know the essence of your brand. This will give the viewers a perspective to see the heart and soul of your business, helping them understand the mission and representation of your brand.

The five key brand elements that are included in this section are mission, vision, audience, values, and the personality of your brand.

Brand Story - Brand Style Guide

2. Logo Guidelines

This is the part where you tell all about your logo.

The logo is the identification of your brand and must always be used correctly and properly. Here, all the information given under logo guidelines ensures that your logo is always used in the right manner.

Logo Usage - Brand Style Guide

This section states the logo colors, logo usage, and the variations of your logo’s types and styles. The following information about all the approved variations of your brand logo comes here:

  • The size and spacethe construction parameters of your brand logo.

Brand Style Guide - Construction Clearspace

  • The colors and versions – the different colors and versions of your logo that can be used on different platforms.

Logo Version - Brand Style Guide

  • The don’ts – the incorrect uses of your brand logo.

Brand Style Guide - Incorrect Uses

3. Color palette

The colors you use for branding become your identity. And that’s why the colors hold great importance in all your branding collateral and representation.

This is where you define and establish your brand colors so that you can have consistency across all your representations. You shall display swatches of your brand colors in your style guide. Plus, it is best to include the information required to recreate those colors accurately everywhere.

After all, you don’t want your brand to have to have a different color or even different shades of the same color wherever it goes.

Color Palette - Brand Style Guide

An interesting read for you: Learn About Branding Colors & How They Can Transform Your Brand

4. Typography and font

Another critical brand element that becomes your brand identity is the font you use for branding purposes.

Now, you have to determine if one typeface family is enough to communicate your branding needs or you would need more. It is best that you use one font for your logo and a different font for other branding pieces. It will make your logo a lot more unique and recognizable.

Remember the exceptional M for McDonald’s? We all remember it because of its unique typography. And because of the yummy food, of course.

To give a clear understanding of your typography and fonts, it is imperative to give clear instructions regarding:

  • The typeface you are using
  • The Alignment
  • The Spacing

Brand Style Guide - Typography Font

5. Image guidelines

This section will tell everyone about the imagery used in your brand. You know what images go best with your brand. Determine those images and make sure that they are authentic and relevant to your brand.

To ensure that the imagery is properly communicated, you shall include:

  • Examples of images
  • Imagery from other brands
  • Collection of images (image mood board) that deliver the feeling people get when they interact with your brand.

Brand Style Guide - Image moodboard

6. Brand voice

Brand Voice - Brand Style Guide

The voice of your brand plays a crucial role in how your audience perceives your brand. that is the reason why it is important to find the right voice for your brand and to deliver it appropriately.

It is best that you include the following information in this section:

  • The best practices
  • A voice that gels with your brand
  • The Do’s and Don’ts

The above 6 elements are often sufficient for most brands. However, some may need to go a bit further by including other brand collateral in their guide.

Business Card - Brand Style Guide

Stationary - Brand Style Guide

  • If your brand is a digital one, then you may have to define the images on your website.
  • If you trade physical products, then you may have to include your packaging guidelines.

Brand Style Guide - Food

Brand Style Guide

  • If you focus on social media marketing, then you may have to shed some light on the imagery you use on social networks.

Social Networks - Brand Style Guide

Branding Guidelines is not a one-time thing.

Social Network - Brand Style Guide

Your brand style guide must be a flexible document. It must have the ability to change with time. It must grow as your brand grows. That’s why it is important to revisit your brand guidelines occasionally.

Make sure that you keep updating and altering the brand style guide document as per the needs of your ever-evolving brand.

However, making constant changes is neither easy nor practical. So, set a date on the calendar to review and revive your guidelines at a certain interval. It can be monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Keep your ideas compiled up in a place and have them added to the guideline when you decide to revisit it.

You should give it a read: How to Name Your Brand – an Essential Brand Naming Checklist

Branding Guidelines – The Guiding Light.

You should know that your company is so much more than the services and products it offers. It is an extension of your own voice.

Representing your brand, the right way can make all the difference in how the world perceives your brand. And a brand style guide or brand style guide can effectively help you portray your brand in the best manner to the world.

It is one of the most helpful and effective marketing and advertising tools for your company. Not only does it let the customers know about your brand, but it also ensures consistency, reliability, uniformity, and credibility of your brand. Moreover, it also enables easy and consistent communication across all the different marketing departments of your brand.

So, if you want to ensure all that and much more in order to have a brand that’s successful and widely recognized, then you must make branding guidelines a part of your marketing strategy. Do it, and you will feel the difference instantly.

Happy Branding.

  • A Picture of Waqas D.

    Waqas D.

Waqas D. is the co-founder of the branding and website agency, FullStop™. He supercharges brands by crafting memorable logos, brand identities and engaging websites. Besides thousands of startups and medium-size businesses, FullStop has worked with likes of Microsoft & L’Oréal. View our portfolio or get in touch.

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