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7 times brand guidelines saved the day.

Brand guidelines, sometimes called a style guide or brand book, provide clear direction for using branding elements. Designing a brand identity, and creating marketing assets that are consistent and impactful shouldn’t be left up to chance. By documenting the intention of the brand and outlining rules to maintain consistency, you’ll save yourself and your team time, money, and a whole lot of frustration. Without brand guidelines, a brand can easily get off track and lose impact for stakeholders and customers alike resulting in lower return in marketing spend and ultimately affecting the bottom line of the business.  

What’s in a brand guide?

Generally speaking, most brand style guides will have core sections to set rules around visual elements. These are typically logos, wordmarks, colors, fonts, graphic elements such as icons, and image styling. These rules and guidelines will help maintain visual consistency but we’ll be the first to tell you that a brand is much more than the visual identity. 

A more solid foundation (and a more valuable style guide!) can be created if work is done to include the brand’s mission, vision, tone and voice, define customer personas, and establish unique selling propositions to be documented as well. Since no two brands are the same, each brand guide will call for different sections and content, personalized to your business and your audiences.

Brand guidelines for the win.

Over the years we’ve heard hundreds of reasons that creating brand guidelines and documenting a foundation for a brand will set the stage for success. We’ve boiled down that list to share seven times that brand guidelines saved the day.

  1. When all you have is a logo.
    Simply said, there’s more to a brand identity than just a logo. A lot of businesses get their hands on a logo that they like and the process stops there. The logo is embroidered on apparel, stamped on pens, and printed on business cards but if colors, fonts, imagery and layout styles are inconsistent, you’ll quickly find yourself stuck, and your audience confused. With a complete brand style guide, you’ll have all branded elements at your fingertips and know exactly how that brochure or social post you need should look for a cohesive, cross-channel brand.
  2. When you look back and nothing is consistent.
    We always say that consistency is king. In fact, we wrote an entire blog on the subject because it’s such an important step in designing a brand identity. If you were to spread everything out on a table that represents your brand, does it all appear consistent? Does your core color look the same everywhere it’s printed or displayed? Are the fonts consistent? Do all of the designs and layouts appear to be from the same company? You should be able to take away your logo and have everything look like it’s part of the system. If the answer is no, it’s essential that you establish some rules and start following them.
  3. When you feel that you don’t look professional.
    Without an intentional foundation of well established brand guidelines on the front end, a brand can easily fall into the category of appearing amateur. That’s the last thing you’d ever want your brand to be perceived as. Inconsistency can lead to not appearing professional and having collateral that feels like it was designed by someone who’s not experienced in design can lead a customer to think that they’re not doing business with a professional company. Even receiving a business card that looks like an afterthought can impact a person’s perception. Remember, people judge books by their cover so be sure to turn every touchpoint into an opportunity to shine. Don’t know what a “touchpoint” is? Our blog on branding interactions will bring you up to speed.
  4. When you realize that every team member has a different “elevator pitch.”
    This falls into the category of consistency but in a different way. Most people think of the brand and stop at visual elements but establishing the way team members or stakeholders speak about the brand is just as important as what’s seen. This statement or message should be simple and easy to understand and remember. By properly establishing your customer persona and your brand’s promise to solve their problem within your brand guide, it’ll be natural to speak the customer’s language and ease their reservations to engage. 
  5. When a promoter needs a “vector” logo.
    Say you’re looking to get some shirts embroidered or pens made with your logo. Without a knowledge of file types or what sort of logo is needed, it can be frustrating and end up in multiple back and forth emails especially if the only file you have is a jpeg. Going through the process of having visual brand assets prepared and staged and labeled for future use as part of your style guide can shave hours of headache down the road.
  6. When you’ve been asked to design something.
    Imagine you have an event coming up and need a flyer designed. You don’t have time to engage a creative studio like Quill and it’s up to you to pull it off. Where do you start? By having all the core design decisions made on the front end, you can simply reference the brand manual and quickly choose colors, fonts, images and you also know exactly which logo or wordmark to use. If the brand style guide is detailed, as it should be, you’ll likely notice an example for layout that you can mimic. 
  7. When you realize that there are a thousand shades of what you think is your brand’s color.
    If you’ve ever thumbed through a Pantone color book, you’ll notice that there are thousands of colors. If you were to step into a gas station to grab a Coke, you’d notice if the color red was off. Colors can provide deep emotional triggers and that’s why they’re chosen very carefully and intentionally while designing a brand identity. Going the extra mile to ensure that your colors are consistent when printed or displayed on-screen is crucial. When colors are documented within a brand guidelines, it should mention Pantone codes, CMYK for four color process printing, and RGB for digital displays.

How do I get brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are simply a guide to help keep the entire brand experience consistent and aligned with your intended market position. If you’re a small business and you have already established some core elements, we recommend getting started by creating a simple document that outlines all of the logo versions you have, colors that represent the brand, and fonts to be used. Those are the most basic building blocks for any visual identity and to be able to see it outlined in one spot is essential. 

If you need help making sense of your brand identity and creating a document to be used by you, your team, and any external marketing or production partners, we’d love to help. Visit our brand identity service page and schedule a free consultation to speak with a brand strategist today.