Your brand is the mental image people typically conjure up when they hear the name of your company or see your logo. It is expressed in both the voice and the tone of the content you create, and is evidenced through all of the work that you produce. Two of the most effective ways to build brand equity involve the creation of brand standards and style guides. Brand standards are generally for everyone, while brand style guides are geared more specifically toward designers.
Every brand needs a set of branding guidelines to help it maintain its identity. Without a great brand, companies are simply faceless, heartless entities. Your brand gives your business a personality, and that personality becomes evident in your standards guide. Brand standards integrate the look and feel of all of your marketing materials, help your business create awareness of your brand, and differentiate it from the competition. Using a consistent and distinct tone helps customers identify with your brand. Documented brand standards also ease the onboarding of new employees by serving as a reference for communication materials. In marketing, neither content nor visuals are worth much without each other. Brand standards tie the two together, and generally include:
- Mission and vision statements. Your mission statement specifies why your company exists, while a vision statement lays out where you want your brand to go. Think about who your customers are, why they need you, and how your products or services solve their problems. Brand standards help everyone in your organization understand your mission and uphold the integrity of your brand in every action they undertake.
- Personality. Your brand’s personality is its emotional identity. Is your company formal, casual, technical, or approachable? To ensure consistency in showcasing your brand’s personality, you should create a list of adjectives that describe your brand. Examples include: honest, daring, reliable, welcoming, and wholesome.
- Authenticity. Compromises inevitably occur as a brand continues to grow and evolve, making it difficult to maintain authenticity. To ensure that your brand remains authentic, your brand standards must include a list of values that will not be compromised. This list should be revisited each time your company makes a marketing decision.
Brand Style Guide
A brand style guide allows you to present your brand clearly, making it both understandable and replicable. This guide should include both visual and content guidelines. Visual guidelines establish the way all content should be designed, showing us how to make products and services presentable and worthy of our customers’ time. Content guidelines control the development of copy and text within the design, providing clear instructions on how to frame and construct the presentation of a product or service. These style guides should focus on:
- Identity. Your brand identity, or appearance, should be visually consistent everywhere your brand is used, since inconsistency will confuse and alienate your customers. In this section, provide examples of how your company’s logo should look in various formats. These may include everything from business cards, to t-shirts, to print ads, to menus - both in color and in black and white.
- Color palette. Defining a brand palette will also help your brand create a consistent look and feel. Most brands choose no more than four main colors: one light color for backgrounds, a darker text color, a neutral hue, and finally one that pops. Your style guide should include swatches of your brand colors.
- Typography. Font selection is another critical aspect of identity design. The needs of your brand will determine if you should only utilize a single typeface, or if you want to choose multiple brand fonts. Generally, you should use a different font than the one in your logo, since the contrast will cause it to stand out. Your style guide should specify whether copy always aligns left, right, or centered, and it should also include tracking and kerning ratios.
Your company is so much more than simply the products or services you sell. A powerful brand identity tells prospective buyers why they should choose you over all of the other options in the marketplace. Furthermore, your brand standards and brand style guide direct and inspire your team to stay true to your brand.