Picture this. You walk into McDonald’s one day, and the decor is bright pink and sparkly. Later on, you go to Starbucks to grab a coffee; you notice that their logo is purple. And after a long day, you go home, switch on the TV and watch a Marks & Spencers ad – which uses slang words.

Confusing right?

Right. But thankfully, you’re unlikely to see this happen in real life. And that’s because these brands have a strict set of brand guidelines that their entire marketing, branding, design and advertising teams follow day-in-day-out.

What are brand guidelines and why do you need them?

A brand is a “name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organisation or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer” so if you’ve got a business, you’ve got a brand – whether you like it or not!

A set of brand guidelines, or style guidelines, are primarily a tool to make sure you consistently represent your brand, whether that’s on your website, in-store, in marketing materials, in print, on emails, or on social media. Your brand guidelines could include everything from fonts, logo design, and colours to the tone of voice and imagery. We’d say this document is the visual DNA of your company.

If we think about McDonald’s once more, what comes to your head? The striking yellow ‘M’ logo and primarily red and yellow colours. It’s consistent, and it’s got in your head! Their brand is instantly recognisable – and that’s what you want, too.

Brand guidelines:

Build a strong brand identity through consistency
Make your business look highly professional
Help to build brand awareness, recognition and loyalty
And, let’s face it – they make brands look amazing!

How to create a set of brand guidelines

The first step to building your brand guidelines is developing a clear understanding of your brand identity.
What’s your mission? Why does your business exist? What problem have you solved? Who is your target audience – and why do they need your product or service? What adjectives describe your brand? Start by writing all your answers down and keeping them in the forefront of your mind as you develop your brand guidelines.

Ideally, your guidelines should have enough structure and guidance to keep your brand identity consistent and recognizable, but flexible enough to allow for some creativity. With all this in mind, here are the key steps to developing your style guide:

Logo

Your logo is almost like the face of your brand, and should appear on all your marketing channels, on your business cards, your websites – you get the picture! Hopefully, you’ve already got a logo, but you might not have rules to go with it – and if your logo varies from place to place, it could lose its value. Think about:

The minimum size your logo can be displayed
What the correct proportions of your logo are, no matter what size it is
How much white space you require around your logo
Colour variations and when they should be used (if there are any) – for example, you might have a black and white version or a transparent background option.

 

Colour palette

Most brands define a primary and secondary colour palette to help build a strong brand image and create consistency. If you already have a logo, you’ve probably already selected a few colours – make sure to incorporate these.

Your primary palette is the main colours which should be used, while your secondary palette is used for accent colours. Remember to include digital colour codes (RGB and HEX) so you can get an exact colour match and print colours (CMYK) if they’re needed.

Typography

Imagine how much of a mishmash your brand will be if you use tons of different fonts? Deciding and sticking to a defined font scheme is a critical step toward creating a set of effective brand guidelines.

What fonts have you been using on your website and marketing materials? Do you like them? If you think your current fonts work well for your brand, add them to your branding guidelines. If not, get searching for a font (or fonts) which matches your brand personality.

You can use more than one font, but you’ll probably want to define where and when they can be used – for example, should a certain font be used for heading and subheadings, while a different one should be used for paragraphs? Keep testing and find a scheme which works for you and your brand – and of course, add it to your guidelines.

Imagery & photography

If your website or other channels rely on photography or imagery, it’s worth considering adding some rules regarding their use to your brand guidelines.

Should they all be black and white or full colour? Do you allow for the use of stock images? Should they be soft-focus, sharp, bold, or another style? It may help to build a photo library of images which align with your brand image and guidelines which can be used.

 

Brand voice

Let’s go back to the start of this blog, where we mentioned Marks & Spencers using slang in an advert. This type of language just doesn’t align with the personality of M&S and most certainly wouldn’t align with their brand guidelines.

Your brand voice is a consistent expression of your brand or business through words and styles – you’d be surprised by how much of a brand personality is defined purely by words! Ideally, you should make sure that all your content, wherever that may be, follows a simple set of voice guidelines.

Keep it simple and write down a few adjectives of how you’d like your brand to sound. Do you want to sound formal or informal? Modern or traditional? Friendly? Helpful? Simple and to the point? Complex and intelligent? You can also include a few example pieces of copy which sound the way you want – taglines or an ‘about us’ paragraph are good places to start.

Spending some time defining and creating your branding guidelines is guaranteed to make your business look and sound incredible and build awareness of your brand. If you need a hand with your branding, why not leave it to the pros? Contact 3twelve today– we’ve got the skills and expertise to make your brand a winner.

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