Brand guidelines are a useful tool for everything from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, but why is it important and what is the right format for your company?
As branding specialists, our team works with brand guidelines on a daily basis. When onboarding a new client, it is one of the first things we ask for – and we have seen it all. From lengthy tomes that would put Noah Webster to shame, to single sheets with a logo a font and a handful of colors. We’ve seen them printed, pdf, and online. Often we come across clients who have no actual guidelines, but simply a folder of assets and previous work to base everything on. In these cases, our advice is almost always to get the brand house in order and develop at the very least a basic style guide for their logo. We believe that this step is essential for creating a framework to more efficiently and effectively communicate your brand value on a day-to-day basis.
Why Brand Guidelines?
Clear and widely distributed brand guidelines protect the strength of your brand. They are the first line of defense to ensure that the style and tone are consistent through every brand signal, accurately promoting your brand promise. Here are some of the benefits of a strong set of brand guidelines.
- Creates a unified vision – your brand promise should be held sacred, but its amazing how many companies don’t clearly communicate this vision to anyone but clients. Team members, vendor partners, media, and associations – all should be aware of what stands at the core of your brand. Since many of these people are creating work for you, it stands to reason that these proxy stakeholders should be drinking your brand kool-aid.
- Creates brand consistency – ensuring that designers, writers and producers are all using the same lexicon of colors, type and graphics will bring a base level of consistency to your brand. When you add in layout rules, templates and basic graphic guidelines you increase that consistency. Ultimately layering on guidelines for copy and messaging ensures that the underlying brand message comes through.
- Creates understanding – your brand has elements that are sacred – unmovable promises or brand signals that should be kept as they are. Other elements may exist on the periphery and have more flexibility in their use. Clear brand guidelines define boundaries for different types of projects and give guidance for when to stretch the rules and when to play it safe. This eliminates many questions that come up in the ideation, creation or review phases of a project.
- Creates efficiency – an often overlooked, but very important benefit of a strong brand guide document is that it supports a more efficient system for producing work. A well-defined brand system has a certain modularity that increases efficiency as it increases consistency. By defining building blocks for brand communications a framework for certain projects becomes automated. While promotional and campaign work requires more thought and creativity, often day to day projects benefit from understanding how to put together blocks.
- Creates value – documentation of something as nebulous as a brand creates inherent value. When the system is in place, the rules that govern maintaining your brand creates an extra layer of value. This can be especially valuable in franchising or succession planning, or just as a way to strengthen the brand portfolio for investment. When your brand is a well-oiled machine, it can directly affect your bottom line.
Now that you understand why your brand needs guidelines, you should begin the journey to creating yours. We’ll cover how to start bringing it all together in our next chapter – Creating the Rules of the Game.