Any business which follows brand identity guidelines is likely to have a very powerful brand image, and a business which does not have these guidelines is more likely to have a very fuzzy public image. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that a business without a strong brand image will probably not be successful.
Most of the really successful businesses of the past century have had very identifiable branding, and that branding is always based on guidelines which were set down prior to their development. Many startups choose not to focus on establishing brand guidelines, considering them to be an extra and unnecessary step. However, as virtually all successful businessmen can tell you, the only way to achieve lasting success in the business world is to establish a strong brand identity. In order to establish that strong brand identity, it will be necessary for you to create a formal set of brand guidelines.
What goes into brand guidelines
It’s best to formally create a brand guideline document, so this can serve as the basis for all future guidelines associated with your branding. You can adopt a more basic approach and include only the fundamental requirements, or you can make it more comprehensive, with much greater detail. For smaller companies and startups, the basic approach is more realistic and more relevant, since it will be easier to read and use. Larger companies such as corporate giants, will generally opt for the more comprehensive approach.
The basic brand guideline will generally omit the mission, vision, and brand strategy, instead concentrating on the visuals. The logo design is the first component of your visuals, and that’s the symbol you’ll want to see 90% of the time in advertising and elsewhere. Local variations are allowable, as long as they don’t stray too far from the original, such that there is a loss of identity.
When creating variations of your logo, you should create a version without text, a version without the logo itself, and a vertical version. The whole point of this is to ensure that you have a flexible logo design, which can be used in various circumstances. Needless to say, all these variations should be included in your brand guidelines.
When you’re looking for a more comprehensive version of your brand guidelines, there are few more things which need to be included. Your brand mission will explain the reason for your company’s existence, and what its core values are. Your brand story will explain more in-depth what your company is all about, why it’s different from other companies, and why your company matters. If you can develop a strong brand story, it can serve as the foundation for some of your marketing strategies in the future.
The comprehensive approach to establishing brand guidelines should also include an explanation of your tone of voice, which relates to how you use language. This will go a long way toward establishing how potential customers see your brand, i.e. friendly, very businesslike, fatherly, etc. If your company has a physical storefront, signage and graphic elements will be important to display, and to identify in your brand guidelines. The way in which you use your brand identity within signage can be very significant, as can the signs themselves. Whether your signs are plastic or metal, built-up or illuminated, these should all be described in your brand guidelines.
How to create brand guidelines
The first step in creating your brand guidelines is to select a format, such as an easily distributable PDF, or a stored electronic file online. Next, you should outline everything you intend to include in your brand guidelines, and this outline will then serve as your branding Bible for the future. Depending on whether you have decided to take the minimalist approach or the more comprehensive approach, the contents of your outline will be different. In fact, if you have decided on the minimalist approach, you may not even bother to create an outline itself.
Then you need to create a brand style guide, complete with several examples of all the do’s and don’ts you want to specifically include or exclude. Make sure to provide enough detail with each example that you’ve made it clear without belaboring the point. Make sure all explanations are simple and clear, so that even someone outside the company could understand it. Include content checklists where it makes sense, since your content creators are likely to be busy themselves. You can make their lives and yours, a lot easier by including a final content checklist.
Why brand guidelines are so important to your business
Brand guidelines are considered to be critical for business because they provide definition on how brand elements are to be used. They also provide guidance on how a business should interact with its audience. One of the main things to strive for when creating brand guidelines is brand consistency. When a business is consistent in its branding message, that message becomes much clearer in the minds of potential customers. When customers truly understand your company mission and his personality, they’re much more inclined to do business with you.
Another reason why brand guidelines are so important is because they foster brand recognition. When your company can be instantly recognized by someone seeing a particular logo, that is worth its weight in gold in terms of recognition. Brand guidelines also help to establish very specific procedures and approaches which should be used at all times. This goes right down to the visual components which are used, including coloring, fonts, and logo composition.
When you’ve established a good set of brand guidelines, it can save time and effort in the future, especially if you ever undergo a re-branding. One of the main values of establishing good brand guidelines is that it can help to avoid confusion among employees, both old and new. In fact, some strong brand guidelines will present a clear image of your company to employees, to customers, and to everyone else who comes in contact with your business.