A brand guide is a document that informs the user of the correct use of predetermined elements related to your brand. This includes rules and guidelines related to your company’s visual identity for any internal or external communication, including logo usage, font type and colour, and typography, along with the brand’s mission statement, positioning, identity, and values. Using a brand guide ensures that your brand looks and feels the same, even when you have different people working on different aspects of your business and marketing strategy.
Why is a brand guide important?
Think of a brand guide as a mirror reflecting your company’s personality. If the reflection changes daily, your brand appears inconsistent and this can confuse and alienate your customers, sometimes even to the point of anti-trust. A style guide is important because it helps your business communicate in a consistent way across all teams and channels.
The brand message you want to put out into the market needs to reflect this personality, so you need to start by defining your personality traits before you create a style guide. There are five key components: Mission, vision, target audience, brand personality, and core values.
A company’s mission statement and vision are linked. The mission tells people who your company is and the vision tells them where you want to go.
Your target audience is the people you would like to reach, whether by advertising or by informing. An advert sells an idea, service, or product, whereas an editorial article provides information that a wider audience may find relevant, which breeds brand trust. Deciding who to target for which type of message is a process that requires a lot of thought and is informed by your mission and vision. Keep asking yourself: “Who are we? What do we want to be? How do we want to get there?” and, most importantly, “Why do customers need us?”!
Your brand personality ties in with the who, what, how, and why and offers your audience and staff a way of getting to know you. Your logo, typography, and tone dictate what people think and feel about you.
Memorable core values will make it easy for your team to stay on-brand. Building on the who, what, how, and why questions can help you to determine the guiding principles for company decisions and actions.
Taking it to the next level
Once you have determined your company’s personality, you can start finding inspiration to support it. Use imagery, elements, and keywords and phrases to build a storyboard. From here you can define your brand story, draw your logo, decide on your colour palette, choose your preferred fonts, decide what type of imagery reflects your personality, and how your voice should be heard.
Once you have built your brand guide you can decide what other type of collateral your company will need to achieve its brand goals. These visual applications are best supported by building templates to help you maintain consistency. Samples of these should be placed in your brand guide, so that all users remain on the same page about current templates and use.
Be in the business of storytelling. Your brand personality reflects more than just the products or services you sell. A strong brand tells the world why they should choose you over all the other options on the market. A brand style guide tells your team how to stay true to that brand. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. While some style guides are as thick as a novel, others can be as short as a simple one-page reference. It all depends on your business’s unique needs.