Chances are you’ve heard the term “Brand Guidelines being thrown around before, but you might not be entirely clear on what brand guidelines are, and just why they are important? The short answer is that brand guidelines are a set of clearly defined rules and protocols for building a brand guide to how your corporate messages, images, graphics, colors, and logo, represented to your audience. Though brand guidelines go far beyond just the basic rules of how your company displays its visuals.
In a broader sense, brand guidelines are meant to drive consistency for just how your company’s public persona is presented to potential new as well as existing customers. They also give a clear defining strategy for how your collective media presence operates. This includes things like your company’s website, their designs and graphics schemes as well as collaterals, and even your social media presence.
This makes brand guidelines the lifeblood of how you establish, as well as maintain your brand identity over time. If your marketing strategy needs to flex to meet a new goal or to make the most of a new opportunity, your brand guidelines will help serve as a barometer to make sure you don’t stray too far from your established brand identity.
What Needs To Be In Your Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines are typically some type of detailed electronic document or physical guidebook that clearly outlines the details of how the following things are used throughout all your corporate messages and visuals.
The Company’s Primary Color Palette
This is a listing of the exact colors used in your logo as well as all other important visuals. This includes things like the Pantone numbers used in screen printing and spot color print displays as well as CMYK, HEX, and RGB.
The Company’s Secondary Color Palette
Just like the primary pallet this is the color-coded information used for supportive media, such as how text is displayed and the color tag lines are printed in.
Tagline & Logo Use
This is a set of strict guidelines defining the relationship between your logo and any specific marketing taglines. This includes the size of the text compared to the dimension of the logo, as well as defined situations that ensure the right tagline is being used in the correct marketing message.
Rules For The Use Of Abbreviations & Acronyms
A lot of companies have abbreviated forms of their name and some of their product lines. A prime example of this would be how Coca-Cola will also sometimes use the name “Coke.” These guidelines determine exactly which abbreviations and acronyms are used, as well as when to use them.
Typography & Fonts
This is a dovetail of how taglines are used, but also extends to choosing the kind of fonts used in external documentation, as well as other things like instruction manuals, company vehicle displays, website text, and even little things like the fonts used on all company business cards.
Logo Size Requirements
Many company logos have small and large details woven into them which can change with the scale of how they are displayed or printed. This can be a factor on things like promotional products where reduced text requirements on something like a pen, might not be readable. On the other end of the spectrum, certain logo elements and text might be too prominent when scaled up to something like a billboard. Another way these rules apply might also be how the company logo is displayed on packaging, manuals, or mailing labels that require a certain amount of padding or white space. These sizing requirements then create a set of rules on how that text can be enlarged or reduced.
This is essentially the “Voice” your company or brand uses to speak to its new and existing customer base. It includes rules and notes for how the ton might change from one target market to the next to make sure that you are always speaking in the correct voice for the demographic group who is meant to receive the message.
Grammar & Punctuation Rules
Some companies like to play fast and loose with the rules of grammar and punctuation. If your company or a marketing campaign has a certain way of speaking that deviates beyond rules like AP style or Chicago Manual, then your brand guidelines need to note how the grammar and punctuation rules are clearly defined and used consistently throughout all applicable media and marketing communications.
Noting Unacceptable Uses
Early on it’s easy to rely on your brand guidelines and follow through with how they are used. Though as time goes on, you will likely notice some bad habits or errors in how your brand guidelines are applied in certain situations. Unacceptable uses can then be generated as a separate section or integrated into other sections to make sure to catch common errors before they happen. This might be as simple as noting to use “You’re instead of Your” or to always make sure to display a tagline beside the logo, rather than stacked under it.
Why Are Brand Guidelines Important
These days consumers are wary of companies that seem to change too often, or who might be prone to making errors in their products and services. Inconsistency tends to foster doubt in the purchasing experience. New and existing customers want to see your identity display consistently throughout their relationship with your product line. This plays a role in both attracting new customers as well as retaining loyal existing customers.
Do Websites & Social Media Need To Have Brand Guidelines
A lot of companies have umbrella brand guidelines that represent both the corporate message as well as specific marketing campaigns that cater directly to specific target markets. They are especially important in your company’s website, content creation, and social media presence.
New and existing customers want to see the same voice, grammar, logo, and visuals on digital media as they do in physical media. If you are outsourcing your web design or social media management to a third party, you need to make sure that they have a copy of all applicable brand guidelines to ensure a seamlessly consistent presence.