Have you ever wondered how a company like Apple manages to cultivate such a beautifully consistent brand? I know what you’re thinking, “Easy, they spend millions of dollars on it.”
Well that’s true, they do, but do you really think that makes it any easier? No, that makes it even harder. Can you imagine having to ensure that everything produced by dozens of companies across hundreds of advertising platforms remains 100% true to your brand?
There is a not-so-secret tool that big companies use to ensure that their branding is consistent across all mediums. It’s something that every company, small or large, should be using. It’s a brand style guide.
Much more than just a logo, a brand is how you represent your business to the world. A strong brand serves to improve business recognition, aids customer acquisition and strengthens customer loyalty. A weak brand stifles opportunities on every front.
A strong brand takes time to develop, and consistency is the key to making the most of that time. Crafting a logo is a good start, but don’t stop there.
Building upon that, you must define who you are, what you do, and how you represent that to the world. Building brand recognition is an ongoing process. To help ensure consistency and better reinforce your brand concept, you should develop and religiously use a brand style guide.
What Is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a well-defined list of guidelines detailing the usage for elements, like your logo or colors, when representing your brand.
What exactly a brand style guide should outline will depend on your company. Your needs will determine if your brand style guide can consist of a few short pages, or should be as thick as a book. It all depends on the complexity of your brand and how strictly detailed you wish to be regarding its representation.
Your brand will often be utilized as part of your marketing message on your website, in blogs, in print and digital advertising, on social media channels, in email marketing and traditional advertising. Ensuring that, across all of these mediums, every element of your brand remains consistent is the goal of your brand style guide.
So, a brand style guide that is definitive in describing how your brand should always be applied will serve you better than a few loosely regarded rules or having no guidelines at all.
What’s in a Brand Style Guide?
The contents of a brand style guide detail how a brand should be represented at all times, in all forms of media. It will vary slightly from company to company but will almost universally include the following:
- Size, color, and placement of your logo on digital and print media
- Specific fonts and their usage
- Specific digital and print colors to be used for consistency
- Tone of voice to be used in content creation
While the above are just a few “universal” examples of the guidelines outlined in many brand style guides, common guidelines may also include:
- General overview of a company’s mission and/or vision
- Social media icons usage
- Descriptions of buyer personas
- Information regarding appropriate imagery and photography
You can choose to be more or be less detailed with your style guide. Just keep in mind that consistency across all forms of media is key in maintaining strong, recognizable branding.
Why Do Companies Need a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide serves to ensure consistency across all media. It is likely that when you are creating content for the web, print advertising, a trade show, or for sales tools, the project goes through many hands before reaching completion.
A brand style guide ensures that everyone involved adheres to the same detailed guidelines, creating a unified brand across all channels. More than that, it creates a unified framework in which different creative avenues can be explored without concerns of going off brand.
Also, much of the guesswork will be cut out for those designing marketing collateral. Knowing up front the guidelines for logo placement, which colors to use for which medium, and which tone to take with the copy will save time in the creative process, saving you money.
You can easily see this in action. Go to your website and print the homepage. Now hold the printed homepage next to the homepage on your monitor and compare. The colors will be anywhere from slightly to drastically different between the two, depending on your specific branding. Without a style guide, a creative agency must determine the correct color to use to ensure that the printed version of your logo appears as the same color as the digital version. The process, as you can imagine, can be time-consuming.
Lastly, the power of branding comes from repetition. It takes on average seven interactions with a brand for a consumer to recognize it. The purpose of a brand style guide is to ensure that with each interaction the consumer sees the same brand. Consistency is an absolute must for proper branding and consistency is what a brand style guide can deliver.
Make branding a priority
Regardless of the size of your business, you should be using a brand style guide to create a strong, recognizable brand. Your business goals must include a plan to increase brand retention and decrease the loss of potential customers and clients to poor brand management.
Once you’ve developed your style guide, keep it up to date and ensure that employees follow it always. But don’t stop with your brand style guide. Branding encompasses much more than your marketing collateral. Your brand should exist in everything from your logo to the words that your employees use to communicate.
If you’re always aware and focused on branding, you’ll develop a cohesive brand that better represents your company, speaks more clearly to your customers, and create a stronger sense of delight and loyalty in your existing customer base.