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How to Create Brand Style Guidelines

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Every brand needs a set of brand style guidelines. These will define how the brand is used in a consistent, correct way to be built and maintained amongst the target customer group. In today’s competitive marketplace, a strong brand is imperative. Customers must be able to identify it and recognize it clearly in an instant.

The work involved in building a brand is significant, so once its credentials and values have been established, the brand guidelines must be employed for consistent application and leverage within the marketplace.

So how exactly do you create these brand guidelines?

1. Find your inspiration

Remember that a brand conveys both identity and personality. A brand has a series of attributes which create a sense of persona in the customer’s mind – one that they can identify with, want to be affiliated with and one that they are ready to engage with. Do your legwork to find other brands in your space that are already doing this well and analyse what makes them successful. This will provide inspiration and guidance as to best practice.

2. Create the essentials

Every brand will have several key components. Let’s examine these in turn:

  • Mission – this explains what the purpose of the brand is and what it is trying to achieve. In today’s age of conscious consumerism, many educated customers are keen to select brands that share their values. One of the most important brand values here is environmentalism. Another is sustainability. A third, linked value is ethical business. A brand that can create a mission that incorporates social, ethical and responsible business will resonate with modern customers.
  • Vision – this describes the intention of the brand and describes what it is trying to do for its customers. It might aim to solve a major, long-standing problem, or a small everyday irritant. Clarity over this point greatly helps with brand positioning and messaging.
  • Target audience – successful brands are very good at identifying their niche target audience in order to better engage with them. A target audience will share several common characteristics that allow customer personas to be created. The concept of persona is beneficial in a set of brand guidelines to help with content marketing and campaign planning.
  • Brand personality – is your brand fun and lively or serious and reflective. Is it youthful or more mature? If you can describe the personality of your brand, again, it will be far easier to create compelling and consistent campaigns.
  • Core values – We touched on mission and vision earlier, and values are intrinsic to these factors in describing how a brand does business and what it stands for. Again, today’s customers want to see positive, ethical values that are meaningful and core to the business model. They aren’t interested in your profits. They are interested in how you are benefiting the world and the communities in which you operate.

3. Develop the guidelines

The elements you need to define here include typography, photographic styles, the brand colour palette, tone of voice, logo usage and brand story. Your graphic designer can help you to define the visual elements and to create clear guidelines and instructions for use. For example, a designer will define how the logo is used and how it must not be used.

Other useful information will also need to be included. For example, if you market online, do you provide templates for internal marketing staff to use? Who is authorised to communicate directly with customers? What templates exist for posters, letters, business cards and email signatures? Where can staff find them? What are the sign-off processes for using these templates?

Who can commission packaging and who designs advertising creative? Which printer does the business partner with, and which print methods are authorised for print material production, including paperweight, paper finish and so forth? The more detail you can find, the more your guidelines become a central reference point for the entire business.

4. Launch them, set processes and keep them alive

When you’ve gone to creating your guidelines, make sure that you share them within the business and set usage guidelines for them. Store them and any templates centrally and monitor how they are used and updated. Regularly refer to them and ensure that they are included in new starter induction processes to understand what they are for, and how they should use them.

Invest in your guidelines, and you will be investing in your brand for the long-term; building its value and your company’s own position within the market.