What Are Brand Guidelines?

By on 08/30/2018

Brand guidelines offer clear-cut rules for how your logo, its colors, and messaging are represented to your audience. But they do so much more: they create consistency for your company’s public persona. They serve as a reference point as your marketing agency designs your website, collaterals, and social media presence. They tell the world what to expect from your branding. Let’s look at the value of brand guidelines and why you need to create yours.

How Do You Define Your Brand Identity?

A great place to begin clarifying your company’s personality is with your mission statement, differentiators, and core values. Each will help establish what your company stands for and will create a context for the visual elements in your brand guidelines. As they evolve over time (and they will), you’ll be able to update your brand manual quite simply to fall in line.

Next, think about your target customer and how you speak to them. Who purchases your product or service? Why do they choose your company over others? Are you a respected authority for them, or do you speak as a trusted friend? Is your tone of voice professional and traditional or playful and unconventional? With these in mind, consider your brand promise, attributes, and vision statement. How can you underscore each of these with how you’ll be represented to your audience?

Heinekin brand guidelines

What Are Brand Guidelines?

First and foremost, brand guidelines (or style book, brand manual, or brand book) are the standards required to represent your branding correctly. Typically, they are laid out in a document that outlines the details of each of the following:

  1. Your Primary Color Palette: the exact colors used in your logo including color names and codes for different uses such as CMYK, HEX, and RGB. Think Coca-Cola red or UPS brown or Apple white.
  2. Your Second Color Palette: any supporting colors that can be used to add variety or interest for other components like text, lines, or other assets. Think about complementary colors that will add to your primary palette and enhance it.
  3. Color Variations: any color variations of your logo that are allowed include black, white, transparent background, etc.
  4. Tagline logos: any versions of your logo with your tagline included. Think Just Do it from Nike.
  5. Abbreviations or acronyms of your company name: any version of your logo with a shortened version of your name. Think Coke, NCAA or TCM.
  6. Typography: a list of the main fonts or typefaces associated with your brand as well as any secondary fonts that can be used for headlines and body copy. This should also include direction on if or when you use all caps or only lowercase for each.
  7. Logo space requirements: will you require “padding” around your logo for certain uses? For instance, “our logo should always be surrounded by one inch of clear space on packaging.”
  8. How will these coordinate: how will you require that all these components work together? Think about anywhere your logo and branding could be including your website, social media, stationery, advertising, and more.
  9. Brand tone: should your brand always be speaking in a lively, fun, and energetic way? What about sophisticated, elegant, and stylish? Or perhaps bold, creative and rambunctious? (We like that last one best around here.)
  10. Grammar: will you require an oxford comma in your content? Should bullet points always have punctuation? Get specific about what you’ll expect from your copywriters.
  11. Examples of use: show instances of your logo, colors, and fonts applied to items like business cards, collaterals, advertising, packaging, T-shirts, and more. When in doubt, sample it out.
  12. Unacceptable uses: it’s important to show examples of what not to do with your logo including what colors not to use (You can bet that Pepsi never wants to see a drop of Coke red near its logo.): never stack the logo and name, don’t make it transparent, minimum size requirements for use, etc.

Why do you need brand guidelines?

Because everyone needs them. Skip the time you’d waste making these decisions as they come up one by one by simply determining the rules for your brand from the get-go. If you’ve ever had to figure out of your name should appear in black and red or just black or part red throughout your website, or fix all the instances where it doesn’t have a registered trademark symbol in your collaterals, you’ll thank us.

Motorhead hub brand guidelines

If you have a large sales staff, team of realtors, or group of loan officers who often have to create their own personalized collateral pieces, brand guidelines will be a lifesaver. Does FDIC always have to follow your name? Your brand manual will make that plain. Cut down on the calls to Compliance today! If you often sponsor events and require that your logo looks a certain way on the fundraiser’s promotions, brand guidelines will help the charity get it right every time.

What do the branding experts say?

How Should You Share Your Brand Guidelines: PDFs or Presentations?

Now you know what they are and why you need them, so how do you present your brand manual? Should they live as PDFs that can easily be distributed and updated? Do you need something more formal that can be sent out to franchisees to share with their teams? Take some time to figure out what makes the most sense for your business. Don’t be afraid to flaunt your style and design aesthetic as part of your brand book with your colors and tone throughout. Not only does is lay out your guidelines clearly, but it also reinforces your brand every step of the way.

Examples of Brand Guidelines

Here are a few brand guidelines for inspiration:

Creative Tech: Mozilla

Elaborate Tech: Google

Stripped-down Tech: Slack

Elaborate Restaurant: Macaroni Grill

BBD brand guidelines

When Can You Use Brand Guidelines?

As a digital marketing agency, we can assure you that brand guidelines are going to get used often. Probably by more people than you‘re expecting. Here are just a few ways to use brand guidelines:

  • Working with a new marketing agency (brand guidelines are lifeblood and shorthand for us)
  • Designing just about anything for your company such as websites, signage, email signatures, screensavers, swag, brochures, social media profiles, packaging, etc.
  • Working with a designer or someone else who’s creating things for you
  • When you sponsor an event or fundraiser
  • Working with a printer or print shop
  • Onboarding on a new employee
  • Establishing a new brand
  • Building your brand as you grow
  • Creating a subsidiary or foundation arm of your company
A brand book is an essential part of your marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

Still feeling stuck when it comes to how to communicate your brand and all of the elements that go with it? Black Bear Design is here to help you design your logo, clarify your branding, and create the guidelines you’ll need. Please contact us today to see how we can help.

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