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  • Writer's pictureSarah Turnbull

What are Brand Guidelines?


Coca Cola can on red background
Coca Cola - strict guidelines define how this brand is presented

In this post, we’ll look at brand guidelines and why they’re important when you want to grow your business.


Brand guidelines are a documented set of ‘rules’ that can be shared with any person or organisation who ‘speaks’ for your business.


These guidelines make it easy to communicate your brand consistently, helping build brand visibility and loyalty.


Once agreed and documented, the guidelines define how you want to be presented to the outside world.




Your written set of guidelines can be given to marketers, bloggers or design agencies so they know how to present you in their work.


Spending just a few hours on creating your guidelines can save you both time and money in the future.


What should I include in brand guidelines?


So, what kind of information do you include in brand guidelines? As this is all about how you communicate with the outside world, it’s a good idea to include your mission statement and company vision; tone of voice; words you do you and don’t use as well as target audience and personas.


You should also include colourways and logos, guidelines for imagery and, if you want to, things like font pairings.


If you have trademarks, straplines and icons, these should be included too. The more you include builds a bigger and better picture for your internal personnel or suppliers. It helps reinforce your brand and have your messaging communicated consistently.


Reinforcing your brand identity and producing consistent messaging will help establish your brand in the marketplace and solidify its position.


Mission statement and vision


The mission statement is a formal summary of the aims, goals and values of an organisation, company or individual. An effective statement should provide a clear, concise declaration about the business strategy and should always be in mind when making decisions about the company as it grows.


The vision statement leads on from the mission statement but remains an important consideration for the business. It describes what a company desires to achieve in the long run. Decision-making to achieve the vision should refer to the mission statement. This helps to ensure that the decisions being made fall in line with the values of the company.


Tone of voice


Tone of voice should be used across all communications with the outside world – and is useful for communicating internally too. Tone of voice is essentially the style you use to communicate with your audience. It helps define your brand to your target audience and strengthens your messaging.


Tone of voice is how you present yourself in written form. It’s used across all media – adverts, website, newsletters, social, packaging and blogging, to name a few. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. It’ll also define the words you will (and won’t) use and how you use them.


Things to include in Tone of Voice documentation:

  • Vocabulary

  • Pronouns

  • Tone – funny, serious, formal, irreverent etc

  • Contractions - whether you use them or not

  • Trademarks and how they are to be presented

  • Icons and straplines


Target audience

It’s good to include a positioning statement in your brand guidelines and include target audiences and even personas. Tell the readers who you are targeting and what message you are trying to tell them.


One of my favourite brand books is the JOHNSON’S® baby book. This covers all the bases in terms of how they want their brand represented. In the case of JOHNSON’S®, they are clear that their target audience is mothers and healthcare professionals.


Colourways and logos


Approved logos and transparencies should also be included in your brand guidelines. Over time, logos tend to get modified, often without approval, which erodes your brand consistency. By including approved logos in your guidelines, there’s no room for error when external parties are presenting your brand.


It’s sensible to have the approved colourways with Pantone, HEX, RGB and CMYK codes too as these are codes for different media – web, print etc. A useful code converter can be found at Convert A Colour.


Font pairings


A sans serif font is paired with a serif font for more impact

Font pairings can be used on websites and all written materials.


Once again, this is about how you present yourself and forms part of your visual identity when speaking to your audience.


Fonts create a visual impact in designs. Choosing the right fonts for designs can mean the difference between a compelling, attractive design and one that is dull and visually unappealing. As a general rule, the more contrast between your fonts, the better.




Many designers will pair a serif font with a sans serif font to create a suitable contrast. Use one for the headers and the other for the body copy.



Format


When I’m producing brand guidelines, I also include formats of headings, subheads and Calls to Action. When this information is included in your brand guidelines, it means consistent material that falls in line with your brand is produced.


For example, with title case, major words are capitalised, with the minor words in lowercase.


The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog


Whereas in sentence case, only the first word of the sentence, along with proper nouns, are capitalised:


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog


You can also define whether titles are punctuated and whether you’ll use symbols or words such as ‘&’ versus ‘and.’


It takes a little bit of time and thought into producing brand guidelines, but the guidelines reap rewards for producing consistent writing for your business. Once they’re produced, they can be given to all parties who communicate on your behalf.


They make it easy to communicate your brand consistently, helping build brand visibility and loyalty, so it’s definitely time and effort well spent!


 

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