Have you ever been in this scenario? A client hires you to improve brand awareness, but in your assessment you discover a mass of brand confusion! You discover there are numerous variations of the company and product logos – used inconsistently – and the company name is written several different ways. Before you can create a strong message for the company, you need to bring order to the chaos.
Independent communication professionals know that consistent messages build brand recognition. McDonald’s golden arches and the Nike swoosh have cultivated a strong brand identity by consistently presenting the brand in the same way over time.
You cannot build a strong message for a company on a shaky foundation — it's critical to ensure that the visual branding is homogenous and supports the company’s message.
What are branding guidelines?
A branding style guide is the best way to ensure brand consistency across all channels. In addition, the ability to develop branding style guides is an additional service that communication professionals can add to their arsenal of client offerings as an additional revenue source.
Like a playbook for the brand, a branding style guide provides definitive guidelines on official logos, logo usage, typography, images, colors, and language used. This differs from a messaging document which provides communication directives such as key messages, phrases and brand voice. Developing a brand style guide is a helpful tool in establishing a clear brand identity.
A few top tips to keep in mind when building your document:
- There is no pre-determined length for a guide – it can be as simple as a 2-3 page quick-reference or as lengthy as an in-depth manual.
- When thinking through what to include, first consider what to leave out — the guide should be easy to understand and use.
- Keep it as short as possible. Five pages of useful information are much better than 200 pages of detailed information that’s unnecessary.
- Avoid the use of jargon and make the content accessible and engaging.
When do you need branding guidelines?
Even the smallest company can benefit from a branding style guide – it's a helpful tool to provide to employees, partners, contractors, vendors and volunteers. Common events that may trigger the development of a branding style guide include:
- Merger or acquisition
- Rebranding imitative
- Global expansion
- Change in company or marketing leadership
- Growth of organization
- The Alzheimer’s Society does a nice job of providing a succinct overview of style guidelines, with the ability to download full House Style Guidelines.
- McDonald’s provides logos for editorial use and its guide is easily accessible and straight to the point. The company also has an extensive logo manual.
- LinkedIN presents its brand guidelines in a manner that's consistent with how they communicate.
Developing a branding style guide for your client allows you to get everyone in the organization enrolled in a common vision, and provides a strong foundation for your work that is an asset that the client can use for years to come.
Do you have any tips on developing or using branding guidelines? Let us know in the comments!