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How to Create Brand Guidelines For a Digital Business

Dean Marsden

by Dean Marsden on 6th September 2012

Computer keyboard with social media keysHere at Koozai we love working on our branding. A strong brand can not only generate a positive relationship with customers but it can also help visibility online and in search engines. To help us keep our branding as clear as possible, we created a brand guidelines document for our own reference.

Once you’ve designed or created your unique brand it’s important to put together a set of brand guidelines, however big or small, so that people either internally or externally can represent your brand in the correct manner. This helps generate a consistent brand image which improves recognition with both users and the search engines. It doesn’t take long to create a brand guidelines document and can benefit many people in and out of your organisation.

Google pays a lot of value to strong brands and passes on a number of benefits, including increased number of search engine listings and improved ranking positions via social signals. So it is very important to make sure your business is pushed through digital media in the correct way.

Typically brand guidelines include information about the name, company and logo use, however for companies who operate in digital media there should also be sections about the usage and brand representation on websites and social media.

When starting your guidelines you may want to decide who the end user is: only internal employees/organisation members or external distributors, etc. Most of the guidelines will apply to the majority of users, but some information such as social media recommendations may not relate to external partners.

In the next part of this blog post, I have described some key elements that should be included in your brand guidelines and a description of each. I created these for our own document and so they are by no means the definitive list of guidelines. If you are a large organisation or wish to spend a lot of time on your guidelines then I recommend checking out this blog post by Saatchi & Saatchi Design for more tips about designing brand guidelines.

Typical Brand Guideline Structure and Content

  1. Brand Overview
    1. Definition – Provide an explanation of the brand name or wording. Where did it come from?
    2. Brand Values – Reasons behind creating the particular brand. What does it do to improve the business?
  2. Logo Visual Guide
    1. Logo Design – Show the official logo and any variations of colours, black and white as well as with and without a strap-line, etc. if they exist
    2. Correct Use – Show examples of using the logo on different coloured or photo backgrounds (if permitted)
    3. Incorrect Use – Examples of the logo being adjusted away from it’s standard format, some examples include:
      1. Change in orientation
      2. Adding bevelling or embossing
      3. Change in logo colours
      4. Cropping the logo
      5. Adding glow effects
      6. Adding outline effects
      7. Adding drop shadow
      8. Changing position or size of logo elements
      9. Stretching or squeezing of the logo
    4. Logo Spacing – Illustrate the right amount of whitespace around the logo. This can make a big difference to it’s appearance and recognition. Many people use the rule of a text character’s (from the logo) width and height spacing around the edge to give it some relation to the logo.
  3. Brand Colours – List the official colours used for the logo and any promotional material, including the website. Colours should be listed in at least the following formats so that they appear consistent across print, screen and the web:
      1. Hex – for websites
      2. RGB – for TV and screen
      3. CMYK – for print media
  4. Fonts/Typefaces – Branding can be strongly influenced by the use of a custom typeface both within the logo and on brand materials. It’s important you list and supply a copy of the typefaces that need to be used and indicate what options are needed on top such as bolding, kerning, etc. Show examples of its use in materials if possible.
  5. Copywriting Guide
    1. Brand Name – Specify how your brand name should be written. With capital letter? Combine the words into one? Adding .com to the end?
    2. Tone of Voice – This is important to relate your brand to the target audience. State examples of the way content should be written. Should it be casual and friendly if you are bakery or should it be professional and authoritative if you are a solicitors as an example.
    3. General Use – Optionally include some common grammar and punctuation examples so that fewer mistakes are made and your brand is not damaged by poor content.
  6. Social Media – Now a very important public channel for your brand
    1. Usernames – State the preferred username to use across all profiles. Make sure it is the same for all profiles where possible. Use a tool such as Know’em to check availability
    2. Company Descriptions – You may want to include a couple of long and short variations of company description so that users can work from these when registering new social profiles
    3. Contact Details – Provide the contact details you wish to publish on your social profiles as you may want to separate out contact from social media with the contact through print media for example
    4. Log In Details – You may wish to include the email address and passwords associated with your social media profiles or a place where employees may be able to find these. Only provide this information if the brand guidelines are going to trusted members of the organisation!
  7. Website – Including some information about your website so that employees/members know more about it. This will help them to correctly promote your brand’s website and content.
    1. Layout – What are the different layouts for pages on your site and sections like a blog or gallery. A consistent design will help your brand image.
    2. Structure and Content – Provide an easy to read sitemap of all the content so that employees/members are aware of what information is published on their own website
    3. Link Policy – This should explain your policy on linking out to other websites and rules about links to your own site in relation to the SEO. You could highlight bad link practices such as:
      1. Buying Links
      2. Reciprocal Link or Link Exchanges
      3. Duplicate Websites and Shared Content
      4. Link Directory Submissions
      5. Article Spinning
    4. Compatibility – Make everyone aware on which devices their website can be viewed. Is there a mobile version of the website? Does it display correctly in all desktop browsers? If not, these channels should be targeted to maximise your brands exposure
    5. Online Marketing Channels – Provide information on things like whether you advertise on platforms such as Google AdWords or have listings on other websites. This helps employees/members monitor their brand advertising across the web
  8. Glossary – Explanations of terms relating to your products or services and general website terms such as URL structure and sitemap. This helps employees/members understand everything about your digital business and improve your brand through their knowledge

Remember that these are guidelines and not set rules. In a lot of cases, digital media such as social media profiles do not always give the ability to show the brand as desired. Limitations of profile layouts and image dimensions on social networks are particularly common.

I hope this post was useful and that you will benefit from brand guidelines as we have within Koozai. If you have any comments feel free to leave them in the section below.

Image Source

Computer Keyboard With Social Media Keys via BigStock

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden will be keeping you up to speed with video marketing and conversion rate optimisation. Dean excels at delivering video marketing solutions for clients and specialises in converting website visitors into customers.

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