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A brand guidelines document is a visual guide for employees, agencies and partner brands of your business to demonstrate how your brand is represented in communications across multiple channels. It also provides example templates to help them apply this guidance.
It’s not enough to create a strong brand identity; you need to ensure that everyone in the organisation is clear on exactly how that identity should be communicated to the outside world. In this article, we’ll define the term ‘brand identity’ and discuss why it’s important, before we walk you through how you can create a set of brand guidelines.
Simply put, brand identity is how you communicate your product, service or business to the world. It comprises all the elements that make up your brand, including the name, logo, images, web presence and tone of voice. How your brand identity is perceived by others translates into your brand image.
Create a strong brand identity and you will enjoy the benefits of increased brand recognition and differentiation from your competition. You will also have a far better chance of being seen as a solid, reliable and trustworthy organisation.
So, now you know what brand identity is and why it’s important, you need to develop comprehensive guidelines that set out exactly how your identity should be utilised and communicated.
The first step in creating brand guidelines is to define what your business or brand is all about. Questions to answer include:
• How do we differ from the competition – in other words, what’s our unique selling point (USP)?
• What kind of persona do we want to project?
• What do we stand for (i.e. what are our core values)?
• How do we want to be perceived?
By creating a concise paragraph or bullet-point list at the beginning of your guidelines, you can ensure that everyone in the organisation sees ‘the bigger picture’.
You’ve probably invested significantly in designing your brand identity. Your brand guidelines offer a chance to set out exactly how you would like each element of your brand identity to be utilised. For example, you can lay down detailed rules on acceptable adaptations to your brand’s name and logo.
The name and logo are likely to be used in a wide variety of different contexts, such as:
• Advertisements and marketing collateral
• Your website and social media platforms
• Business cards and emails
• Other client communications
It will probably be necessary to adapt the appearance and layout of the name and logo to suit these different requirements, so think about acceptable alternative colours, placement, sizes and fonts. Likewise, think about any ways in which you don’t want your name and logo adapted and communicate them clearly.
Your brand identity is not just the business name and logo. In developing your guidelines, think about all the other components that feed into your brand identity. For example, you will probably want to include editorial guidelines for all copy and images used on your website, social media posts and marketing collateral.
So, think about how tone of voice can impact your brand’s persona. Do you want to come across as irreverent and edgy? Is your brand more serious and authoritative? Perhaps it’s light-hearted and fun-loving? Tone of voice and images are key to putting across your brand’s identity, so make sure that anyone who contributes or edits promotional content understands exactly what you want to project.
It’s not enough to know how to create brand guidelines; you need to ensure that they are reviewed and updated regularly to reflect any shift in brand identity. If you have several brands under your organisation’s umbrella, you might also consider developing a brand guidelines template/example, so that you can easily replicate the format.
Finally, while you should make your guidelines accessible to your employees and anyone else who represents the brand (such as freelancers and agencies), you should take steps to ensure that they stay private and confidential. Consider password-protected access or even a non-disclosure agreement. This is especially important if your brand is a work in progress and has yet to be rolled out to the public.
You’ve spent a great deal of time and resources on creating your brand identity, so make sure that everyone in the organisation is on the same page by crafting comprehensive and up-to-date brand identity guidelines that set out exactly how you would like the brand to be perceived.
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