Do Brand Guidelines Matter?
Yes. Wow, that was easy and you didn’t even have to read anything! Just for fun, let’s expand upon that answer. In order to truly understand how important brand guidelines are, you must first understand why they are important. This week’s blog post is dedicated to the almighty brand and we assure you it applies to your business, no matter how big or small.
What are Brand Guidelines?
Some use the term style guides, brand bibles, look books, standards manuals, or marketing cheat sheets. No matter how your company refers to them around the office, brand guidelines are an essential component to long-term growth. These documents can range from 3 to 300 pages and manifest in any number of digital or printed formats. The core purpose of such a guide is to establish rules for how a brand is presented to the world in visuals and messaging.
Major corporations protect their brand by setting standards and practices for virtually every possible marketing scenario on the planet Earth. Are such lengths necessary for a pet supply store on Main Street? Probably not―but all businesses of any size should aim to control the various pieces of their public-facing image. A typical brand guideline for a small to medium sized company would include:
How the company came to be, its values, philosophies, mission statement, and personality (voice).
- Logo Usage
Different versions and lockups of your logo, spacing requirements (breathing room), minimum sizes, relative scale, and, most importantly, how not to use it.
A palette of primary and secondary brand colors alongside a couple complimentary options. Can’t decide on a perfect Pantone hue? Invent your own! Coca-Cola did.
Fonts and their various usages, web-friendly alternatives (if necessary), and, again, how not to use them.
Acceptable photographic styles, iconography, social media graphics, ideal aspect ratios, and any filters or effects to be applied and when.
- Basic Print Materials
Mockups or templates for commonly-used collateral such as business cards, letterhead, and envelopes.
Some brand guides dig really deep―like mind blowing deep. They include treatments for everything under the sun from trade show signage to promotional merchandise. If it’s a marketing scenario that presents itself on even a semi-frequent basis, it goes in the book to ensure consistency every time.
Repetition is one of the key fundamentals of advertising. Staying in front of your customers is one thing, but doing so with consistent, recognizable messaging and visuals is another. Following a well thought out brand guideline will help elevate the relevancy of your company each time someone encounters it. This practice is also critical from a cross-platform perspective. What you say and how it looks on a local highway billboard should match what those motorists see on your Facebook page and, ultimately, your website later that day. Inconsistency creates confusion and confusion costs you customers.
A brand’s memorability is often subconscious but still very much recognizable. Let’s revisit our friends at Coca-Cola again (because it’s easy). If you walked into a grocery store and saw a 12-pack of Coke using a different red from their trademark color on the box, you would almost certainly take notice. That ubiquitous crimson tone has been burned into our minds since its introduction in 1948 and it can be seen in everything they do, both online and offline.
The ancillary benefit of paying attention to your brand and following a strict set of rules is, quite simply, legitimacy. If you are just starting up or operating a small enterprise, not too many of your competitors have the branding wherewithal to focus on consistency. To the general public, you will appear professional, confident, well-established, and a leader in your sector. None of your neighbors are rushing to call the landscaping service with pixelated clipart, Word art logo, and mismatched fonts on their door hanger, are they?
Remember, this isn’t just for you. Marketing teams grow, turnover happens, mergers are inked, creative partners change, and sponsorship opportunities arise. You won’t always necessarily have control over how your company is represented unless you put the rules in place. Protect your brand, grow your business.
Before you begin to panic that your Twitter icon needs to be etched in stone for all eternity, remember―brand guideline is just that; a guideline. No matter how much thought goes into your book, there will always be exceptions to the rules. For this reason, branding standards should be perceived as a living, breathing entity. Business evolves, times change, tastes mature, and trends dither out. Adaptation is necessary to survive and thrive.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ― Pablo Picasso
Establishing brand guidelines can be a huge undertaking (trust us), but it is a worthwhile investment of time and capital with immeasurable long-term dividends.