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Posted on: 05.07.2024

Brand Guidelines: How to Build Them.


At ilk, brand guidelines are something we create, evolve, work with and work to every day.

But what exactly are brand guidelines, and why are they so crucial for businesses of all sizes?

What are brand guidelines?

In essence, brand guidelines are a set of rules and instructions that define your brand identity and help ensure that all creative marketing materials are consistent.

Most brand guidelines documents contain a thorough introduction to the business (mission, vision, values, ambitions etc), but also a systematic breakdown of how all creative elements should be delivered, wherever and whenever they are used.

Often that starts with core elements like the logo, but might also cover typefaces, colour palettes, graphic devices and photography, right through to written elements like tone of voice.

Of course, the content and extent of the guidelines naturally varies according to brand and business, but the general principle is for the guidelines to be a document that any specialist marketer (designers, copywriters, photographers, strategists etc) could follow and successfully deliver content that’s of the appropriate quality, style and consistency.

Why are brand guidelines important?

Brand guidelines are important because brand is so important.

Strengthen Brand Recognition

A good brand seeks to build trust, awareness and understanding with its intended audience(s), working as a reassurance that whatever is being bought, be it a product or service, is what they need or want.

Brand guidelines help ensure that a brand is able to do that job – to resonate and connect with the consumer in a way that is recognisable, memorable and positive.

Ensuring Brand Consistency

It does so by putting in place clear instructions for every aspect of the brand, so that every bit of work looks, feels and sounds the same.

Streamlining Brand Communication

Not only does this provide the consistency that helps businesses appeal to customers and thus drive revenue, but it makes life much easier and more efficient for the business too.

It explains exactly what the brand intent is – which is extremely useful as a point of reference for brand strategy and internal onboarding – and as a practical creative manual, saving time and driving efficiencies within the creative process.

Now you know brand guidelines are essential for brand consistency and communication. Ready to build yours? Dive into the next section to learn how, and download our brand guideline checklist to make sure you’re covering all the bases!

Creating Brand Guidelines for Your Brand.

What sort of elements might your brand guidelines include? Well, like we said earlier, often it needs to be tailored to your business and objectives, but broadly speaking it’ll be:

Brand Fundamentals

Describing who you are as a brand and articulating your brand purpose. This section might include:

– Mission
– Vision
– Values / pillars
– Brand statement
– Key objectives / ambitions

Core Creative Elements

This would provide detailed instruction as to how to depict all key design elements of your brand. It would explain precisely how each should be presented and, just as importantly, how it shouldn’t. It might cover:

– Logo
– Graphics
– Colour palette
– Typography and fonts
– Photography/videography style and usage
– Creative compositions (e.g. packaging)

Tone of Voice

This outlines the brand voice, the words you choose to use and the personality you seek to create. This section might include:

– Tone rationale
– Lead messaging
– Key characteristics
– Prose examples
– Any distinctions via channel (e.g. OOH vs Social)

Collateral

How all elements of the brand should be brought together across different channels

– Print / digital advertising
– Website
– Social channel assets (paid & organic)

Social Media Playbook

This is a sort of guidelines within guidelines that specifically explains how the brand should interact with audiences through social channels. It would:

– Make clear tonal distinctions to the overall brand tone (if any)
– Provide guidance and advice on how to respond different scenarios
– Give best practice guidance of creating social content
– Provide example dos and don’ts

Top Tips for Writing Effective Brand Guidelines.

So, now you know what sort of content you might want to cover in your brand guidelines.

But how can you be sure that they are actually good? That they are clear and functional? That they really do help deliver your brand consistently across marketing channels?

Well, here are some tips:

Write in your brand tone…

After all, this document is brand execution, so follow your own rules!

… but not at the expense of clarity.

Remember that people will be using this document as a reference point, potentially to answer questions and queries they might have. So while it makes sense to carry through your brand tone, make sure you make those answers clear and obvious.

Be thorough…

Think carefully about all the places you want your brand to be (now and in the future), and then make sure your guidelines have the appropriate stipulations in place for them. Maybe you’re just focusing on web and social for now… but might you do OOH in the future? What about internal and external signage? A bit of strategic future-proofing never hurts!

… but keep it succinct.

Because guidelines can often be big documents, don’t waste words. Say what you need to say, but no more. Those who use the guidelines down the line will thank you for it!

Be specific…

Guidelines aren’t the place for ambiguity – so it’s really important that nothing around brand implementation and execution is left implied. By definition, guideline content needs to be informative and instructional.

… but not rigid.

No matter how thorough you are (see above) there will always be the odd grey area: some requirement that comes up that isn’t quite covered by your guidelines. In those cases it’s really important that the creative design/voice principles underlying the brand are understood… so that they can be sensibly applied to find the most brand friendly solution. All guidelines should allow a little room for creatives to flex pending the requirements. That’s why they are called guidelines, not rulebooks!

See How We Help Brands Succeed.

We create brand guidelines for virtually every branding project we work on.

It’s a best practice principle that we firmly believe offers tangible value for our clients, allowing them to take ownership and control of their brand regardless of the agency they are working with in the future.

Past projects that have included brand guidelines examples include Dopsu, Grumpy Mule, doddl, Java City, ABP, Generation Logistics, Access and many more.

Download Your Free Brand Guidelines Checklist Now!

Are you in the middle of refreshing your brand? Or have you recently launched your brand into market?

Use our handy, downloadable checklist to ensure that your brand guidelines cover everything they need to.

Don’t have the resources to create your own brand guidelines? We can help! Our branding and creative team has extensive experience in crafting them for businesses of all sizes.

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