The Importance of Brand Guidelines

Your brand guidelines can and should incorporate various elements to specify the different aspects of branding.

Why are brand guidelines important?

A ‘brand' is how someone perceives your business. Making a good first impression on customers and investors is essential, and this is where good branding can help your business. Your brand identity – your company’s personality, values and vision – helps present your business consistently across multiple platforms and channels to different types of users. A clear brand identity helps bring in new customers as well as help them gain trust in your brand.

As your business grows and you start to interact with more stakeholders, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page as you when it comes to communicating your brand identity. For example, if you are going to run a social campaign with one agency, and then brief your designer to create packaging for a new product, how do you make sure they are both using the same criteria to represent your brand?

Even if you were doing this by yourself, in-house, there are many team members working on multiple projects and it becomes difficult to keep track of all the right criteria. To help ensure your brand identity is consistent throughout, it is important to have a set of rules in place that provides instructions on how to do this.

Brand guidelines instruct others on how your brand should be presented to the world.

Brand guidelines versus style guide

Brand guidelines and style guides tend to overlap, and different companies use them interchangeably. To decide what is best for you, it is good to know how they are different from each other.

A style guide lays out primarily the visual and editorial guidelines for how a brand should be presented. A design-focused style guide is typically geared towards designers so there are clear rules about logo, typography and color palettes. An editorial-focused style guide is catered towards writers, with information about tone of voice, grammar, etc.

While a style guide can focus on specific areas of your brand like design or content, brand guidelines are more holistic and go into more depth. They are, in essence, the core strategic document that can be used externally or internally to communicate your brand’s strategy and style at a high level.

What to include in your brand guidelines?

a) Brand strategy

A brand strategy is essential for building an effective brand and growing a business. Your brand guidelines should incorporate all the main elements of your brand strategy.

1. Your Brand Story

Summarize your brand personality, what your mission statement is, and the vision of your brand. Define where you are and where you want to go. By reading this, users will feel inspired and have a deep understanding of the essence of your brand and what makes your business unique.

2. Your target audience

Having a defined target audience is important because it gives you focus on who you are targeting from the potential user base likely to use your product. Designers, marketers, and others should keep this information in mind when creating a media campaign or new design elements for your brand.

3. Your competition and benchmarking

Paint a picture of your competitive landscape and their strengths and weaknesses, and what unique position your brand will occupy given the landscape. Visualizing where you sit in the market helps you identify new opportunities.

4. Brand messaging

What is the story you want to tell the world? Include examples of messaging related to your brand.

If you are building your brand strategy from scratch, ZeBrand's strategy board is an interactive tool which helps makes building a brand accessible and efficient for emerging businesses. It incorporates all of the above-mentioned and more.

b) Visual style guide

A style guide can focus on specific areas of your brand, like design or content. To see more examples, you can find out more about how to create a style guide and get the most branding mileage out of it. A visual style guide covers guidelines about your brand's visual representation.

Your logo is an important representation of your brand so you should make sure it is represented accurately and consistently. Do you have specifications for the right amount of space around the logo? How the logo should appear on different devices? What your parent logo is? After you've listed out all the specifications for how your logo should appear in the wild, it's also a good idea to highlight how your logo should not appear.

2. Your brand’s typeface

A typeface may seem like a minor detail but can go a long way in illustrating your brand’s traits and personality. Your typeface should reflect your brand’s identity. You will probably have different fonts for different purposes and your style guide should state these clearly.

3. Your color palette

Colors change across different devices and systems, so it is essential that you have the right CMYK values, hex codes, etc. listed in your style guide. The wrong color will misrepresent your brand and lead to unnecessary printing costs, or even a decreased association with your brand that you're working so hard to nurture.

c) Content style guide

These are the editorial guidelines that define how your content should be written and presented. This includes:

1. Grammar rules

These provide clear rules on grammar best practices, but it is a good idea for you to highlight any exceptions for your brand – such as capitalization, punctuation, etc.

2. Your brand’s editorial tone of voice

Prioritize the emotions you want to evoke based on your brand’s personality and vision. You should also provide guidance to writers about what style of writing they can use.

Brand guidelines - your one-stop rulebook

Your Brand Guidelines is the one-stop rulebook for all the rules defining your brand's identity. This document can be shared with agencies, partners, collaborators, employees to instruct and inspire.

Working on a style guide for smart phones on the computer.