Sunday, July 9, 2017

Five Tips to Create Your Brand Style Guide

What’s one of the most important documents that your company has? While you might think it’s the list of passwords to gain access to your customer database, and that’s certainly important, a brand style guide is critical. In today’s competitive and social economy, a consistent and positive brand experience leads to future business and new customers. Therefore, a brand style guide is essential for the future success of your business.

This post provides five tips to create a brand style guide. A note, this document is a living, breathing document, so it will evolve over time – just as your business evolves. But if you don’t have one, don’t delay, create a brand style guide immediately.

[1] Showcase Your Brand Voice

Is your brand playful or serious? Do you have industry-specific jargon that’s easy to understand, or do you need to provide definitions? It may be easier to explain your brand’s voice by sharing examples with sample sentences. Another way to explain your brand’s voice may be by way of comparisons. Here’s an example from MailChimp: “We’re fun but not silly, expert but not bossy, confident but not cocky.”

[2] Showcase Your Brand Visuals

Is your brand associated with a specific color or colors? Think UPS and brown. Is your brand associated with a specific font? Think Coca-Cola’s swirl. If yes, know the Pantone or PMS colors as well as the CMYK and RGB versions. Also include “Don’t Use” examples with your logo and tagline.

[3] Showcase Consistency

Your brand is not just one logo, one tagline, and one or more colors. Think of how the Apple brand has evolved from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. When your main brand evolves and co-brands are created, consistency with the main brand provides credibility. Consumers, users, and stakeholders have developed a bond with your brand, and as a result, you want them to also develop a bond with your other brands. The best way to make this happen is to provide brand consistency. Apple did this by including the “i” in its brand naming structure.

[4] Include Your Legal Team

Ask your legal team to review the style guide. This will accomplish two important goals. First, the legal team will be involved in the process so that if any brand or trademark infringements happen, the legal team will be aware of the document you’ve created. And second, the legal team can share its trademark law expertise and possibly add something to the style guide that was missed by the marketing, design, PR, and/or personnel teams.

[5] Share Your Guide Company-Wide

Once the brand style guide has been completed, don’t toss it into a drawer in the personnel department leader’s office and forget about it. Include it as part of your onboarding process and hold quarterly brand training sessions. Feature it as a PDF on your website in the online press room and feature highlights in a blog post or blog posts on your company’s blog. Apply the guidelines to all other company marketing applications including letterhead and envelopes, business cards, email signatures, PowerPoint presentation templates, meeting agendas, flyers, and more. Use the logo or an approved tweaked version on all social platforms. Make sure that your employees know that they are encouraged to associate themselves with your company/brand when they post in social media but that they must clearly note their online posts as their own (for example, in their Twitter profiles).

And lastly, it is a good idea to provide an introduction to your brand style guide. Here is a sample introduction:

"These guidelines are provided to help carry our brand message to the community. Along with the brandmark, typography, color palette and other visual elements, directions are included to help manage the visual communication materials. This guide should be used as a reference when working with outside vendors and also with internal departments to ensure that everyone is using the (include your company name here) logo and other brand tools in a consistent manner."

What else have you included in your brand style guide? Please chime in and share.

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