5 reasons brand identity guidelines are so important
Imagine, you’ve landed a dream role in marketing with an exciting new brand.
You’re itching to get your creative marketing ideas out into the world and you know that first, you need to take a deep dive (and swim around a little) into the brand to get to know, like, love and understand who and what you’ll be working with.
Then you discover a horror of epic proportions.
There’s absolutely no sign of any brand guidelines, anywhere!
When you investigate further, you find it’s because they either haven’t been updated since 1998 or that there simply weren’t any branding design guidelines developed, EVER.
To add insult to injury, you can only get hold of an ancient jpg of the logo.
Well, that solves the mystery of the lack of consistent, compelling communications.
However, you know that this is why they need you. You’re a professional so you roll up your sleeves and know that nothing is impossible until it’s done.
It’s you who’s in the driving seat now, so you’re pretty confident that you can still implement a campaign without them. You’ll have control after all. It’ll all be fine.
Of course, it will. It will be fine.
But will it be spellbinding?
This is why you should think about taking a step back and starting from the beginning.
It’s a very good place to start after all.
Channel some Julie Andrews, before getting down to making magic.
What is a brand identity and what are brand guidelines?
Speaking of starting from the beginning, let’s get this question out of the way.
Your brand identity is basically how you present the brand to the public. It’s all the visual elements of your brand, like colour, design, and logo that identify and distinguish the brand.
But it’s also your language, how you communicate. The tone of voice, your values and purpose statements are vital. It’s the actions you take to build a certain image of the company.
Brand identity guidelines or style guides are a set of tools and rules on how to use your brand identity. They are used by designers, writers, and anyone else using your brand’s elements like your logo to create marketing materials.
Basically, they should be your bible.
Colleagues, your team and outsourced support should treat it as theirs too.
The brand identity guidelines are usually presented as a digital book and will cover how the different elements of your brand work together to form your brand identity.
Duh, you know that already, right?
The important thing to remember is that they can vary anywhere from basic documents to a meaty digital web page like Starbucks or Spotify, depending on how in-depth the brand wants to map out the brand identity and how it’s used.
Budget constraints may mean that you need to start with the basics, and build the guidelines as you grow.
Such is life.
It really isn’t one size fits all, but it should be an essential, non-negotiable part of the business.
But the point is, that the most successful brands know the importance of developing a brand identity style guide and are using them religiously.
So why are brand identity guidelines so important?
One: They present the brand personality and set the tone
You know that a business’s branding is more important than most people think.
And that is more important than ever with consumers being exposed to thousands of brands via their social media feed every day. It’s great for them of course, but it’s harder for businesses to stand out in a sea of sameness.
A brand is a visual representation of the values, purpose and personality of the business.
It set’s the tone.
No doubt it’s much, much harder to develop a cohesive marketing campaign that expresses the brand’s specific personality if there’s no guide to work from.
You know that it’s not just about the logo and snazzy colours.
It gives you personality.
A robust brand identity guideline will not only cover the basics of logo use, colour palette and fonts, but it’ll also need to give clear guidance on the tone of voice, language, terminology and how the brand elements should be used across marketing materials, online and offline.
No two brands are the same (nor should they be) so the elements included in your brand identity style guide will likely vary depending on your industry, the size of your business, whether you have sub-brands, what platforms you use and so on.
Don’t get too bogged down in mimicking another brand’s guidelines.
Your creative partner will help you focus on what’s important for the business you’re representing.
After all, the point is that you need to be attracting the right audience, and repelling the rest.
Two: They help create consistency
Speaking of marketing materials.
Remember when you faceplanted and solved the mystery of the lack of consistent, compelling communications?
Yep, without thoughtful, creative and detailed brand identity guidelines, it can be hard for anyone in an organisation to make sure that everything that’s presented to the world, looks like it came from the same place.
It can be downright, frustrating.
Which colours do we use for internal marketing?
What kind of illustration should we use for our ad campaign?
Should our headlines look like this or this?
What typeface should we use for our recruitment social media posts?
Every time someone visits a website sees a business card, sees a social media post, an advertising banner or even speaks to a member of the team, they make a decision about the brand.
They decide whether they want to be involved.
It’s no secret that it takes multiple touchpoints before someone will engage with a brand, so it’s so important that everything they see, is easily recognisable and consistent.
The more they see consistent messaging, consistent design choices and consistent personality, the more likely they are to give in and engage.
Because you got their attention.
By having set rules and restrictions, it’s easier to make that happen.
It also sends those sneaky subliminal messages that clearly, your brand takes pride in the details.
Sure, you know the brand inside out by now, you know how it should be represented.
But what happens when you head off on your summer hols, leaving a junior to keep the social media content on point?
Exactly, chaos ensues when you don’t have a brand identity style guide.
Three: Differentiation & Loyalty
As we know, people want information fast.
In this fast-paced, social media focussed world you can have the most memorable post but not everyone who sees it will remember the brand behind the post.
That means you can’t rely on just being interesting, you have to be seen to be different.
But thinking of ways to be different for each campaign you create can be challenging.
So here’s a wild idea. Instead of thinking of being different as being bolder, shouting the loudest and punching your audience in the face with as much colour as you can muster.
Think of being different by setting a clear brand vision, mission, purpose and values and repeating these messages clearly and regularly across your content. (with consistent design as well of course.)
In short, if you’ve spent enough time and energy developing in-depth brand guidelines that give you the tools to talk about your purpose and everything in between, with consistent language, consistent design and consistent confidence.
That’s what will make you different.
So many brands jump on the ‘what’s trendy at the moment?’ bandwagon and tailor and change their language and design to fit that trend.
But the truth is, if you can showcase a steady stream of confident, unapologetic, consistent content, your audience will have a hard time ignoring you and will become accustomed and familiar with your brand.
They’ll come to know, like and trust you. And that builds loyalty.
Because you’re reliable.
That starts with brand guidelines.
It’s not just about the logo, it’s about how you present yourself everywhere.
Four: It saves time
Let’s face it. One thing you wish you had more of, is time.
Between managing campaigns, persuading the people who hold the purse strings why investing in an animated explainer or a PPC campaign is a good idea, and working with countless outsourced support and freelancers, you’re dancing a tricky dance.
So what if developing brand guidelines from day one, could save you sh*t loads of time in the long run?
Too good to be true? Nope.
When you partner with a signage company, stationery printer or creative agency, wouldn’t it be easier if you had a brand bible to share with them so that they knew exactly what you expected of them?
Cut out all those long, excruciating calls trying to explain exactly how you want things, what colours are for what, what typeface to use where, what the key message should be, and just send them over a link to your beautiful brand guide with a request to dive in deep, digest and worship.
When everyone has the map and toolkit in front of them, everything becomes much easier and you can concentrate on doing what you do best.
Safe in the knowledge that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Five: It’s Great for Your Team
Speaking of knowing what’s expected.
Imagine, you’ve been in the role for a year or two and you’re levelling up.
Your campaigns have seen huge returns and your boss has given you the go-ahead to hire a junior.
Perhaps you’ve been given the green light to hire a team! How devilishly exciting!
There are all sorts of new skills you need to learn; leadership, management (controlling your temper?)
But there’s one thing you don’t have to do, you don’t have to explain how you like things to be done.
It’s all there in the magnificent brand bible that you’ve lovingly and carefully crafted.
And by now, you have tonnes of examples of how staying faithful to the brand style guide, has resulted in consistent communications that have converted into leads, sales and loyal customers.
In the end, it’s a no-brainer
Well, it is. It felt tempting to leave it there, but tradition says that you should always end an article with a conclusion, so here goes.
A brand style guide, brand guideline book, brand bible, brand toolkit, or whatever you want to call it, is an essential tool for all the above reasons and more.
The key takeaway has got to be that to be able to stand out online, consistency is key. Even more so as several different people develop content for your brand.
And the way to bring consistency, and build awareness, recognition and brand loyalty, is by investing time and energy into developing robust guidelines, right from the start.
And if that’s not been done, you can give yourself a hell of a smoother ride if you make it a priority on day one of your new role.
And that’s a fact.
For more info on brand style guides, have a nosy at some of the branding projects we’ve worked on, over ‘ere. We’re a chatty bunch so if you’ve got any questions or just want to word-vomit some ideas at us, we’re always ready to lend a friendly ear. Summon a wizard here.
Show off your excellence & stand out in the sea of sameness.
Summon a wizard today.
“Their not just about the creative. They also focus on ensuring that the tone represents the organisation and the message we want to pass on.”Aaron Pacifico RSPCA
“I cannot express my excitement for this! It’s absolutely incredible. I love it! Thank you. You are all amazing. I am extremely grateful.”Jemimah Ware Arrow Planning Ltd
“From our first call, I knew Tiny Wizard were the helping hand we’d been searching for!”Pippa Stockford SustainIt