How do you write good brand guidelines?

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One of the phrases we use every day is good marketing is all about consistency.  Brand is no different.  But how do you maintain consistency when loads of different people are using your brand for their own ends and in their own way?  Simple.  You write good brand guidelines.

Brand guidelines are rules that define the look and feel of your brand.  They’ll cover everything that makes your brand unique instantly recognisable – from your typography, colour palette, size and positioning of your logo to your tone of voice.

You put your brand guidelines in place to make sure your brand appears in exactly the right way wherever it is used.  This makes sure you achieve the required levels of consistency.

If you need to update or even rework your brand guidelines this simple step-by-step guide could help:

1. Define your brand identity

Before you do anything else, clearly define your brand values, your mission, and your personality.  This is as much about knowing what makes your brand different as it is about understanding what your brand is.

2. Define your target market

Formulate a clear picture of your ideal customer, what they like, what they look like, what they want, what they do.   Writing good brand guidelines requires you to talk directly to your ideal customer, catch their attention and engage with them.

3. Define how you want your logo to be used

Provide clear guidelines on the size, placement, and colour/s of your logo and how the space  around it needs to be.  More pointedly, specify what not to do with your logo to eradicate any remaining margin for error.

4. Define your brand’s colour palette

Specify your primary and secondary or accent colours and back these up with the associated RGB, CMYK and HEX values.

5. Define your typography

Specify the fonts and typography styles that represent your brand.  This should cover not just body copy or headlines but also headings and subheadings.

6. Define how you use imagery

Outline the style of imagery and photography that should be used to support your brand and make sure this also covers image resolutions, and any filters or editing or cropping guidelines.

7. Define your tone of voice

Clearly set out how your brand should sound across all mediums and in all contexts.  This becomes even more important if you plan to tweak your tone for different situations, different platforms, or different audiences.

8. Define your mission statement (and strapline if you have one)

And try to keep both as short and simple as possible.  It will actually make them more memorable.

9. Define how your brand should be applied

You’ll use your brand in very different ways so you will need to set our exactly how it should be applied across your business cards, email signatures, letterheads, websites, and social media platforms.

10. Define clear responsive design guidelines

As we move even further into screen life, make sure you set out how your brand needs to be dealt with across different devices and screen sizes.

11. Define the legals

Make sure your brand guidelines address any legal aspects.  This could include trade mark and/or copyright information and usage restrictions.

Once you have your brand guidelines, you will need to organise a formal launch and some training so that those who’ll be using your brand understand how to.  Remember, good marketing is all about consistency so if there’s a chink in the delivery in just one place, it will damage your brand.

Both your launch and your training must be based on real life too.  Use visuals to underline what is correct and incorrect usage.  Show people exactly how they must use your brand.  Brand is a visual thing, so examples are by far the most effective way to get everything across.

Finally, remember that brand guidelines are living documents not a one off exercise to be stored on the intranet somewhere. 

Revisit them at regular intervals to check they are keeping pace with the evolution of your brand and with current consumer trends and preferences.   Some brand owners set up some sort of feedback mechanism so those using the brand can make suggestions as to what can be done to ensure the guidelines remain practical and relevant.

If you would like some help writing your brand guidelines or refreshing your brand so that it needs new guidelines, please contact us today and we can have a chat.

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