Brand guidelines are a set of rules which help maintain brand consistency in company communication.
Brand guidelines read like a how-to manual for communicating about a brand. They establish the main elements of the brand: the color palette, fonts, photography style, and voice. The brand guidelines also give correct and incorrect examples of how to execute these elements.
Large and global brands — think Coca-Cola, MasterCard or Comcast — have brand guidelines that often reach close to 100 pages. Even universities have invested in creating brand guidelines. Designed with partner-sharing in mind, the guidelines make is so that all promotions, whatever the region and whatever the tactic, align with overarching marketing goals established by the corporate entity. Don’t assume all of your partners know how you want your brand to be communicated.
This is especially true for companies that operate franchises, such as Dunkin’ Donuts or other fast food restaurants; or those that run independent local offices, such as your area’s Century 21 office. The customized offers you receive from your favorite Dunkin’ Donuts have worked that promotion into an established template for promotions. Likewise, your local real estate agent followed their own set of guidelines before printing up that magnet, postcard or company stationery.
Why is it important to outline each brand element?
Since color is so closely related to emotion, your marketing partner will spend a lot of time researching what colors will connect with your message with your target customer. Once determined, this becomes the color palette. Colors outside that palette disrupt that communication and distract the customer — the brand guidelines will help prevent such a scenario.
Likewise, by outlining the appropriate typography and photography, the brand guidelines provide partners and vendors with a template for using creativity within these guidelines to communicate the intended message. Voice, tone and word choices are also very important to outline — many guidelines will start by explaining the brand personality to help those working on the brand understand it as a person.
While each of these elements goes into creating a brand, we must consider each independently before they can work together as a whole. With clear and detailed descriptions on correct usage for brand elements, any business can be sure that everything from the smallest tactics (branded pencils!) to the 30-second Super Bowl commercials all look, sound, and feel like the brand. Let’s call it the “venti” effect of branding.
I’m a small company – do I need brand guidelines?
There’s no reason your small business needs to go into the level of branding detail as a national or global brand like Avis. You may not have the need to distribute a brand book to a partner or a vendor. No matter, the guidelines are a very useful reference for your internal marketing team! Yes, even if that team is just one or two people — someday you may hire another marketing person in addition to, or replace the current members. Onboarding your marketing pros is a lot more efficient when they have brand guidelines in hand.
We even have brand guidelines here at Push10! It’s a simple book — just 13 pages — but even our new employees have questions about our brand. And if we mess up with our branding, well that’s like getting a flat Coke at a restaurant. It’s bad quality control for our product. The set of brand guidelines gets handed over to a new employee upon their start at the company. That creates efficiencies — and as a small business like many that we work with, efficiency is also critical to our success. Brand guidelines help create brand consistency and move our business one well-designed step forward.