In many ways, a brand identity is akin to your own personal identity. It is what makes your business different from your competition. Shaping a strong brand identity is essential to success in the hyper-competitive modern marketplaces we see today. It plays an integral role in the process of building valuable relationships with your ideal audience.
Drafting clear brand guidelines will help you to ensure that this carefully considered and well-formed identity translates to every single element of your branding, marketing and advertising materials, presenting a consistent and coherent image that your audience will find immediately recognisable and relatable.
What is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a document that contains every important detail about your identity that your team can refer to when marketing, advertising or promoting your brand. Everything from your business copy to the imagery you choose to use on your social media channels must reflect your identity to ensure that you communicate authenticity and consistency.
Your Vision Statement
Building a brand always begins with a clear vision statement which defines precisely what you want to achieve and what sets you apart from the competition. The most effective vision statements have been carefully distilled into one sentence which establishes:
- The services and/or products you provide
- Your unique selling point (USP)
- Where you see the business in 5, 10 or 15 years
- A few words that best describe your brand
As such an integral element of your brand identity, ensuring that your team understands your vision is essential. Not only should your vision statement be clearly incorporated into your style guidelines, but it should also inform every key decision-making process within your business.
Your Brand Manifesto
Defining a brand manifesto gives you the chance to clearly establish what is driving your business. This statement should be concise, memorable and easy to understand. You might find it helpful to ask the following questions during this crucial process:
- What are my brand values?
- What are the pain points my business can address?
- How can my business inspire and inform an audience?
- Why should consumers purchase from my brand over my competition?
Again, it is vital that every member of your team understands your manifesto.
Your Value Proposition
Defining the unique value that you can provide to your customers will help to set you apart. In addition to clearly defining your audience demographic, your value proposition should set out your brand promise and detail what makes you different from your closest competitors.
As soon as you have established the key building blocks that form the foundations of your business, you can begin designing your visual identity and clearly setting these choices out in a style guide. Your aim here is to ensure that your visuals enhance your brand, reflect your values and clearly represent your mission.
There are a variety of ways in which your style guide will be applied, perhaps most notably when creating promotional items to boost the visibility of your brand, such as mugs, bags and promotional umbrellas. It is essential that each of these conveys a sense of identity and consistency but also that the item itself is useful and valued to your core audience.
Your Visual Identity
As one of the most important elements of your visual identity, your brand logo should convey the essence of your brand in a single image. Whether you opt to use icons, typography or graphics, the choices you make here will help you to shape the rest of the elements that collectively make up your brand identity.
Colour is a key component of a strong identity. In addition to shaping the way your audience feels about your brand, colour will help you to establish the reputation you want to build because we respond in very distinct ways to different hues and tones.
Your style guide should show swatches of your brand colours and detail Pantone names and numbers as well as CMYK, RGB and HEX codes.
Similarly to colour, typography can evoke a variety of responses. For example, sans-serif fonts are generally viewed as being somewhat more informal than serif fonts.
It is a good idea to explain the reasons as to why your chosen fonts are so crucial to your brand identity in your style guide. Additionally, you must also make it clear precisely what each font should be used for as you might want to utilise different fonts for your headlines and your body text.
Alignment details should also be clearly set out here, particularly if it is critical that your copy should always be aligned right, aligned left or centred. Spacing information will also be critical to your design team, so include tracking and kerning ratios here to ensure that a consistent style is maintained even when changes to font sizes are required.
The strongest brands implement consistency across everything they do. The more frequently you communicate a key message or aesthetic, the more familiar and memorable it will become to your audience. This is precisely why creating a style guide and ensuring that everyone in your organisation has access to it is so important.
Your style guide should include every approved version of your logo and clearly explain when it is appropriate to utilise each one. Providing visual examples will make these guidelines clear and ensure that your design team will find them easy to follow.
The instructions you include here should make clear:
- Proportions and minimum size guidelines
- Whether any white space should be left around visual imagery
- Appropriate colour usage, explaining where and when to use different versions
- Whether there are any ways you don’t want your visual imagery to be used
Your business is about more than the products and/or services you provide and you must take every opportunity to tell the world why you are the best at what you do. Your style guide will help your team to stay true to the ethos and values of your brand as you drive the business forward to still greater success.