When you engage a creative agency or designer to work on your marketing materials, they commonly ask if you have a set of brand guidelines.
Do you know why?
Well, before we go there – imagine this. You’ve invested heavily in formulating your strategy and creating a knockout identity for your brand but several months go by and your brand looks far from the way it was intended.
Now, did you really have to imagine that scenario or did it sound eerily familiar? If it did sound familiar – I have a hunch that you’re missing a set of brand guidelines.
See, the term “guidelines” gives it away. If we view designers as problem-solvers, then guidelines are what set the parameters for designers to offer a solution that meets our branding and marketing objectives.
Brand guidelines help creatives colour within the lines.
Trust me, creative license isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All too often has it ended up in a flurry of frustration, exasperation and disappointment – but that’s not exactly the fault of the creative team. Designers – both visual and communication designers – rely on brand guidelines to guide their creative decisions in relation to your brand.
In today’s post, I’ll cover three main reasons why brand guidelines can help not only your creative team, but also your business.
I’ve said it once but I’ll just have to say it again. Much of creating a strong and recognisable brand has to do with consistency. Whether it’s the consistency in your brand’s product quality, service standards or purchase experience, consumers tend to want (and sometimes even need) to associate your brand with something they can rely on to stay the same. Unfortunately, this means that being indecisive or flippant about the way your brand looks and communicates just won’t do.
Known interchangeably as stylesheets, manuals or even bibles, brand guidelines help brands maintain high levels of consistency through a series of thoroughly documented contexts and rules that explain how your brand assets may be used and presented in all forms of marketing and advertising media.
Brand guidelines that include your brand’s purpose, mission, vision, core values as well as target audience may function like a compass ensuring that the people in your organisation understand the business direction well and can ultimately make autonomous decisions that are on brand. If that doesn’t add to greater productivity, what will?
Sharing your brand guidelines with employees their first day on the job is a sure way to help them find their footing, get settled as well as internalise your brand so that they may be good representatives. If you’re not sure how to go about coming up with your brand’s vision, mission and core values, have a read of my post on Getting Started on Brand Strategy. I’m confident there are a few good nuggets in there that you could use.
Through illustrative examples on how to apply your logo, colours, fonts, imagery and tone of voice, brand guidelines help to keep your visual and verbal identity consistent and intact, offering an objective point of reference that doesn’t change, even when a replacement is needed.
In fact, having a set of brand guidelines will help new members of your team get up to speed and allow them to hit the ground running much faster.
Still unsure if brand guidelines are for you? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are my clients or customers able to recognise or identify my brand easily?
- Am I finding it difficult to make marketing decisions?
- Does my team have a good grip on our organisational or business direction?
By all means, mull on it. Just remember these three promises – Consistency, clarity and continuity. It’s as easy as C-C-C.
Well, it took me long enough but I’ve been looking forward to posting this article because it marks the fifth and final part on The Basics of Branding. If you’ve been following this series, you’ll find that my pieces have gotten much shorter – in part because I’ve had less time to write these days; and in part because people in general have had less time to read. Ha!
With this series concluded, I’ll be starting on more bite-sized pieces of content, still centered around branding. If there are specifics you’d like me to cover, write to me and I promise I’ll put it out on our blog and socials in due course.
Nadine is the Creative Director of The Outsiders Co. (now Superminted) and is a nonconforming, divergent thinker with a conviction that effective branding is the cornerstone to a successful business.