For one reason or another, there has been plenty of talk online lately about brand guidelines – what you should include, why they’re important and what they offer your business. I’m not going to rehash that here, it doesn’t add any value to a conversation that is already happening. What I have observed though is the tendancy for brand guidelines to be a beautiful document that sits in a drawer and doesn’t get applied to all parts of your business, the way it should be. And that’s something worth tackling.
Your brand guidelines are more than just a document to hand over to your graphic designer. They should form the foundation for all aspects of your brand – your shop fitout, your social media, uniforms, product applications, marketing materials or signage. It should be the guiding principles by which you affect every aspect of the customer experience. At the end of your brand guidelines, there should be no more questions about anything relative to the personality of your brand – it should all be included there.
That’s not to say it’s a completely draconian system and resistant to any flexibility, but particularly in the initial stages of any brand (new or revamped) these guidelines ensure that everything you’re putting in front of your customer feels like you and reminds them of previous experiences they have had with your brand. It also helps you cut down on decision fatigue, as all the decisions are made for you.
Most brand guidelines I see are far too short and sweet to really be considered guidelines. Incorporating a few key colours and a font does not a guidelines make. You need to think more about the broader questions around your brand, some of which I have listed here.
- What tone do we use? Are we fun, playful, serious, intelligent, cute or a combination of these?
- What are our secondary or supporting colours? 3 key colours is not enough for a brand that hopes to be around for more than a season. What does a light and bright version of our brand look like, compared to a darker heavier version?
- What are our textures? Do you have marble or brick or gold or something similar anywhere in your shop space? How can you use that in your marketing materials to create recollection of the experience in your space for your customer?
- What kind of pattern do we use? Polka dots are whimsical, chevron implies energy, stripes are bold and graphic. How does this pattern work alongside our logo?
- How do we write certain things? Do we use ampersands (&) or do we write our brand name all in caps to match the logo?
- Do our products or services have sub-brands that sit alongside your core brand? What are their colours or patterns or tone?
- What kind of imagery do we use? Is it raw or polished? Soft or hard? Aggressive? What kind of light do we like, and do we edit our images to fit a particular style?
- Who are we talking to? The customer focus is everything, and it can be beneficial to include a profile of your ideal customer in the brand guidelines. What is their gender, age, interests, passions, dislikes and buying cycle like?
Brand guidelines are absolutely helpful when working on a new or revamped brand as well-thought-out ones make you think about more than whether or not this image embodies your brand or not. Developing your brand guidelines should make you ask the tough questions – where do we want to sit in our market and industry, who do we want to sell to and how are we going to align our business to best appeal to that. So now is really the time to sit down and think more in-depth about your brand and where you want it to head in 2019.
If you have a logo and some colours but not a true set of guidelines, we want to help you. We want to help you truly formulate your visual style and create a consistent, memorable experience for your brand across all different parts of your business. All you have to do is email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we can make a start helping you develop your brand.