Why Your Brand Needs a Style Guide

» Why Your Brand Needs a Style Guide

You’ve invested in a big rebranding effort with new signage and collateral. Congratulations! It looks amazing. But if your company doesn’t understand or adhere to the elements of your brand, your big investment could be lost. Worse yet, it could damage your brand’s reputation. Inconsistency could confuse and alienate your customers.

A brand standards guide will demonstrate what your brand should look and feel like. It’s so important, some designers refer to it as the brand bible – the one reference tool that helps define and maintain your brand internally and externally. It should ground the customer experience and be the basis for all of your company’s communications and interactions, from social media, PR and advertising to internal PowerPoints and email signatures.

What should it include?

1. Show how to use your logo, font and colors.

Your logo is the outward symbol that represents your brand. Some are so recognizable, like the Nike swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches or the Target bullseye, people know the company without even seeing its name. How did those brands get that way? Consistency. Make sure your guide includes a page showing how to properly place your logo so it’s always reproduced correctly. Include any variations you’ll need:

  • full-color
  • black and white
  • reversed (your logo is all white on a color background)
  • with and without your tagline

You may want to give examples of how not to use your logo, too – especially if you don’t want to see it stacked to make it “fit”. This will ensure your direction is crystal clear.

Now do the same thing with your corporate colors and fonts. Make sure to include the PMS, RGB and CMYK numbers for your brand colors so they can be recreated to these specifications for printing. Add a page with the alphabet and numbers done in your brand’s typeface so everyone can see what it looks like. You’ll also want to have a substitute font for the web.

2. Show your brand in action.

You want to establish the rules for creating your brand presence to the world. Create a list of all of the brand touch points, internally as well as externally. How do you want your brand to be portrayed? What images can – and can’t – be associated with your brand? What should and shouldn’t be said about your brand? Is your style formal or conversational? You’ll want to make sure the things your brand says – whether it’s in an ad or spoken by your customer service staff – are in line with your brand. Show how to properly make your brand a part of these interactions.

3. Make the brand guide accessible to employees.

As brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn says, “Great brands start inside. They cultivate a vibrant corporate culture around their brand.” Your employees should be living your brand and reinforcing it through their actions. Whether they face customers or not, you want them all to be your brand advocates. Make sure everyone has a copy of your style guide. To get new hires off to a good start, make your brand standards part of employee orientation. Also, your company’s mission, vision and values should align with your brand voice and personality so ensure it is included in the guide. There will definitely be questions so it’s nice to add a phone number or email for someone in your marketing or design department who can help with answers.

To make your brand come to life, it is essential that all employees and active partners adhere to your brand standards. Try to balance the good cop/bad cop language. You don’t want to be too restrictive to limit creativity but you do want to provide some guiderails. This will solidify your brand across all communications and strengthen your position in the market.

4. Get inspired!

To help you get started, here are a couple of great brand guides for inspiration: