You’ve started a business, or you’re getting ready to launch a business.  You probably have your business plan in place, a business name, but do you have a brand?

Building a recognizable brand takes much more than a name and logo.  Branding explores and defines the vital elements of a brand, they are utilized as individual elements, and how they work together to build brand awareness and grow your business.

This is where a Brand Style Guide, or a Brand Book, or your Branding Guidelines (these books go by many different names) comes in.

So, what exactly is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide is the go-to resource for anyone working in or working on your business.  In it contains information on creative assets, marketing messaging, visual identity, target audience insights and guidelines based on research.  By compiling this information in a guide, you’re equipping yourself, your team members, any agencies or freelancers you may hire with an internal guide to how to properly position the brand.

What goes in a Brand Style Guide?

Great question!  Ideally, you have a unique brand, so your style guide should also be unique to your business model and brand personality, but there are some elements that should be focused on in the guide.

  1. How do you differ from your competitors?
    Research your competitors. By doing so, you’re able to identify opportunities to differentiate yourself. The results of the analysis may or may not be included in the style guide, but the things that differentiate your brand from your competitors should be.

  2. What’s your story?
    A strong brand resonates with its target audience.  This means your mission is aligned with their values.  By telling the story of how the business was founded and why you do what you do, you’re able to keep yourself and any other team members on the same page as the business grows, without becoming convoluted. When you have a clear mission laid out, it’s easier to check yourselves at each decision to ensure everything you’re doing aligns with that mission.

  3. Who is your consumer?
    Define your target audiences based on demographics, behaviors, and interests. Defining your target audience results in broader information than customer personas (which are more in-depth and should be updated regularly). In your brand style guide, you want to share enough clear information about your consumers to serve as a checkpoint for your team. With these guidelines, you’re able to ask “Does what we’re doing/saying/designing appeal to this audience?”

  4. What does your message sound like?
    Once you know the audience you’re talking to with your branding, you need to define how you’re going to talk to them.  This is where you need to define the tone of voice, the core values you’re committed to, the emotional benefits the consumer should experience after interacting with your brand, the physical or functional benefits the consumer should experience after using your product or service, etc.

  5. How does your brand appear visually?
    There are three key visual assets that you need to address when it comes to your brand’s visual representation.  They are your logo and all of its proper variations, the acceptable typography (fonts) used in your branding, and the color palette used in visual elements.  By defining the visual elements and how they’re to be used together you’re able to maintain consistency across the brand as a whole. From your physical location, signage, business cards, letterhead, to your website, social media profiles, and everything in between – consistency is key to building visual brand recognition.

Conclusion

Every brand is unique, with its own recipe of ingredients.  As you grow and develop your presence, you can’t leave it up to loose interpretation.  By laying out clear brand guidelines (and enforcing them) you set you and your team up for successful growth.

Creating a brand guide requires time, patience, inspiration, clear vision, and insights into your market, industry, and competitors, a proficient graphic designer, knowledge of branding best practices, and solid communication skills.  

It’s not likely you’ll find all of these skill sets in one single person, which is why we recommend working with professionals to assemble your brand style guide.

Need help putting together a brand guide for your organization?  We’d love to help! Fill out your information below and one of our strategists will get in touch to find out how we can help you!