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The benefits of a brand style guide
July 22, 2014 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

What is it about marketers that makes them want to create something new all the time?

"It’s not a new tagline. It’s a catchy phrase that we’re using instead of the tagline.”

"We thought the logo would look better in primary colors in this case, so we changed it.”

When it comes to brand identity, consistency is the secret to success. Repetition makes it possible for people to recognize the look, shape, feel and personality of your brand. That goes for your visual brand identity as well as your brand’s tone and voice. A consistent face for your brand helps build familiarity, trust and ultimately, brand value.

Maintaining brand consistency is not easy. It doesn’t matter whether your company is a startup with just one employee or a corporate giant; you need a set of branding guidelines and rules to maintain a consistent identity.

The best way to keep your brand consistent is to develop a brand style guide. This document, which can range from a few pages to several hundred, is a reference and guide for what the public sees and hears from your company.

It helps employees, vendors and partners consistently use and communicate the brand. It outlines the basic rules for clearly and consistently creating and disseminating company communications – from allowable typefaces and styles, to a color palette, to logo and image use, text and tone and the emotion portrayed by the brand. The goal is to make sure that no matter who contributes to your communications materials, your brand has a consistent look and feel.

A great way to get started is to look at style guides for similar companies or companies you admire. (It’s not cheating.) Fortunately, brand style guides are easily available online. You can find a wide range of style guide examples at www.logodesignlove.com/brand-identity-style-guides.

As you create your brand style guide, think about how it will be used inside your organization. While every company’s brand style guide is a bit different, most include these four elements:

Brand goals and company philosophy 

What is your brand promise and what makes the brand relevant to targeted consumers?

Logo usage

You probably spent some time and money creating the perfect logo and you need to maintain the integrity of it across platforms. Specify how the logo is to be used, including placement, surrounding white space and acceptable alterations. Your logo is the simplest thing people have to identify your brand, so it’s very important to maintain a consistent use of that image.

Fonts, typography and images

Use your brand style guide to define the rules for how to use your brand’s fonts and typography, as well as image guidelines.

Brand tone and personality

You also want to make sure that what you say and how you say it is consistent with the brand image. This applies to everything from the headline in an ad to the tone of your Facebook post to the way blog content is structured. Using a consistent and distinct tone can help consumers and customers identify with a brand and create a connection with what the brand stands for.

The best brand style guides are simple, clear, useful and user-friendly. They provide the needed guidance without getting mired in details. Your style guide can be as general or as specific as you need it to be, but you should try to aim for simple and clear.

Once you’ve invested the time and energy needed to develop your brand style guide, make sure everyone who communicates on behalf of your organization has access to a copy of it, and uses it – consistently.

This column originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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