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Marketing Essentials: Brand Style Guide

Who are you? If asked to describe you friends and family would probably list key points of what you look like, how you speak, their relationship with you, maybe your hobbies, or what’s important to you. Could you customers and prospects do the same for your brand? Or, does every item that represents your brand look different. How nice would it be if every prospect and customer could accurately describe your brand. Enter the brand style guide.

What is a Style Guide?

The brand style guide is a compilation of rules for how to represent your brand to the world. It is used as a reference to create universal consistency of brand in all applications. Simple, no matter who is doing the work, if they follow the brand style guide, it will be easily recognized as your brand.

Who Makes a Brand Style Guide?

Sometimes a brand style guide made in house, but usually it is the end result of a brand strategy process. This is often done by a marketing or advertising agency in conjunction with the business. The brand strategy process features extensive questions, interviews, investigations of the company’s products and services, customer service operations, and business philosophy Like making a diamond, the agency will take the large pile of raw information and put it under extreme pressure, pushing out impurities and compacting the best and brightest parts into a brand style guide.

When Should You Create/Refresh a Brand Style Guide?

Your business should create a style guide and begin following it as soon as possible. The sooner you have a brand style guide the sooner you can begin consolidating the look and feel of your brand in the eyes of the public.

Ask yourself, do you have one? Can you find it, right now? If not, it’s probably time to update it and make it available to anyone who creates public facing material for your company. Many brands review their brand style guide every few years to see if it looks “old” or needs additions and changes. You should review your brand style guide anytime your business changes. A change in offerings, target audience, or core values needs to be reflected in your brand style guide.

Is a Style Guide Really That Important?

It absolutely is important if you want your brand to have a strong, universal look. Like a logo, your branded materials should be easily recognized as your brand. Imagine standing in front of a convenience store drink cooler looking for a Coca-Cola Classic. You know what to look for: a red can with white script down its length. But, what if Coca-Cola decided to change to a yellow paisley pattern can with vertical, blue, bubble letter script. Even if you found the can you would probably be confused. You might even put it back thinking it was a weird, knock off product. That’s the power of a unified brand style.

Multiple employees, agencies, and freelancers work to create branded items. All with various levels of knowledge and exposure to your brand. A good Brand Style Guide will ensure that a hundred different people making a hundred different things will all create a product that reflects and reinforces your brand.

How Specific is a Brand Style Guide?

Brand Style Guides run the gamut of depth and specificity. The 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual is almost 200 pages. It’s a huge and precise tome for public transportation signage. The American Red Cross, condenses it into a poster. At Bold Entity, we’re of the mind that brevity is bliss. While many brand books look like textbooks others are only simple. Our advice is include the necessities and specifics for what gets created most often and with minimal oversight. Cut the rest. We don’t believe it’s the best use of time and money to try and plan for every brand instance. Get the maximum benefit for the minimum investment. You can always standardize more if you need it later. 

What’s in a Brand Style Guide?

Most Brand Style Guides can be broken down into three easy sections. The first part is the research and distillation of your brand. A section in the guide should summarize your brand’s mission, values, and goal. All the items are sometimes encapsulated in a “Brand Story.” The Brand Style Guide should define your target audiences. Also, it should give creators tone and messaging guidelines to tell them what personality and language to use.

The second part of a style guide is the visual guide. The flashy visual guide is what jumps to most people’s minds when they head Brand Style Guide. It informs creators how to use the logo and when to use each version of the logo. What colors, typefaces, patterns, and formatting they should use and how. Also, what type of photography should and should not be associated with the brand image.  The third part of a Brand Style Guide focuses on specific brand treatments. It could be guidelines for anything and everything important to how your brand does business. Guidelines for social media, email signatures, uniforms, letterhead, packaging, sales materials, videos, etc. This is one section where a Brand Style Guide can balloon in size. Remember the Transit Authority Manual? Well it includes specifics on how every sign should look, plus specifications on where and how they are to be installed. Once you think about how much signage the subway has it makes sense why the Brand Style Guide is so large. 

Just a little insight on the marketing essential that is the Brand Style Guide. As an agency with a strong emphasis on branding we’re familiar with the ins and outs of creating style guides. We actually use a proprietary, in-depth branding process to discover your business’s DNA and help your branding reflect it. If you’re interested in our proprietary branding process, visit HERE to learn more. 

If you need a Brand Style Guide or realized you’re ready for an update, drop us a line

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