What you Need to Include in your Brand Guidelines
In the business world, it’s important that you present a consistent face to your audience. If your brand personality changes from one day to the next, your customers will notice -- or worse, they’ll have a hard time remembering your brand in the first place.
A tried and true way to avoid this is to implement a comprehensive set of ‘brand guidelines’ - a term that can strike fear into the heart of many a marketer. But while they might sound scary, they don’t need to be.
Brand guides are an essential part of every brand and should be seen as a help rather than a hindrance. If you’ve yet to create a set of guidelines for your brand, here’s what you need to include.
Your brand’s logo is a valuable piece of intellectual property that embodies your brand. Consequently, it’s important that you implement some strict rules on how and where it should be used.
This section should outline the specifics of your logo so that it’s never altered or tweaked, which could potentially contaminate your brand.
Include downloadable files of your logo for different formats e.g. thumbnails, emails, social platforms, and so on. Make it clear when each logo should be used, with accepted pixel sizes and proportions.
Twitter’s logo usage guidelines and resources are a great example:
Social media guidelines
Every brand, regardless of its industry or whether it’s B2C or B2B, will spend a great deal of their time communicating with its customers on social. While the specific social platform might vary from business to business, online social communication itself is both powerful and nuanced.
Not only does it make sense to include thorough guidelines on your brand’s social media etiquette — but it also matters a great deal. On a weekly basis, we are presented with examples of social media blunders, made by even the biggest brands.
To prevent this, make a plan for every platform ahead of time. The email automation service MailChimp has some excellent brand guidelines, and its social media section is particularly good. It stipulates the optimum length for social posts and how engagement should be performed, as well as a clear hashtag policy.
Grammar and punctuation
Just as each of us speaks in our own unique way, so to do we write in our own voice. While this is perfectly normal as individuals, it can seem messy and inconsistent when multiple people are writing under a single brand name.
To unify your voice, set out clear rules for the technical aspects of your writing, including grammar, spelling, and punctuation. And remember, the English language is a complex organism, so ensure your guidelines are rigorous and exhaustive.
Some of the most common technical mistakes that brands make that should be attended to include, but aren’t limited to:
- US or UK spelling (consider your target audience’s preference)
- Use of acronyms
- Using the active voice over the passive voice
- Spelling numbers (including rules on delineating three digits with commas)
Some brands even include rules on emoji usage in their guidelines. In this social age, it’s important to cover all bases — emojis included.
Tone of voice
Your tone of voice is as important in your brand communications as it is in your day-to-day life. It is unique to your business and embodies your brand as a whole.
For example, a quirky drinks brand targeted at millennials might find that a cheeky, irreverent tone of voice in their marketing suite them perfectly. Humour, colloquialisms, and a gentle smattering of slang would be appropriate to both their brand and their target market.
But a B2B SaaS business selling accounting software should probably try for a more suitable match. Their target market is mainly working professionals, and as such their tone of voice should reflect that.
You might think that tone of voice is something only the biggest brands need to consider: surely with such a significant consumer base, it’s more important for them to remain consistent?
Not so. Crafting a strong and consistent tone of voice early on in your business’s journey can actually help build a loyal customer base by presenting a ‘human’ voice.
Look at any business selling online, find one with high, consistent traffic, and you’ll no doubt find that they present a personable, relatable, and unique tone of voice that resonates with their audience. A strong tone of voice translates into strong sales, so it pays to make it clear to your team.
To find your tone of voice, start with your customers and work backwards from there. Who are they, how do they speak, and what would they expect and respond to best from your brand? Once you’ve identified this, you can outline your tone of voice guidelines with clarity.
Brand values and mission
Your brand’s values and/or its mission are the guiding force behind your guidelines. It’s the essence of your business and is often a key USP that sets you apart from your competitors in the eyes of your customers.
Consequently, it pays to clearly set out to your team what exactly your brand values are. They are your raison d'être, and inform everything: what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
As well as explaining where your business started and why, it also helps to outline where you’re going. A vision statement helps to unify your team and motivate them when they are creating marketing communications for your brand.
Creating a stringent set of brand guidelines might seem an arduous task, but it’s a rewarding one. Your business isn’t just the products you sell or the service you offer — it’s your entire brand.
By implementing rigorous guidelines that shape your web, email, and social communications, you can present a consistent, engaging face to your customers. Invest in a brand guideline now, and it will save you exponentially more time and worry in the long run.