Four reasons why you need brand guidelines
Creating and developing a new brand from scratch can be one of the most fun and inspiring projects a designer will ever embark on.
It’s an often time-consuming and intricate process, where the branding team has to really get to understand the values of the organisation or the objectives of a new product.
Much thought is given to colours, shapes, wording, taglines, dimensions, tone of voice and so on. The designer has to ensure the brand is relevant to the audience, has originality, avoids confusion with other brands, does not infringe copyright, or does not have the potential to upset or offend.
But one of the most important parts is consistency; making sure the finished product is accurately represented across all print, media and digital collateral.
It’s no wonder us designers are very precious and get a little bit upset when we see our creations being mistreated. It’s one of the reasons we create brand guidelines to help clients communicate the brand clearly and consistently.
Here are some reasons why you need them.
They set the rules for your brand
Your brand guidelines are effectively a style guide that contains your methods and rules for keeping the brand consistent yet versatile, appropriate and memorable. They are about excelling your marketing communications by ensuring all the material and channels represent your brand accurately. For example, one of your rules might be that all brand artwork has to be created and / or approved by your own design team, rather than being entrusted to a third party.
They ensure correct usage
Pixelated logos, the wrong shade of green, a logo out of proportion with the tagline, a company name in upper case when it should be lower, or a logo used at the wrong size. These are all examples of a designer’s worst nightmare.
A successful brand communicates a clear and consistent message and voice. Whether it’s your business cards, website, various social media channels, staff uniforms, or various advertising formats, guidelines will help to keep brand usage consistent throughout all of your collateral.
They avoid confusion
Whether you are a small or large business, many people will handle your brand communications. It may be your in-house design team, your marketing consultancy, your HR department posting a job vacancy, or a magazine’s own design team typesetting your advert. All need to be aware of the rules about your brand. For example, are there situations where the tagline shouldn’t be used, when (if ever) is it acceptable to represent the brand in a different colour scheme, does your brand communicate in first or third person etc.
International fresh fruit company, Innocent, is an excellent example of a business that keeps its tone of voice consistent across all formats. It has hundreds of employees, but even manages to stick to its fun, endearing and friendly tone when dealing with complaints, either through letters to customers or responses on social media. Innocent’s brand guidelines will be key to this consistency.
They ensure continuity
What happens if our marketing manager is on annual leave when an urgent piece of artwork is needed? What happens if we appoint a new marketing consultancy, will they know our brand? Where are electronic versions of our logo held and can they be accessed? What’s the right pantone reference for the purple we use?
These are all questions you may need the answers to if you want to prevent your brand values being threatened during periods of upheaval. Your brand guidelines will be the custodian that ensures continuity when design and branding responsibilities pass from one person to the next.