Building a business takes time. It requires patience, attention and dedication. However, if you get things right in the early stages, it’s so much easier later on.
Basically, if you have a strong foundation you can build a strong business. The good thing is that, even if you’re an established business, you can still revisit those ‘business building blocks’ and shore up your foundations!
One of the most important building blocks for your business is your brand. Get this foundation right and the rest of the business will sit neatly and firmly on top.
It’s vital when creating (or adjusting) your brand, that you stay true to the core essence of your business. Creating a strong, unique visual identity will convey your USPs and sell your product or service without you even needing to be in the room; and the key to creating this strong visual identity is consistency.
To maintain consistency and brand integrity, you need to be completely clear on how you want to be perceived and what message you want to communicate.
Once your brand message is clear in your head, you need to make it clear on paper, and that’s where a brand style guide comes in.
What is a brand style guide?
Your brand style guide is one of the most important documents you will ever create for your business. It helps you, and any staff or sub-contractors you employ, to stay true to your unique brand identity. It cements the look and feel of your business, sets the tone for any written communication and ensures that your brand becomes instantly recognisable to your target audience.
Why do you need a brand style guide?
Let me explain this by using an example. Say you had just launched a fast food business and decided to use your initial letter as your logo. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that that letter is an ‘M’ and you want it to be yellow. You want the font to be curvy and friendly; to look almost like… golden arches? (you can see where I’m going with this right?)
If you establish, not only the style of the ‘M’, but also its exact colour, the font that goes with it and even the shape of the friendly clown that introduces it (ok I definitely gave it away that time), then anyone who see that ‘M’, that colour or that clown, will immediately think of your brand. If they’re new to the brand they’ll be curious. If they’re already fans they may even begin to salivate at the mere sight of your logo.
But what if you hadn’t been so clear on your brand in the beginning? What if you needed to outsource some of your PR to an agency? If the agency weren’t clear on your brand guidelines then they might put out an advert using the wrong ‘M’. They might make the ‘M’ purple and twin it with a dinosaur mascot instead of a clown. Will your clients trust that they’ll get the same great product from a Barney Burger? Probably not.
In essence, your brand guidelines ensure consistency, build and maintain trust, enable growth and refine your core message. If you have a brand style guide then you can simply pass that on to the PR agency and relax knowing that your golden arches are still golden and your clown is still called Ronald.
What exactly is in a brand style guide?
Your brand style guide will cover everything from marketing, advertising and social media, to print, PR, colour and copywriting, which means that it needs to be thorough.
When I create a brand style guide for a client I make sure that it includes the following:
- An overview of the brand’s vision, personality and key values
- Brand message / mission statement
- Examples of tone of voice
- Logo usage – where and how to use your logo including minimum sizes, spacing and what not to do with it
- Typography – showing the specific font that you use and details of the font family and default fonts for web use
- Colour scheme – Primary / Secondary brand colours with colour breakdowns for print, screen and web
- Image style/photography – examples of image style and photographs that work with the brand
- Business card and letterhead design – examples of how the logo and font are used for standard company literature
Like your visual identity, a brand style guide should be clear, simple and easy to understand.
Again, the idea is that you should be able to outsource marketing or other activities without worrying that they’ll go off brand. You should be able to take on a new member of staff and know that they’ll be putting out the right message from day one. You should even be able to retire or sell the business and be sure that the brand you worked so hard to build will continue to live up to the standards you set.
How to go about creating a brand style guide
If you have an established company then creating your brand style guide may simply be a case of putting down on paper what you’ve already been doing in your business. However, if you’re not sure how to start on your guide, take inspiration from people you admire. Look for images that feel on brand and that communicate your core values.
Save these as a reference, using an online tool such as Pinterest. These images will then go onto your ‘mood board’ along with colours, messages and other ideas. From here you can start to put together the elements listed above until you have one or two simple-to-use documents that you can refer to whenever you need them.
Don’t stop there
Remember that a brand style guide never needs to be ‘finished’. You can add to it and adapt it to suit your audience and ethos as your brand grows. In fact, a well put together brand style guide can be an essential tool when growing your business.
I hope this has given you an idea of how to create what could possibly be one of the most important parts of your business moving forward. If you need a hand then I’m always happy to chat, but in the meantime: good luck and have fun!
If you need help to create a Brand Style Guide then please get in touch here.