If you’ve ever questioned the importance of a brand style guide, or asked, “Do I really need a brand style guide?”, then this article is for you. We’ll be discussing the pros and cons to help you decide why you would need one and when to create it.
First, here are a few questions you should consider as you’re reading:
- Would a potential client or a previous client be able to pick out your brand from a bunch of others if they were asked to?
- Would your employees all give the same information when asked what the company is about?
- What about the content? For example, your blog posts (if you have them), social media content, and website?
- Are their styles consistent all throughout, (even when different team members do them)?
- 1 Common Branding Mistakes (Even for Sole Proprietors)
- 2 What is a Brand Style Guide?
- 3 What is the Purpose of a Brand Style Guide?
- 4 What Should a Brand Style Guide Include?
- 5 How Long Should a Brand Style Guide be?
- 6 Who does a brand style guide work for?
- 7 Can you DIY a Brand Style Guide?
- 8 Finally, Is a Brand Style Guide for You?
Common Branding Mistakes (Even for Sole Proprietors)
Most of the time, even as a sole trader with no team yet, the company brand fails to have a similar style across the board.
You may have an idea of how you want your company to look and feel when people interact with it, but your vision may not always be actualized on the ground.
And, this could be the reason you’re stuck with fewer sales than you could have. Your brand awareness could be lacking and in need of some help. And that’s what we’re looking to address with this article on brand style guides.
We’ll see how a brand style guide may help you increase your brand’s awareness. We’ll start from what it is to why it matters and whether or not you need one for your business.
Let’s start from the very basics.
What is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a document that guides everyone in your company on how to present your brand. It drives the look and feel of your brand and ensures there is consistency across all channels you may use.
The guide is used by everyone from your client-facing employees when communicating your brand to your designers, writers, marketers and developers.
It helps to guide you in a few areas, including:
- The kind of emotions you would like to elicit from your clients’ interaction with your brand.
- How you would like to communicate with your audience
- How you would like them to view you
- Your vision for the company
And from it, you can choose the channels, words, and design to communicate with your audience.
But what purpose does it serve exactly?
What is the Purpose of a Brand Style Guide?
Your brand style guide aims to bring consistency across your company. It guides the tone of voice, colors, visuals, logo and choice of words.
It also creates trust between you and your audience.
When people can recognize you and instantly know what your company is about, they trust you more than other brands.
The brand style guide brings you more than just clients.
When your clients resonate with your brand, values, and what you are all about, they become brand ambassadors.
Your brand becomes their go-to brand.
So what does the brand style guide include? What are the things that make it powerful enough to serve its purpose?
What Should a Brand Style Guide Include?
- Mission & Vision
The very first thing that should be on your brand style guide is your mission and vision.
Now, if you are like most of us, then maybe you confuse the two.
And they can be pretty confusing! Most brands get them mixed up or use them interchangeably.
But we’ll share a way to differentiate the two easily.
Your vision explains the kind of world you want in the future. In an ideal world where your business has changed lives, what would life be like?
A vision answers the question ‘why.’
It could be achieving education for all, or maybe it’s to have every dog find a loving home.
Your vision is all about that ideal future that you have in mind for your business to deliver to the world.
A mission, on the other hand, would be how you aim to achieve your vision. It answers your ‘how.’
What steps will you take to achieve it? If you were to write it down in just one sentence, what would it be?
For instance, you could be on a mission to find a loving home for each dog, one at a time. That’s a very doable thing that serves to achieve the vision of having all dogs matched to great homes.
So start with the vision and mission for your company’s brand style guide. They act as the foundation for your brand.
And they bring us to the next part of our guide.
Your Buyer Persona or Target Audience
Who is your ideal client?
What do they do? What’s their income status, age, gender, location?
Your buyer persona is the kind of person you want to sell your products or services to. They serve as a great point of reference when coming up with your brand.
They can help you decide how you want to communicate, the marketing channels to use, even the tone of voice.
Once you have the ideal client described in your brand style guide, you can better understand what would resonate with them.
Having a client persona lets you build the business with them as the focus. This includes the values you have as a business.
Your Core Values
Your company also needs core values to guide your tasks.
These are just the values you think are important to you and your clients.
Some examples of values that you could have include integrity, commitment to clients, passion and accountability.
They help you make decisions across the board, from handling clients to communication and even the hiring process.
You can start to hire people who are more aligned with your values.
If boldness is a value that you have adopted as a business, then it shapes the content you put out. It guides you in choosing employees where you will go for the bolder ones.
It will also guide your product development. You will be looking to show your boldness in the final product as well.
And core values also go with your company’s personality.
Yes, your brand has a personality.
Think about Skype and its personality. It’s a little playful, right? Their font, logo, and even that ringtone that alerts you when you have a call has a playfulness to it.
Your brand style guide also needs you to show your personality. Pick out the way you want to sound to people.
Would you like to be formal? What tone of voice would you want your company to take?
Pick out a brand personality that goes well with your values and your buyer persona.
Visual Identity – Color Palette, Logo, Typography
Part of your company’s personality also includes how the company appears visually–this is all about the colors you choose to represent your brand, logo, and typography.
One mistake that people make many times is having different visual content; like having different colors and fonts between social media posts.
If you gave a randomly chosen person two different posts of the same company, they would not make the connection.
And it may be subconsciously making potential clients lose trust in you.
Maybe they just can’t recognize you quickly because your brand is presented with such contrasting visuals that they can’t pick out a quick identifier.
But you can fix that by including your visual identity in the blog style guide.
Start from the Company Colors
Pick out a color palette that best describes you and add it to the guideline.
Since there are usually so many shades of any one primary color, go the extra mile, and add the exact color code you chose–this will help you avoid having several different shades of color on your marketing material.
Pick Out your Preferred Typography
Typography refers to how your words appear. It includes the fonts you choose, their size, contrast and the amount of white space around them, among other things.
Typography is essential to give your brand a consistent look, and it gives designers precisely what to use.
Create a Logo
Finally, your visuals need a clean logo that’s representative of your business.
A logo is usually one of the most recognizable aspects of your business. Just think about some brands you know, like Nike. What comes to mind?
You saw their logo in your mind, didn’t you?
So make one that’s simple enough to remember, and be consistent with it in your business documents and marketing material.
With these visual identifiers in your style guide, you can be assured of some consistency for your brand.
That way, even if different people create your website and social media content, they can follow the guide and come up with content that matches.
How Long Should a Brand Style Guide be?
Your brand style guide shouldn’t be too long. Make it about five pages so that it’s easy to read through and understand.
But there’s generally not a specific length for the guide. It can be as long as 100 or more pages, or as short as just a few pages.
You could have a detailed one and then create an infographic or a shorter, more condensed guide.
The shorter one you can quickly refer to or share with your clients, employees and potential investors.
Who does a brand style guide work for?
If you would like to get some consistency in your business’s look and feel, the brand style guide is essential.
Whether you run a small company or a larger one, you may still want to consider having a brand style guide.
And the sooner you have one, the better it will be for you and your team.
It makes it much easier to manage the business and expand.
While it may be easy for you to be consistent in communicating your brand, it isn’t always straightforward for others.
When you start to hire people to help you, the guide acts as a good reference point for them.
So if you’ve been wondering whether or not it’s right for you, just think of whether there is consistency in your brand, and if you can maintain it in the future.
Can you DIY a Brand Style Guide?
You’re probably wondering if you can DIY the brand style guide, or where you should start from; now that you know what it’s all about.
Do you need to hire an expert to create the document?
Well, depending on your budget, you can opt to either hire help or do it yourself.
If you have a really tight budget, consider following the steps we outlined and create something that you can go by.
If you have a budget for it, get help from an experienced person or team. This will make sure you get it right from the beginning. You won’t miss, or forget to add anything when you work with a professional.
Finally, Is a Brand Style Guide for You?
Our final answer is…yes. You do need a brand style guide for your business.
Make it easier for your clients to pick out your brand, and to trust it.
And most of all, make it easier for potential clients to spot you by being consistent with your brand.
This could be what you need to finally create more trust between you and your potential clients.
If you need help creating your brand style guide, meet with a marketing pro today for a free consultation, and let’s see if we can work together on this project. Book your free consultation here.