Brand identity and its accompanying guidelines are more than slapping a logo onto your content. They’re more than a PDF to outline whether you follow AP Style or the Chicago Manual of Style. Indeed, brand identity guidelines define your brand’s public and private image, and help influence your customer experience through every touchpoint.
What Are Brand Identity Guidelines?
There is no one definition of brand identity guidelines – they come in various shapes, forms, functions, and sizes, and are dependent on your company and goals – but the basics are always the same: Your brand identity guidelines serve as a written identity manual and style guide to set forth brand standards across digital and print media.
How Brand Identity Guidelines Work
Brand identity guidelines are unique to your company, but there’s one principle that binds all companies and guidelines: every company should have them.
The reason is simple: Brand identity guidelines define important standards for all forms of company communications, from your logo, to your brand personality, to your target audience. In other words, your brand identity guidelines loop in all your employees, freelancers, and independent contractors, and help you unify your brand messaging across all media and marketing channels.
In short, your brand identity guidelines are the outline of your brand experience.
Why Do You Need Brand Identity Guidelines?
Your brand identity guidelines do more than just outline and specify brand standards; they are expectations, to be used both internally and externally, that exemplify your brand – who you are, what you stand for, etc. – and help build consistent brand messaging to create lasting connections with consumers.
In other words, you need brand identity guidelines to reach your company’s potential and, ultimately, to be successful.
4 Simple Steps: How to Define Your Brand Identity
Writing strong, cohesive brand identity guidelines begins with understanding your brand: Who are you? What is your brand personality? Who is your audience? And, what makes you stand out from the competition?
Here’s how to begin:
- Start with understanding your brand, inside and out. Commit to writing down your official mission statement, core values, and vision statement – check out these inspiring examples – as you currently understand them. (Note: they will likely evolve over time.) These form the basis of your brand identity guidelines.
- Next, explore your audience: Who purchases your product or service? Identify specific demographics. Why do they buy your product or service? What are their pain points? (And, how do you relieve them?) Who interacts most often with each of your various touchpoints – email newsletters, social media, blogging, AdWords, etc.?
- Now, outline the buyer journey. You understand your brand offerings. You know your target consumer. And you’re aware of where they converge: at the intersection of consumer pain points and your solution. Map this process, from consumer awareness, to product consideration, to purchase/decision, to brand advocate (your ultimate goal).
- With the above in mind, write your brand ethos: your brand position, attributes, vision, promise, and values. These criteria will also serve as the basis of your brand identity guidelines.
4 Tips + 5 Inclusions for Strong Brand Identity Guidelines
Your brand guidelines extend beyond your logo, preferred fonts, and use of color: they outline exactly how your brand should present itself. We’re talking everything from brand voice, to photo placement, to taglines – everything that defines your brand, both internally and externally.
While many aspects of your brand guidelines adjust to your company and specific needs, a few are immutable. These include:
- Brand Guidelines are Consistent: Your brand guidelines allow you to define standards across all media and channels, so that you present one single, cohesive brand image – no matter whether a consumer is viewing your Instagram account or reading your blog. So, be consistent. From your use of the Oxford comma to your logo colors, be very specific in your guidelines.
- They Must Make an Impact: Visually speaking, your brand should be memorable, from the colors and fonts you use, to the way in which you employ graphics and typography.
- They are Scalable: Your guidelines must be flexible. After all, they’ll be used everywhere from your blog to your ads; in other words, everywhere you exist online and in print. Be sure that your guidelines are scalable enough to grow with your brand and apply to all channels.
- They are Clear: Well written guidelines have no gray area: at a glance, it should be immediately clear who you are, how you present yourself, and what your brand voice is.
Now that you have the basics, it’s time to develop your own brand identity guidelines. We’ve said it several times but we’ll say it again: your brand guidelines will be as unique as your brand. That said, here are a few necessary inclusions:
- Logo: The one [flexible, scalable] logo that represents your brand. Be sure to include a square version for social media.
- Color Palette: Your brand colors say a lot about your company and, what’s more, they go a long way in establishing a consistent brand identity. Make sure your logo follows and/or complements your brand colors.
- Typography: Like your color palette, the fonts/typography you use are a visual indicator of your company tone and style. Choose wisely.
- Brand Voice: Your guidelines do not stop at visual impact alone: your brand voice, company personality, and overall style should directly reflect your target audience (how they speak and wish to be spoken to) and channels (ex. your website is usually more formal than your blog).
- Photography & Graphics: Think there’s only one way to use photos and other images? Wrong. Your guidelines must define how you align images and graphics, whether you caption them, and much more. Again, be specific.
And, there you have it – the basics of brand identity guidelines and how to write bold, cohesive guidelines that inch you closer to success and your company goals.