Why does brand identity matter? How should you create a branding guideline that will give you, your employees, and stakeholders a clear and consistent branding strategy to work with? Which branding elements are the most important ones to include in your guideline? Let’s dive in! .
What is branding and why is branding important?
Brand, branding, brand identity. These words might seem like a mix of vague or similar terms. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. In short, a brand wants to be recognised by its target audience through characteristics that make it stand out among competitors..
By differentiating themselves from competitors, companies build a “brand identity.” The communication of the brand identity is called branding. The creation of a brand identity, allows the company to communicate to their audience those particular things that make them different from others. This brand identity will in a way give them a format or guideline to use, which they can rely on and send consistent messages out with.
Why does brand identity matter?
The holy grail of communication is consistency. A brand should always aim to speak in a specific tone of voice, use similar color palettes, and stay consistent throughout the brand’s communication. By creating a brand identity guideline, all employees, including yourself, will have a format to work with and a guideline to follow. This will make it easier to keep being consistent on different channels and platforms.
On top of that, brand identity will also help differentiate your brand which gives a competitive advantage over competitors. This is because your customers will create associations with your company that they don’t have with your competitors. These associations are linked to the shared values that your customer has with your brand. These values are often emotional drivers that will help increase your consumer to like and buy your brand’s products or services.
How should you create a branding guideline?
Before starting to create your branding guideline, you can first schedule a moment to look at your current branding strategy to brainstorm on what branding elements you would want to implement, change, or remove in the future. During this brainstorm session, you can look at your current and desired graphic assets and tone of voice. Graphic assets are the visuals, colors, and visual characteristics you use for your brand. Your tone of voice is made of the words, language, and sayings you normally use within your brand’s communication.
Which branding elements are important to include?
Which branding elements can you include in your guideline? Let’s look at both visual and textual elements that you can use. Graphic elements can consist of your logo, color palette, typography, and imagery guidelines. Textual elements you can think of are the tone of voice, do’s and don’ts for writing, and words that you use to describe your business.
- Logo: When creating a logo, think about it in different colors. Make sure to state in your guideline which color variations are appropriate. You can also state a minimal logo size and which variations of your logo can’t be used. The clearer the better.
- Color palette: Here you can state the core colors, colors used for shades, and other tints that you might use. When stating these colors include hex codes and RGB values, these will make it easier for your designers to find the exact color you want them to use.
- Typography: In this section, you can state the typeface your company uses. This can be one specific typeface, or a few ones that compliment each other. Make sure to also state which style and sizes can and can’t be used as well as which combinations of typefaces are appropriate or not.
Imagery guideline: Here you can include a moodboard and images that represent your brand. Explain why these images represent your company. Give context by explaining about the desired style, concepts, and compositions your designers can use.
- Tone of voice: The tone of voice should be consistent with the tone of voice of your target audience. Finding words, topics, and other interests that your target audience is talking about will help you find and define your brand’s tone of voice.
- Do’s and don’ts for writing: Think about stating ‘do’s and don’ts’ when it comes to grammar, punctuations, style, spelling, and vocabulary. You can even give clear examples on how your brand is communicating in words.
- Words to describe your business: It might help to add a couple of words that describe your business to your branding guideline. For example, if a business stands for being ‘compassionate, including, and joyful’ it will use a different kind of communication than a company that stands for ‘business, numbers, and growth’. Descriptive words can help your editors and copywriters to find the correct tone of voice within your brand’s communication.
Why do you need a goal for branding guidelines?
There are many reasons why you want to make a branding guideline for your business. To name a few of them: a branding guideline will reinforce your brand’s identity, it will improve the perception of your company, and it will help with the consistency of your brand. On top of that, it will strengthen your brand by creating value for your customers and stakeholders, ensuring that your brand is recognized by all.
Brand style guide examples
There are many great branding guides of both smaller and bigger companies available online. Let’s look at three examples that we have found and thought have interesting elements in it. You can use certain elements from these or other examples that you have found in your own branding guideline. We will dive into the brand style guides from Asana, Google, and Shazam.
Asana helps teams to stay on the same page at work. During their rebranding process they hired a company that helped them with rebranding their company. This brandbook was one of the results of this process. We believe that they, especially, did a good job in describing and showing how to use the company’s descriptive words such as purposeful, approachable, and empowering.
If you ever want to read through a thorough and extensive visual guideline, then take a look at Google’s brand book. They dive into topics such as brand guidelines, brand logo lockups, color, imagery, and typography. The 66-page visual guideline is there for employees to understand Google’s branding. They even use a lot of dos and don’ts that make it easier for Google’s workers to know what is appropriate or not.
Lastly, we want to highlight Shazam’s brand and identity book. Not only does Shazam dive into both visual and textual elements, they also keep their communication in their brand book light and funny. Something they stand for as a business themselves as well. They incorporate their own tone of voice in the book about their tone of voice. Couldn’t be a clearer example, if you ask us!?
Implementing this into your own brand guideline
After the brainstorm session you and your team have had, and the inspiration you have gained, it is time to create your own brand guideline. However, now the following question is: how can you implement everything you have found in your own analysis? We suggest to first categorize all the elements that you want to have information on. There are many elements out there that you can add; try to first find which ones are (most) relevant for your company.
After doing this, you will have the fundament for your brand guideline. Now it’s time to fill in the gaps. You can start by writing out all your findings and then iterate and edit everything until you have found the right colors, typographies, and tone of voice. In the end, you want to have a concise and informative document that is understandable for everyone reading it, including employees who are just ‘on board’ and freelance designers/editors you might work with.
Translating your brand guideline into your brand identity
The following step is utilizing everything you have written down in your brand guideline into your company’s communication and branding. Your brand guideline will become your brand identity through usage. The more you are sending out these messages, the more people will link them to your brand. The longer people are exposed to your brand, the more it will become an identity.
What can we learn from this?
To summarize the above: to find your brand identity you first want to create a brand guideline. This brand guideline is important so that everyone in your team, including the freelancers you work with, know exactly how and what they can communicate within your brand’s message. By sending out this message often, your customers will start to create associations with your brand. If these associations are positive they can be powerful emotional drivers for your customers to return to your products and/or services. And who doesn’t want that?
How we can help you
Would you like to know more about B2B branding strategies? We have written a blog about it before, you can read it here. Do you need any help with creating a branding guideline? Or would you like to know more about rebranding, creating a brand identity or target audience research? Get in touch, we are here to help.