A strong brand is an essential business driver. A strong brand empowers you to build stronger connections with your customers, improving their overall value with your company. When your customers have an emotional connection to your business, they can have a lifetime value over 300% higher than those who aren’t.
Content is a core component of your brand. Establishing brand guidelines helps ensure that all parts of your brand are similar and connected, even when outsourcing content creation. Learn how to create a brand style guideline and connect all brand aspects, from ad copy to content — regardless of who is doing the writing.
Why You Need Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines make each aspect of your message into a more cohesive whole. If you’re building a strong brand, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into defining what makes you unique and finding ways to connect with your customers.
Your brand guidelines help you communicate your mission, vision, and brand identity with potential customers through every touchpoint. They help you establish your brand personality and ensure everyone who works for you understands how to represent your company, whether they’re a full-time employee or a freelancer.
Along with your brand tone and voice, you can use brand guidelines to set structure and rules for how to use your:
- Color palettes
- Even business card design
Brand guidelines allow you to establish consistent branding. By creating these guidelines, you create a unified message across everything you create. From your blog content to marketing communication, social media posts, and visual content, your audience will be able to recognize your brand through its visual design and tone of voice.
How to Set Brand Guidelines
Here are steps you can take to develop your own brand guidelines. Check out examples of brand guidelines you can use to inform your process.
Step 1: Start With Your Mission
Your mission serves as the foundation of why you exist, and it’s a great start when developing your brand guidelines. Your mission, vision, and core values will help inform your brand voice and ultimately, your brand identity. This foundation will connect you with your customers, so it’s helpful to use it as the basis for your brand guidelines.
Boy Scouts of America’s tagline is "Prepared. For Life." All branding is developed around the organization’s mission to prepare members for every aspect of their lives following Scouting. It is the basis of the BSA brand guidelines. The first page of brand guidelines outlines this mission and tells a compelling story about how preparing Scouts for life is core to the organization.
In your brand guidelines, use your mission and values to tell a compelling story that helps your brand resonate with anyone reading them. This will provide a starting point for anyone working on your brand. Your brand story will help inform every step of the marketing and branding process, including your logo, content writing, and ad copy. A strong story can help branding professionals create deeper connections between your brand elements.
Step 2: Determine Who Will Be Using Your Guidelines
There are many reasons someone would need a copy of your branding guidelines. You may be sponsoring an event and need to provide direction on using your logo on banners and other event swag. You might be hiring professional content writers to help you stay on top of your SEO goals. You could be co-writing an article in a trade publication that will include your logo in your author bio.
While these are all typical marketing activities, they are also tasks in which someone could tamper with your brand identity. Without proper brand guidelines, someone putting your logo on a sponsorship banner might change the colors or proportions, which could dilute the connection customers have with your brand.
New employees will also need a thorough understanding of your brand guidelines. When they’re putting together reports, presentations, and anything else representing your brand, they will need the guidelines to keep it consistent.
Step 3: Set Your Logo Guidelines
Along with your mission, your logo is one of the most important components of your brand. The average customer sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day, many of which include logos. As part of your branding, your logo is one of the first images people picture when they think of your brand. When customers are repeatedly exposed to your logo, it can make it easier for them to remember you above your competitors.
For your logo to be memorable, it needs to be consistent. In your brand guidelines, outline rules and restrictions for your logo.
If you’re an established company with strong brand recognition, customers seeing your logo in another color might not dilute your brand equity.
For example, when companies want to add social media share buttons to their website, they might change the logos for each social media company to match their own brand colors. Since many people are already familiar with the Facebook “F” or Twitter’s bird logo, changing the colors of the company logo to correspond won’t confuse people who already know them.
Share Guidelines with Any External Partners
There are many reasons people would want to use your logo. If you offer an affiliate marketing program, your partners might use your logo to promote you on their social media pages. Your brand guidelines should include explicit instructions about how people can and can’t use your logo. For example, you may want to forbid anyone from using your logo on content that doesn’t align with your mission.
Include rules for:
- Image uses
Step 4: Choose Your Brand Color Combinations
While it might seem like a simple decision, colors are one of the most important components of your brand. Color is one of the most recognizable features of your logo, and certain colors build different psychological connections. Choosing the right company colors guide various design elements of your business and establishes the visual identity of your brand. Your brand's color palette should include the following:
- Primary Color
- Secondary Colors
- Background Colors
Color also helps convey your brand personality. If your brand personality is fun, cheery, and vibrant, you’ll probably steer clear of muted colors or using a cool hue as your dominant color. If you’re not well-versed in color theory, find a graphic designer to help with choosing the right color schemes for your business. Keep in mind that visual elements for your brand play a large impact on recognition so your color scheme is an important decision to make.
Set Separate Guidance for Color Use
Once you’ve chosen official brand colors, create rules and a style guide on how to utilize them. Swedish furniture retailer Ikea is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company has strong brand guidelines explaining the origin of the iconic blue and yellow logo and rules about how to use it.
According to Ikea’s brand guidelines, blue and yellow are an homage to the Swedish flag, and the combination contrasts, making the logo pop. The brand guidelines give specific yellow and blue shades that must be used with Ikea’s logo.
Step 5: Set Guidelines for Brand Imagery
The images you use in advertising, your website, and even stock images included in blog posts are all part of your brand. Certain images that are suited for one brand might not work for another. These guidelines are helpful for anyone working with you on social media, blog posts, video marketing, and other content or activities.
For example, if you operate a B2B company with professional services clients, you would likely steer clear of using stock photos that show people drinking alcohol or doing anything else that’s not acceptable in a corporate environment. However, these images might be fine for a company specializing in hospitality or event promotion.
Any images your company uses in brochures, ads, social media posts, etc., should match your brand voice and tone. Is your aim to be lighthearted and fun or serious and professional? Outlining guidelines for imagery will help you ensure that all customer-facing touchpoints communicate the same brand identity.
Step 6: Set Your Tone and Voice
Once you have set the style for your visual assets, including your logo, colors, fonts, and brand imagery, you can focus on your written assets. Your brand voice and tone help communicate your personality to current and prospective customers. These components of your identity should complement those you have set for your visual style.
Your tone and voice will inform everything from content like blog posts and videos to social media and ad copy. Any written communication between you and your customers should be consistent. If your social media posts are cheeky and humorous, but your blog posts are dry and matter-of-fact, it could confuse your customers. They may not be able to tell which tone is more authentic to your brand. If you don’t have a brand tone and voice in mind, take inspiration from your vision and mission statement, as mentioned before.
Fenty Beauty established its brand identity as an inclusive cosmetics company with products for everyone regardless of skin tone and gender. The company uses this identity to establish its tone and voice. Its brand guidelines specifically cover using inclusive pronouns like “we” and “our” instead of the pronouns "she" and "her" commonly seen in cosmetics advertising.
Along with written communication, Fenty Beauty’s tone and voice guidelines extend to employees in kiosks and retail locations who sell the products. Sales associates are directed to be bubbly and enthusiastic, matching the brand’s overall tone and voice.
To set your own tone and voice:
- Think of your audience.
- Know your unique brand value.
- Look at existing communication.
- Develop your tone.
Know Your Audience
Your key customers will help you determine your brand tone and voice. If you’ve already developed marketing personas as part of your marketing plan, you probably have an idea of your target customer. If not, do some background research. Collect demographic information on your best customers and note the similarities.
You will likely have more than one brand persona. Find the similarities between these different groups to figure out what tone would speak to them. For example — Fenty Beauty has a wide variety of customers of all ages and backgrounds. But each of them responds to the company’s vibrant and bubbly tone. The company’s brand personality is built around confidence and inclusivity, which appeals to customers.
Use Your Unique Brand Value
When you opened your business, you may have established your unique value proposition in your business plan. This refers to the elements of your brand that stand out among your competitors. It’s why your customers choose to do business with you.
Your unique values will help you build your brand tone and voice. For example, if you run a SaaS company that offers project management software allowing team members to collaborate more easily, you’re competing in a crowded market. Knowing why your customers value your product will help you set your tone.
Your best customers might find your product easy to use and appreciate that they don’t have to train new team members on how to use its features. You might adopt a brand voice that conveys efficiency and enhanced productivity.
Look at Your Existing Communication
If your company has been around for a while, look through existing content and social media posts to see what gets the most engagement. You should be able to see consistency with the voice and tone of these posts. Use them to establish your brand guidelines.
Develop Your Tone
Once you have an idea of your ideal customer and what resonates with them, use it to create your ideal tone. Create guidelines for:
- Sentence structure and writing style
- The overall feel of written communication
Imagine that your company is a person. Visualize this person when writing your voice and tone guidelines. Consider:
- How do they speak?
- How do they sound when they talk?
- How do they make people feel?
- Are they formal or relaxed?
- Are they perky or reserved?
Creating a brand personality will help you develop guidelines that enhance brand consistency, whether the copy is written in-house or externally.
Create a Brand Guideline and Unify the Tone of Your Business
Creating brand guidelines is a large undertaking, and there is a lot to consider. But doing so is the first step in establishing a strong brand that resonates with current and potential customers. Each part of your brand guidelines should work together to build a brand that sticks with people and helps them remember you when they need to solve their own problems.
Get started by honing your mission and values and use them to create your brand guidelines.