Instant recognition. Brand recall. Brand consistency.
Ring any bells?
All three phrases embody what every entrepreneur wants for their business: success and longevity.
Brands like Nike, Google, and 3M and the rest of the gang have all three.
You can recognize them from a mile off and know instantly who and what they are.
Why? Because of brand consistency.
However, brand consistency is something that some companies have had to work toward after a few hits and misses (think GAP, Pepsi, and Kraft).
To become instantly recognizable, you need to use the same logo, fonts, colors, images, and voice for your brand in all your marketing materials and channels.
All these elements are embodied in your brand guidelines.
What is a brand guide?
Your brand guidelines, brand style guide, brand bible, or brand guide is a rulebook of sorts that contains all the possible ways your brand can be presented in different mediums or channels, and even when using different materials.
Its primary function is to ensure your brand is presented with consistency in terms of the logo, font, and color selections, use of specific imagery, etc. It indicates how your brand is supposed to look, feel, and sound in a given context, so there’s no confusion or ambiguity.
For example, the Nike swoosh has been printed or embossed on different materials (e.g., packaging, apparel, banners). You see the exact same swoosh symbol, although there may be several versions of it — some with the swoosh symbol alone, and sometimes with the word Nike, or sometimes using different colors.
Such branding decisions are not done at random or decided on out of the blue. They are the result of hours, days, or even months of planning, strategizing, research, and analysis.
In it for the long haul
A brand guide is not something you change overnight if you’re serious about achieving brand recognition or instant recall — which is precisely why it’s something that’s planned and brainstormed repeatedly.
Why? Even for the most profitable brands, a rebranding can mean massive losses.
Just look at what happened to GAP’s attempt at rebranding in 2010.
It cost them a whopping $100 million — and they had to revert to their original logo, anyway.
And it’s not just about the visuals either. If it were, you might need to change your branding materials over and over again based on what’s trendy or in style.
Brand guide essentials
But what do you include in your brand guide?
Aside from the obvious — i.e., the logo, colors, and fonts to be used — you need to include your brand vision, mission, and personality, as well as a voice and tone guide.
- Vision: Your future aspirations or what you want to become
- Mission: Your purpose, who you are and what you do
- Personality: Human traits attributed to your brand (e.g., young and fun as opposed to classy and mature)
- Voice and tone (or tone of voice): Reflects your brand personality and helps you connect or communicate with your audience (e.g., inspiring and uplifting, friendly and informative)
Remember, these are all must-haves — no compromising.
But do you really need a brand guide?
Probably, if you’re planning to be doing business for years.
There’s no industry or business that doesn’t benefit from branding — including B2B professional services, manufacturers, and wholesalers. And yes, even the mom and pop store next door is benefiting from some form of branding because all enterprises deal with people. These include the customers, vendors, executives, and others you deal with daily or occasionally.
Remember, a brand guide embodies you and the core of your business.
So it’s not just about the logo, fonts, and colors you use.
Why your business needs a brand guide ASAP
A successful brand is an asset, and no entrepreneur in their right mind forgets about this.
But to be successful, you need to put in the work and time. Branding entails a long-term strategy that shows where your business is now, and where it will be in 5, 10, 15 years — and beyond.
More importantly, you need to have a clear vision of how you will get there.
Just look at what we were able to accomplish with the rebrand of a one-person SaaS, whose owner entrusted to us not only rebranding work, but also migrating the users to a new, better website that was user-friendly and inspired trust — something sorely lacking in the original website.
For a brand to be successful, it should also support innovation and change over the years. Just look at what Dove has done with their mission statement “encourage women to love themselves.”
Dove was established way back in 1957 as a personal care brand, but has now gone on to produce material that’s empowering and inspiring to women — something in keeping with the times.
They have been able to successfully launch new products that resonate with women without focusing on profit. Instead, they pull their market through consistently inspirational material — a surefire way to earn the trust, loyalty, and goodwill of one’s public.
Even B2B customers prioritize personal value over business value, so you need to keep this in mind to engage your audience. Make them feel what your business stands for and make them part of the story.
If you’re aiming for success and longevity, and if you want to stay relevant, take good care of your brand.
Time to start creating your brand guide
All of these guideline templates are effective and can work for you.
However, you will find that most brand guide templates require brand strategy experience and design software to yield the best results. Some of those available online also require payment upfront.
If these are concerns to you, why not check out our free online style guide generator and see the magic happen.