Whether you’re a one-person show or a large company, having a brand style guide is essential for your business for a number of reasons.
Not only can it allow you to build trust and credibility, but it can also help you save precious time and contribute to your bottom line.
In this article, we will be looking at why this is so important and the benefits of having a brand style guide can bring to your business.
What is a brand style guide anyway?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your brand has a style. Maybe it is something you have worked on and defined or perhaps it is something that happened along the way as you built your website and collateral like marketing material including flyers, leaflets, adverts, and so forth. No matter what the style you adopt is, it ultimately determines how customers will perceive your business.
An important psychological study by Mehrabian and Ferris determined that communication can be broken down into a 60:40 ratio; 60% is non-verbal whilst 40% is what you say. Think about it; 60% of the message is how you are saying it and in the online world, that’s the style you adopt.
What are the benefits of having a brand style guide?
Its of the utmost importance that your communication has deep consistency throughout your marketing channels such as your web design, graphic design elements, and brand photography . Whether its colours, tone of voice, type of images used, font, or whatever it may be; it is all helping the customer build an image of who you are and what you can deliver. If the messaging is confusing, not only will you seem unprofessional, but customers and potential customers will slowly lose faith in your business.
It takes our brain very few seconds to form an opinion on something. This has been important for our survival where historically we needed to determine if something is a tiger (and run) or a cat (take a video and uploaded on YouTube). Our quick judgement is literally a survival mechanism, and when competition is everywhere, people will tend to err on the side of caution.
All businesses need to adapt. This is a fact of life. When you need to adapt you are not going to necessarily change your core message, but creating new landing page, marketing materials, adverts, and so on is going to be the order of the day. If you had to check the last piece of collateral you did every time you need to create a new advert it is going to take you an awful lot of time. By having a brand style guide handy all you’re going to have to do is refer to it and bam, everything is there and you can get straight to it.
So…what should I include my brand style guide?
What should go in s brand style guide? This is a very good question and depending on the brand it might change from one company to another. Having said that, here are a few things that should definitely be there;
Include your logo in your brand style guide, and any of the different scheme iterations available (if your logo is black, how will it change on a darker background?)
Which are the fonts that you use for your brand? List the fonts and font combinations you use throughout your website, landing pages, and marketing materials. Typography can go a long way in appearing consistent and it can even help with brand recognition. Think about how typography is ingrained in the branding od companies such as The New Yorker, Disney, and Canon.
Brand colour palettes
Which are the colour schemes that are pertinent to your brand? Make sure you list down the RBG or the HEX colour codes to make sure the colours are always perfect. Also include the colour combinations that you use to make sure you are consistent in the image you present to your publics.
Editorial Style Guide
It is important for your content to read as authoritative on the subject you are talking about. To be able to achieve this, you need to be consistent. Whilst certain editorial style guides can be quite comprehensive, adding certain elements of it into your brand style guide can also help you write better and faster.
Invariably, there are going to be certain words you are going to use over and over again (within limits of course). Whether its keywords, long-tail keywords, or even LSI keywords, be sure to list them and keep them updated. Remember, this is not an SEO document so only list those words or phrases that you use throughout your assets.
Tone of voice
Although not necessarily essential, it might be worth your while to take some time and include the tone of voice of your brand. This is going to help you sound more authoritative and as such build your credibility with your audience. You can also prepare article templates to reduce the amount of time at which you are able to churn out articles and improve your SEO.
What shouldn’t it include?
The more extensive the brand style guide is, the more helpful it is going to be for your business. Since this is a living, breathing document make sure you keep it as concise as possible to avoid lengthy updates which might make you abandon it all together (happens to the best of us, believe me).
Do not include anything that has to do anything with customer acquisition or retention since this falls out of the remits of this document. The actual templates should also stay out of the document; include only guides on how to write them, not the actual writings.
The importance of keeping it your brand style guide updated
Brands, like anything else evolve. Many big names undergo refreshes to ensure they stay relevant and looking updated as time goes by and trends change. Be sure to take the time to understand what is going on and update your style guide accordingly.
If you are thinking of doing an overhaul, whether this is a minor or a major one, it pays to start from the brand style guide first, and then update all of your assets according to the guide. This will help you save time and ensure consistency throughout all of your material.
Last few comments
As we said earlier, the brand style guide is a living and breathing document that needs to be updated every so often as your brand develops and matures. If you’re not quite sure how to formulate it do not panic! The important thing is to start then let it develop as you go along.