Brand Guidelines: What They Are And Why You Need Them
A recent study suggests that 88% of consumers value authenticity when deciding what brands they support. When it comes to creating authenticity for a business, I find it’s easiest to think of your company in human terms.
As humans, we have identities we’ve built for ourselves. These identities manifest in the way we present ourselves to the world- how we talk, dress, interact with others, etc. Ultimately, our lives are run by these micro rules we set up for ourselves which become the primary way people know what we are all about.
Your company is much the same. Customers long to connect and resonate with your business the way they connect with people. For that reason, it’s important to have an established set of rules you follow to make sure your company has a reliable identity. This set of rules is called your brand guidelines.
Practically, brand guidelines are delivered as a large document that covers all the essentials of your brand.
Great guidelines can be broken down into four distinct identity categories.
Let’s dive into what these categories should cover and how they manifest as a final deliverable.
Example pages from Golden Auer Photography's guidelines made in 2022.
The first few pages of your guidelines should cover the “why” that drives the decisions your brand makes. In this section, topics are covered such as:
Why your business exists
Who your business serves
Why your logo was designed the way it was
Symbolism that is important to your company
This section essentially sets the ground rules for your brand as it continues to grow.
This is the visual identity of your business. Ideally, your brand will appear on many different mediums varying from websites to print materials. It’s important that no matter where your brand is found, it is easily recognizable simply by the way it looks. In fact, one study suggests that by using a signature color, brands can increase their recognizability by 80%.
The tools this section provides are:
Your brand fonts and when to use them
Your exact colors
The style of photography you use
Similar to your look, your brand speech plays a huge role in helping customers recognize who you are. This topic mostly covers how to write your copy and how to conduct yourself on social media. Is your brand sarcastic? Serious? Playful? Mysterious? Having a description of your brand voice ultimately sets you up to write captions or website content that customers learn to trust.
Lastly, great brand guidelines capture the story of who your business is and, more importantly, where your business is going. This is often delivered as “your brand story”. It is essentially a road map breaking down the big picture of your company and how your brand will practically help get you there.
After all, what’s the point of all this if you don’t have a final destination in mind?
Overall, brand guidelines are essential to humanizing your company. Having a consistent rule book to refer back to makes your job as a business owner much less daunting and significantly more fruitful.
Don’t skip out on this step when setting up your business. I promise, the future you (and all your customers) will benefit from it. Reach out to a brand designer to get started.