Understanding Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are the governing rules that enable your brand identity system to be globally unified and, well, a system. They encompass the voice, tone, color, palettes, patterns, formats, imagery, typography, topology and usage of all assets to be a timeless global visual language that remains un-tattered and non-diluted. A set of clear guidelines that a brand uses to present itself cohesively to its audience(s). But the brand guidelines shouldn’t only be focused on your visual Identity system alone.
Brand Guidelines should include your Brand Strategy
Most companies just focus on the visual elements of the brand in the usage guidelines. This mostly spawns from design schools focusing on this single practice. However, the brand strategy must be included as its own section since it’s the verbal identity that expands the story and ties it into the visual identity. Why is this important? Taken as a whole, it ensures that, regardless of the channel, the content is unmistakably from the brand: Your brand consistency is assured.
The Disconnect Between Accounting and Marketing
However, not everyone sees the value in this. CEOs, especially those with backgrounds in Finance or Engineering, may regard brand guidelines as a superfluous detail. They might prioritize tangible metrics over the seemingly subjective aspects of branding. This disconnect is apparent when the sales team convinces the CEO to create a “cool new ad” to help boost sales. The creative team starts asking questions: "Who's the target audience?" "Should it be funny or serious?" Without brand guidelines, these questions become a maze with no exit.
Brand Guidelines in Action
In contrast, a creative team armed with comprehensive brand guidelines has a roadmap to get them to the finish line quickly. Knowing the brand's voice and tone, they can immediately determine the appropriate emotional resonance of the campaign. The target audience is already defined, and the humor or seriousness of the content has been pre-decided to align with the brand's personality. For example, a company like T-Mobile uses its distinctive magenta and playful voice consistently across campaigns, creating a recognizable and relatable brand presence. Liquid Death uses its campy and irreverent voice to make drinking water something worth identifying with and talking about. Before liquid death who would ever have talked about their water or proudly held a can at a party where everyone was drinking cocktails?
The Cost of Overlooking Brand Guidelines
Neglecting brand guidelines comes at a cost. The inconsistency can confuse customers and erode trust. A study by Lucidpress shows that consistent branding can increase revenue by 23%. That is huge! Of course, making the creative team more efficient means they can use more channels to get the word out. Bonus points. Also, we all remember Gap and Tropicana’s epic fails. Having brand usage guidelines that include both the visual and verbal identity will prove invaluable every time.
Bridging the Gap
Senior leadership teams need to understand and support the use of brand guidelines. CEOs should not only be aware of the guidelines but also advocate for them and keep department heads accountable for proper adherence. They should include the creative team in strategic discussions to ensure the brand guidelines are not only followed but also have the flexibility to evolve with the needs of the customer.
Brand guidelines are an essential investment that drive strong results over time.
They are as crucial as any financial forecast or engineering blueprint. CEOs and other senior executives have a responsibility to understand, engage with and champion these guidelines. By doing so, they ensure that the company's vision is not just a statement on a wall but a living, breathing aspect of every piece of communication put out into the world.
Tips for CEOs