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Why following brand guidelines is important?

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Do you dream of creating a strong brand, that will quickly become a market leader in its sector? Do you need guidance on how to start your marketing activities? Maybe you already have a company, but its developing speed and place on the market do not satisfy you? If that’s the case, you should definitely learn the rules of building a coherent brand visual identity! In this article, we’ll go over brand guidelines examples used by companies that have created a coherent brand image. We’ll also show you how to get started and implement similar solutions in your own company!

Brand identity guidelines – what are they?

According to the definition, identification is the basic tool that allows you to create a consistent brand image on the market. This term encompasses all symbols and procedures used in a company to create a coherent market identification. A proper brand identity can be obtained by following brand guidelines rules.

Why are brand guidelines important?

Let’s start from the top – why is it important to have a clear brand identity? Have a look at big companies such as McDonald’s, Apple or the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. You would surely be able to easily tell which of them identifies with the bitten apple, golden arcs resembling the letter “M”, and which identifies with a red heart. That’s what we’re talking about! These symbols have been imprinted on your memory and now, without thinking, you connect them with these brands, although they could be associated with something entirely different. This is the end goal of creating a coherent visual brand identity – to link an image with a brand. Its purpose is to make everyone recognize your company immediately, without hesitation, at any time and place, thanks to certain symbols, colors or shapes.

What should be included in brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines, and their presentation to recipients, are often treated superficially. Typically, business owners focus on making the logo interesting and the website aesthetic. That, however, is not enough! Full, consistent visual brand identification should include:

  • The full logo, as well as any coexisting icons and additional logos – necessary if you sometimes use an abbreviated name. The best example would be Google. As often as the full logo with the company’s name, we can also find the letter “G” by itself.
  • Logo color palette, i.e. primary and secondary colors. For example, McDonald’s fast-food chain uses gold and red, whereas KFC is white and red.
  • Typography in brand guidelines specifies i.e. font styles, sizes, and spacing. Its consistency is especially important not only in official documents or offers but also on the website.
  • Graphics and images, i.e. the style of added photos, created infographics, social media posts, etc. The Polish advertising agency, Social Media Now, is a great example of sticking to specific brand guidelines on their Facebook page.
  • The method of communication, i.e. the language used, emotions put into communication, etc. Let’s use Sinsay as an example for this point, it’s a Polish brand that creates clothing mainly for young people and uses teen language to create light and easy-to-understand messages for their target audience. On the other hand, we have Monnari. Even though this brand also sells clothes, it is the complete opposite of Sinsay, as it targets a much older clientele.

Brand guidelines – examples

You might be wondering whether you need to look for inspiration only from premium brands or the largest companies in the world when trying to create your brand’s visual identity. Of course, you can look up to and be inspired by such giants as Coca-Cola, Nike, Audi, or Dior, but it’s not a must. There are many companies in Poland that are worth following when it comes to brand guidelines. Those include, among others, InPost, Dr. Irena Eris, Plantule Pillows, Grycan, and E. Wedel.

Let’s focus on InPost, which only a few years ago was just starting out on the parcel delivery market, and today is the undisputed leader of that sector. Of course, the idea and its implementation were of the greatest importance here. However, if you were asked what colors do you associate with InPost, would you be able to answer correctly? Most of us immediately see yellow (predominant), black and white. What’s more, InPost has a great brand identification when it comes to language. Their funny messages and notes in ordinary e-mails with notifications about parcel status were a great hit on the Internet! We should not fail to mention the “brand’s hero” – a charming, yellow square (symbolizing a package), which expresses emotions based on the stage of the shipment. As you can see, our domestic companies are also great at creating a coherent brand image, so it’s worth getting inspired by their actions!

What is a brand guide?

To create a coherent brand image, you have to plan every step – i.e. you need to create the branding document (brand standards guide). Some people call it a “visual cheat sheet” and they are quite right in doing so. Branding document is also called “living document”. Why? Because it is constantly evolving and as the brand or product develops, this document is also changing to adapt to this dynamic. You should put in it information regarding:

  • Brand logo and its alternative versions
  • Logo dimensions
  • Guidelines on brand logo usage including inadmissible uses of the logo
  • Primary and secondary colors
  • Primary and secondary fonts
  • Icons
  • Guidelines for images – i.e. what style, atmosphere, colors should they have
  • Method of communication
  • Decorative elements for graphics
  • Additional inspirations

What else is important? The style guide must be clear not only for the marketing department but also for front-end developers, programmers, graphic designers, employees responsible for mailing, designers, and all other people who communicate with customers on behalf of the brand in any way.

Why do I need brand guidelines?

Let’s assume that you are a manufacturer of sweatshirts with original prints. Initially, you work alone, so you know how to communicate with customers, but over time you hire someone to deal with packing, then someone for customer service, then a programmer creating your e-commerce, graphic designer, social media specialist, and before you know it, your company has a dozen or so people who represent it to a greater or lesser extent. Now you are unable to control every outgoing e-mail or package sent, and implementing visual identity is more difficult than when you were alone. The absence of brand guidelines is one of the common marketing problems that can lead to inconsistencies in brand messaging and visual identity, resulting in customer confusion and a weakened brand image. That is why it is worth having a style guide at the beginning, which will contain all the information and guidelines on how to use the brand elements. This way you will not have to spend time explaining to everyone what fonts to use in e-mails, what photos to put on social media sites, what the leaflets attached to the packages should look like or how the e-mail should be structured. Everything will be contained in a document, to which employees will be able to return at any time!

It is worth educating new and existing employees about the brand guidelines. It’s an important part of an internal branding strategy. For more information check the article “What is internal branding?”

How to create a style guide for your brand?

Now that you know what a “visual cheat sheet” is and what you need it for, it’s time to move on to how to create it. The first question is whether you want to do it yourself or hire professionals to do it for you.

Is it worth hiring a third party to create a style guide?

Many brand owners feel very insecure when an outsider creates the style guide for their company. Most of them are afraid that by entrusting this matter to a company specialized in creating visual identification, they will not have an impact on the final appearance of the whole thing, or that they will get a template that was repeatedly copied for other customers. They couldn’t be more wrong! Every professional company that undertakes the implementation of brand guidelines conducts an extensive interview with the client and then prepares several options from which they select one. The subsequent process of fine-tuning the style guide involves the continued collaboration of the brand owner and the hired company. You also don’t have to worry about receiving a project that has already been submitted multiple times. This kind of agencies employ people who know very well what works in specific industries, they base their strategies on proven patterns, but approach each project individually, respecting the needs and expectations of the client.

While developing a style guide in-house may seem like a viable option, enlisting the support of a specialized branding service can provide a fresh perspective and industry best practices. Our branding services can work collaboratively with your team to create a customized style guide that captures the essence of your brand, setting you up for long-term success.

Create a style guide by yourself

If you want to create your brand’s identity or simply your budget does not currently include the possibility of investing in cooperation with an external company, you must be prepared for hard and creative work, which is still very satisfying. How to create a style guide for your brand?

1. Brainstorm ideas for your brand outline

At the beginning, it is necessary to think about all the possibilities, don’t disregard any ideas, gather inspiration, design desired associations, etc. The more ideas, the better, you’ll have plenty to choose from later on.  When discussing brand guidelines, it’s essential to explore how branding archetypes can be effectively communicated through various brand elements, such as logos, packaging, and advertising materials.

2. Do your market research

Remember that each industry has its colors, way of communication and graphical presentation of its activities. For example, clothing brands are associated primarily with a subdued, even monochromatic color palette. Many exclusive cosmetic brands work similarly. But what about banks? It’s quite the opposite! Green, navy blue and blue were once the dominant colors in this sector. For some reason, institutions with such color identification were perceived as trustworthy. Nowadays, everything has changed and banks want to be perceived as modern, technologically advanced and customer friendly. That’s why Millennium Bank has a furiously pink logo, Alior Bank is kept in subdued but clear colors (burgundy and yellow), and MBank tempts with multicolored signs. It’s worth checking carefully what colors and why dominate in your industry, and then consider whether it’s better to go this way or to break out from the commonly used pattern. It is also important to keep yourself up to date and follow trends, as it is a very dynamic issue, which was perfectly illustrated by the example of banks on the Polish market.

3. Specify all your goals

The next step is to make a specific decision regarding your brand logo – what font you are interested in, what colors etc. It’s a difficult task. How do you know that in a few years the identification will still match your preferences? The best idea is to put your money on a timeless solution, that is unlikely to change over time.

4. Create brand guidelines document

Brand guidelines should be in the form of an editable document, preferably in a variety of formats that are easy to share with others. As we’ve mentioned, it will evolve as your brand grows, so you should be able to change it accordingly.

5. Don’t forget to go through it from time to time

Many business owners create their perfect brand guidelines and then ditch them in the depths of their hard drive to never look at them again. This is a huge mistake that you should not make!

Brand guidelines – are they important to customers?

You already know that creating a visually consistent brand identity makes work easier, but what does such consistency give to the customers? Here are the 3 main reasons why you should create very precise branding guidelines.

1. Let them find you!

First reason: the ease of searching. If someone wanted to use your services, they would start looking for you on the Internet. Sometimes companies have very similar names, but differ in terms of logos or the way of communication in social media. Thanks to brand consistency in the way of communication, anyone interested will easily find your website or your store in a shopping mall. Still not sure how it works? The markets of large cities will serve as a great example. When you walk around them, you can notice from a distance the characteristic green and white logo informing that you can drink your favorite coffee at Starbucks nearby. It is not the case that the colors of the brand’s logo or the font stand out from other cafés. Still, the combination of green and white, and a thick, visible font works!

2. Let them remember you!

Another issue is the fact that consistent and, above all, tailored to the industry visual identification makes brands much better remembered. Look at luxury brands such as Chanel, Dior and Prada. They want to be associated with prestige, elegance and class, and thus their identification includes white and black, sometimes gold.

3. Let them like you!

When getting to know different brands, people often have their favorite ones, even though their product range does not differ significantly. There have always been battles between fans of Coca-Cola and Pepsi or Cinema City and Multikino for a reason. Simply put, we become more attached to certain brands. Very often, it is the visual identification that’s the deciding factor. For example, the corporate brand guidelines for the Multikino chain, and more specifically the colors used, focus on a strong pink that catches the eye. In addition, there is a characteristic star in the logo. Therefore, all fans of such neon, candy colors will certainly choose this option rather than Cinema City which has dark colors and an orange logo.

As you can see, brand guidelines are needed not only for the greater or lesser aesthetic sensitivity of the audience, but also to build relationships and leave your mark on the public awareness! It’s worth to remember that every time you have a thought in your head that goes “this one Instagram post can be different from the others” or “this is what the marketing department does, let them find another graphic designer”.

Is it possible to change brand guidelines?

Can brand guidelines change through time? Yes, it is the most common procedure, but the company must have a very solid, established position. However, you should not change two things at once – the visual identification and the name. Such action could destroy the company’s recognition – although such rebranding was successfully implemented in a few cases. A great example of a partial rebranding that worked is E. Wedel. Most of us know their packaging – toned-down, dark blue wrappers. Today, most of the chocolates are wrapped in a sky-blue foil, on which the new ‘brand hero’ – zebra – has appeared. The visual identity is therefore entirely different, while the name remains the same. This chocolate brand is already so well-established that it did not have to worry that anyone would forget it, so changing the color of the packaging did not affect sales. The outcome could be different if the manufacturer of sweets changed the name as well. This move could significantly affect the brand’s recognition. Another example of partial rebranding is OLX, which was called Tablica.pl a few years ago. Today, no one remembers the old name and visual identity that went with it, although at first, it wasn’t easy for customers to get used to the changes. Nevertheless, OLX had such a strong position on the market that they came out of this change unscathed.

Now you know why presenting your brand the right way is important! Are you wondering whether you’re able to create visual identification according to brand guidelines or not? Or maybe you know that it’s completely outside your comfort zone? If you’re feeling lost, contact us! We will help you not only in building a cohesive image and corporate branding but also in creating a way of communication that will allow you to keep regular customers and encourage new ones to use your services or make purchases in your store!

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