Tis the season for a little song about the gift of brand guidelines:

On the twelfth day of branding,
the sales and marketing guy sent to me:

Twelve colors clashing
Eleven photos blurring
Ten fonts a fighting
Nine voices shouting
Eight files crashing
Seven typos grinning
Six sub brands missing
Five bro-ken links…
Four mission statements
Three letterhead
Two tag lines
and a logo used in body copy.

I know at least one of the lines in my song applies to you. I’ve reviewed countless brands over the years and these problems are universal. These are the overlooked details that slowly chip away at the integrity of your brand, costing you time, money and customers.

There is a solution

They are called by many names and have varying definitions; Brand Guidelines, Brand Book, Identity Guidelines, Style Guide, Brand Standards or Brand Bible. We use Brand Guidelines. They are rules for the daily usage of your brand.

A brand without a logo has no face. A brand without guidelines has no integrity

Integrity is about understanding, managing and communicating your brand story consistently to all audiences. It starts with the logo but goes beyond that. Guidelines can be as simple or advanced as you need (see some examples here). It depends on the complexity of your brand. Basic Guidelines consist of:

• Logo Usage – Proper proportions, sizes, clear space, file formats and what you can and can’t do with it.
• Color Palette – Primary and Secondary palettes with formulas for print and digital
• Type Style – Defines specific font families to be used in print and digital applications
• Tagline Usage – Defines your tagline or key message and when, where and how to use it
• Image Strategy – Shows examples of image style and subject matter that help define the brand

Those may be enough for your needs, but to have tighter control of your brand, or if your needs are more complex, you can include:

• Brand History/Story
• Sub-brand Specifications
• Mission, Vision and Values Statements
• Tone of Voice (copy writing style)
• Editorial Guidelines
• Design layouts and grids for ads, brochures, stationery, etc.
• Social media profile page applications
• Signage Specifications
• Fleet Graphics
• Merchandising

Brand Guidelines should be scalable and allow for design flexibility, but be rigid enough that your audience always knows who you are. And someone in your organization needs to be your Brand Police.

Once you have them, you’ll wonder how you survived without them. Brand Guidelines are the gift that keeps on giving.

~ Chad