You know how important it is for potential and existing customers to feel good about your brand. Their impression of it creates expectations around the quality and value of your offering and how it will feel to use your product or service. Create positive expectations, and your customers will buy from your brand before they think of others in your market — that’s branding 101.
To create that kind of brand loyalty, every business needs to tell a memorable story about who they are, what they stand for, and why that’s valuable. Once you’ve got this story down, you’ve got to tell it consistently across all touchpoints to foster a clear, reliable, and strong recall of your brand story and its value.
That’s where your brand style guide comes in. It’s a branding checklist that bundles up all the information and resources your internal and external teams need to represent your brand. With clear instructions on how to use all your brand assets, you can create and maintain brand consistency.
Why you need a brand style guide
If you’re a brand manager, you know that a brand style guide documents how to present your brand in written, visual, and audio communication. It’s a great way to centralize branding elements, producing consistency across marketing, sales, product, and customer service communications by providing all the specifications your teams need to create a cohesive brand experience.
Your brand style guide helps answer questions like:
- What is our brand promise?
- What are the HEX values of our brand’s colors?
- Should our writing be formal or informal?
- Which logo should I use?
Answer these frequently asked questions and equip your teams to successfully present your brand.
Why it helps to have a branding checklist
Whether your company is a startup or an established organization going through a rebrand, a brand checklist is essential. Understanding your branding elements will make it easier to apply them consistently across your marketing collateral, internal documentation, sales tools, and more. A brand guidelines checklist will speed up the creation process and ensure you’ve considered everything you need to present a consistent, cohesive brand across all channels.
What to include in a brand style guide
A brand style guide should include all the information your teams need to successfully build and maintain brand consistency. That’s anything pertinent to brand design, style, essence elements, and how to use your brand assets. Since there are so many elements that impact the perception of your brand — from image quality to tone of voice — we recommend starting small (with even just one or two elements from the checklist below) and growing from there. If you receive multiple questions about a branding element, add the answer to your style guide.
One way to ensure you include all necessary brand elements in your customer experiences is to include a branding checklist in your style guide.
Your branding checklist
You need a reliable internal approval process to guard against brand-damaging content blunders. Healthy approval processes need standards for teams to quickly agree on. Add this checklist to your brand style guide to give everyone a way to check for brand consistency. Or, if you don’t have a style guide yet, use the checklist to start one. Remember to keep these crucial guidelines top-of-mind by making them easily accessible to all team members. Let’s explore the elements to consider as part of your branding checklist.
1. Document your brand mission statement
Your mission statement will be your brand’s North Star. It will help teams and partners bring your brand to life in all facets of their work. Knowing why your company exists and what its purpose is will help ensure everyone work toward a common goal. Your mission statement differentiates your company from other brands.
2. Get to know your audience
Your brand mission statement should be created with your audience in mind. Once you’ve identified both of those pieces, it’s important to learn all you can about your audience and what they want. That research will help guide other brand elements and ensure that you use words, visuals, and values that are meaningful to your customers.
3. Articulate your brand vision
How will you know if your brand is being communicated and embodied effectively? Your brand vision helps teams understand what your mission statement looks like when it’s activated. Knowing how your brand looks and feels in the world is a good way to understand if your work effectively contributes to the greater goal.
4. Understand your brand values
Your brand values guide and direct your culture and how you approach your work. Documenting and consistently communicating these values to your teams will help them embrace these foundational motivators and treasured principles day-to-day.
5. Choose your brand logo
A logo is a visual element that, when done well, is recognized at a glance. It’s a representation of your brand’s mission, vision, and values. Be sure to reserve ample time for designing your logo to ensure that every color, font choice, and design element is purposefully selected and carefully considered. While a logo can change and evolve over time, updating it too often and without good reason can negatively impact brand recognition and, as a result, brand loyalty.
6. Select colors and fonts to represent your brand
Along with your logo, your brand should use approved colors and fonts consistently and correctly to present a unified brand experience. When selecting these (and any elements), ensure you have a clear understanding of why you’ve chosen them and how they tell the story of your brand. These hard-working visuals personify who you are as a brand — the personality of your people, products, and culture — so take care to get them right.
7. Develop your brand tone and voice
Words are important. And how you choose to write impacts how your brand is received by your audience. Think of your brand tone and voice in relation to a conversation. How do you want to come across and leave people feeling? Will your style be playful? Serious? Informational? Helpful? Or perhaps it’s a combination. Whatever you choose, ensure that it’s documented so that, no matter who’s writing on your brand’s behalf, it sounds like a single entity.
8. Understand your brand's visual and audio elements
Your music and voiceover choices for branded videos, the photography you select, and even the white space in your graphics, signal to your audience who you are as a brand. It’s important to document not only what brand elements will be used but how they’ll be used so you ensure they’re used consistently across all channels. Take your time to enunciate this clearly and thoughtfully.
Ready for the next level?
With a style guide and brand checklist in hand, you’ve started to practice the discipline of brand management. Brand management takes constant work, especially when multiple people and teams collaborate to create, manage, and distribute your content. This do-it-yourself checklist is a great place to start — but it doesn’t stop there.
Once you have your brand defined and have started creating the elements and visuals to support it, you need to make sure your teams have easy, secure access to this content. To do so, many teams rely on a digital asset management (DAM) solution. DAM software is used to enhance the way entire organizations protect and manage their brand.
Companies like Hootsuite, McCormick, and Energizer all use Widen DAM to create a single source of truth for their assets. Providing this level of access empowers their international organization to create a cohesive and consistent brand experience.
Note: This article was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated to remain current.