Whether your brand is traveling down the hall to a colleague's office or across the globe, you need to safeguard it for the journey ahead. With freelancers, marketing agencies, internal teams, and many others using your brand in communications and content, it's easy for inconsistencies and misuse to arise.
A brand identity kit can help by providing disparate groups and individuals with the tools and information they need to uphold your brand consistently. In fact, a brand identity kit is an absolute must-have for all businesses!
In this post, we’ll help you put together a winning brand identity kit by answering these questions:
What is a brand identity kit?
How does it differ from brand guidelines?
And, what essentials must you include in yours?
What is a brand kit?
A brand identity kit is a resource containing the rules of your brand and how people should apply it holistically to maintain brand consistency. It should include the most business-critical visual assets and information, such as where to find logos, how to use them, approved color palettes, typography styles, and other visual attributes.
What’s the difference between brand guidelines and a brand kit?
Both brand guidelines and a brand identity kit are used to uphold the consistency of your brand, but they aren’t one in the same. While a brand kit speaks more to the visual elements of your brand, brand guidelines (also known as a brand style guide) are a set of standards and details that explain how your brand should be communicated –– whether in written, visual, or audio form.
In many cases, the information in your brand identity kit is an important element of your greater brand guidelines. But don’t get too hung up on the labels. The important thing is that you arm your teams with the framework and resources they need to deliver a consistent, cohesive, and memorable brand experience across all touchpoints.
For more information on developing brand guidelines, check out our handy tips here!
What should I include in my brand kit?
Consistency is the backbone of every memorable and recognizable brand. When putting together your brand identity kit, think about the most important visual elements and information needed to uphold the visual integrity of your brand across platforms, audiences, countries, and beyond. While there are a lot of elements you could include, we recommend starting with the essentials below.
Anyone that touches your brand — from creatives to sales managers — needs to understand your target market and why your brand matters to that audience. Without this knowledge, it’s challenging for people to use your brand’s visuals in a way that will resonate with the intended audience.
Start by providing a positioning statement, or concise description of your audience and how they perceive your brand. Keep it simple, but memorable, honest, and unique to your market. Then, share your brand promise. What are you committed to delivering to your audience? What aspirations do you vow to work toward?
Lastly, communicate your unique value proposition. Include a detailed explanation or simply include your brand’s tagline — sometimes a short, catchy phrase says it all!
Just as a person possesses characteristics that define who they are, a brand has traits, too. Other companies may share similar characteristics, but none of them are quite like yours.
Capture the key brand qualities that humanize your brand and describe its distinct personality. Thinking about your brand as an actual human can be a helpful exercise. What are your brand’s “always traits” and “never traits?”
In other words, your brand could “always” strive to be optimistic, trustworthy, and witty, but “never” foolish, insulting, or dishonest. Whatever the case, remember that while you should put this down in writing, it’s just as important to practice what you preach.
Logos and wordmarks
While some assets used to communicate your brand are somewhat subjective, your company’s logos or wordmarks leave little to no room for interpretation. However, it’s up to you to define what proper use looks like. For starters, give people access to your logos and wordmarks. Include applicable high-resolution formats (e.g. TIFFs, PNGs, PDFs, and JPEGs).
Also include all logo and wordmark variations like vertical, horizontal, and tagline versions. Protect against incorrect colors, pixelation, and modifications by detailing use cases and instructions. For example, provide standards for white space surrounding your logos and wordmarks. Set limits for how small or large they can appear to avoid unrecognizable or ineffective reproductions.
Lastly, make it visual. Show people what incorrect usage looks like. Seeing how bad a distorted logo or non-complementary background color looks, helps drive home the message.
Just as your brand has unique character traits, it also has a look, feel, and visual identity that plays a role in the recognition and perception of your brand. And that look and feel has to be consistent from in-store touchpoints and websites to digital ads and social media channels.
It helps to put your brand’s visual identity into words. What mood, feeling, or emotions should your brand elicit from your audience? Be descriptive and provide examples of appropriate visuals, along with general do’s and don’ts for visual treatment. This is your opportunity to highlight acceptable styles for any and all visuals such as lifestyle photos, stock imagery, videos, and graphics. If you favor well-lit, realistic photography over illustrations, make those parameters clear.
And, make sure to give people access to your approved brand assets. Your teams and partners absolutely need a digital repository with approved creative to use and reference for inspiration. Give everyone a central place to get up-to-date visual assets (like logos) and it’ll be easier to consistently present your visual brand across every channel and environment.
The colors that represent your brand are what make your brand instantly recognizable. Take Coca-Cola for example. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that didn’t associate red with this global, household brand.
To ensure that everyone uses the perfect red throughout communications, Coca-Cola doesn’t say their brand color is “red.” Rather, they assign a CMYK, RGB, and PMS color code. As such, your brand identity kit must include your brand’s color identifiers.
Take care to include your brand's primary colors, as well as the secondary colors that support and complement your main color palette. Lastly, provide directions on when it's appropriate to use colors, combinations, and palettes.
While often overlooked, the fonts you use to communicate your brand contribute to its identity — the people, products, and culture that it embodies. Include your brand font and an approved backup or two in case your font is unavailable.
Some brands, like Netflix, create their own fonts to save money on licensing fees and to represent their brand with a typeface that won’t be seen anywhere else. The BBC, YouTube, Google, and Apple are a few other companies that have gone this route to distinguish their brand identity.
Using a single typeface across all communications gives your brand — down to the look of the words — consistency. Think through all use cases and provide type treatment guidelines around size, hierarchy, and font-weight. For example, you may want to specify approved font sizes for blog headlines versus subheads and body copy. Or, you may have strict typography rules for advertisements and sales collateral.
Strike a balance; you need to give creatives and marketers some creative freedom to push the envelope but also control for the most critical elements of your brand.
Your brand identity kit should always include at least one point of contact that can answer questions and provide support. Make sure to include contact information like name, email, and phone number, along with details like job title, location, and any special instructions.
Lastly, think strategically about the questions you receive. Often, this feedback signals holes or clarifications that you can use to improve your brand identity kit. When you make it a regular practice to turn this feedback into identity kit updates, you can keep pace with your constantly evolving brand.
Where to store your brand kit
Once you’ve created your brand identity kit, make sure it’s available to those who need it. You can provide your brand identity kit in any convenient format, such as a shared document or webpage with information and links.
The important thing is that your brand identity kit (and assets) live in a central location that’s easily accessible. The unique needs of your organization will determine the best solution to help you centralize, store, and manage your kit and assets.
For some organizations, a simple webpage and links to a file-sharing solution do the trick. For others, a brand management solution, like the Widen Collective®, is best because it provides a single source of truth for the assets and information that power your brand –– wherever it travels.
For more strategies and tools to help you deliver a clear, controlled, and consistent brand, download our guide: How to Make Your Brand a Pillar of Strength.
Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated to remain current.