The brand guidelines document summarizes a company’s effort to integrate its visual, verbal and written communication efforts across different mediums and channels.
In part 1 of this series on developing brand guidelines I highlighted the importance of creating standards for each brand in the portfolio and provided some tips for increasing the document’s effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look at the most common sections found in a brand guidelines document:
This first section provides an overview of the document, explains the purpose of writing it and identifies its target audience. Usually written by the company’s owner or CEO, the introductory message usually includes the story behind the brand and the benefits it brings to the customer.
This is what Honeywell writes in their introduction: “For more than a century, the Honeywell name has been synonymous with technology solutions that improve people’s lives. In these complicated times, more than ever before in our history, customers are turning to Honeywell to help solve many of the world’s most complex problems.”
This chapter is a must for companies that market their products under multiple brands. It provides an overview of how the brand portfolio is structured into master brands, brand extensions, co-brands and endorsed brands.
Some brand manuals include a visual map that shows the different brands and how they relate to each other. If your company owns only one brand then you can skip this section.
Brand Vision, Mission, Objectives and Values
Every company, big or small, should have its vision, mission, objectives and values clearly defined and communicated. These elements help the company create a more profound connection with its customers, and provide inspiration and focus to the employees.
The brand guidelines document is the perfect place to have the vision, mission, objectives and values clearly stated.
EasyGroup‘s brand manual contains a slide solely dedicated to their mission statement: “Our mission is to manage and extend Europe’s leading value brand to more products and services, whilst creating real wealth for all stakeholders.”
Brand Differentiation Strategy
One of the most important sections of the document, this part summarizes the company’s competitive advantage, including the main differentiation points and supporting elements.
It is particularly important for the employees and external service providers to understand the company’s unique value proposition within the competitive landscape. That way they can work towards sustaining that competitive advantage and properly communicating it.
An integral part of the branding strategy, the tagline/slogan summarizes the brand positioning in a just a few words, and should be included in all the communication materials.
The brand guidelines should address the do’s and don’ts of using the slogan, such as typography, colour, spelling, punctuation marks, and location on the page and vis-à-vis the logo.
Brand Personality, Tone and Manner
People often describe brands in terms of human characteristics: Apple is “cool”, FedEx is “reliable”, etc.
Each brand has a unique “personality” that has to be nurtured and consistently reflected in the marketing collateral. In order for a designer to create materials that facilitate an emotional connection between the brand and its audience he/she has to fully understand what human characteristics the brand should reflect.
A brand could builds its personality on multiple elements: heritage, market positioning, colors, fonts, imagery, and communication style, to name just a few. A comprehensive brand guideline document provides an in-depth look at how the brand should speak and behave.
One of the most powerful assets of any company, the brand name should be correctly used and communicated. The guidelines should describe what the name symbolizes, the correct spelling, the fonts associated with the symbol, and the inclusion (or not) of the registration mark.
Some companies go to greater details and even recommend generic names that can be associated with their brand name.
Here is an excerpt from Cerflon®‘s brand guidelines: The ® and ™ after the CERFLON® and CERTEX™ brand name are necessary every time, whether in the logo brand, in a headline, or in the text of the document. It must be the same font size or a smaller font size than CERFLON® and CERTEX™…It may be beneficial to use a descriptive or generic term as well as the brand name when marketing the product. This is acceptable with prior approval from CRT.“
A brand’s logo is the most distinctive element of its identity.
It is also the symbol that’s most frequently used on all communication materials.
As a result it is important for brand managers to implement strict guidelines regarding its proper usage, such as specifying its Pantone color(s), acceptable color variations, minimum size requirements, and placement. Make sure you also list the elements that are not acceptable as related to logo usage, such drop shadows, boxes, fonts and sizes.
This is how Cambridge university describes their logo and its usage: “The logo consists of the coat of arms and the University of Cambridge logotype. It should not be redrawn, digitally manipulated or altered. It must always be positioned on the left.”
Colors are a strong integral part of a brand’s identity.
Think of the UPS brown or DeWalt yellow for example.
A typical brand color system consists of primary colors (most frequently used) as well as secondary, and even tertiary ones (used for backgrounds, headings, subheadings, paragraph, bullet points etc).
The guidelines should include a visual listing of the colors in each category, as well as details on the proper use of each color in the communication process.
This section includes the listing of all the fonts that are used to communicate the brand message.
Effective guidelines Include many examples of how different fonts are used in headings, sub-headings, body copy, footer, etc, slogan and logo.
An excerpt from the easyGroup brand manual: “The Cooper Black font has played an important part in building the Easy brand. Its bold, confident and distinct appearance has made it recognizable and associated with easy. Its soft friendly curves have given a warm personality to the easy businesses.”
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
In Marketing, photography is used to convey the brand personality in a simple and direct manner. Brand imagery also help position the brand in the mind of the consumer.
Apple, for example, uses product key shots to highlight the elegant design and leading edge technology.
LG decided to focus on people rather than objects, as described in their brand guidelines: “People photography focuses on smiling people- a connection to the LG® logo- in real environments from around the globe. They are happy, confident and smart.”
In order for your marketing collateral to reflect a consistent theme, take time and write the specific attributes that photography should convey.
This will make your collaboration with photographers, graphic designers and advertising agencies much easier. It will also makes choosing stock photography faster as many websites have implemented filters that allow you to get the results you want quickly.
Real Life Examples
It is particularly useful to show examples of how the brand elements are being used in communication materials (print, web, advertising) and public relation campaigns.
The last pages of the document usually include screen shots of the website, catalog covers, newspaper ads, PR announcements, signage, merchandising, and branded clothing. These real life example really help with maintaining the brand consistency.
The contents of brand guideline documents vary greatly from one brand to another, and the list above is by no means exhaustive. No matter how simple or complex, a brand guideline document is guaranteed to save marketing professionals time and help them be more productive.