Brand guidelines are important. It’s the compass that guides you. It’s the filter that everyone sees your brand through. It needs to align with your “why” as a company. Too many companies don’t have these things set in stone, and the lack of consistency is reflected in the way they portray themselves to the world both visually and through tone.
Branding is way more than just your colors. A brand guideline document should include:
- Brand message
- Brand voice
- Logo no-no’s
- Font family
- Social media templates
- Per social media platform
Branding needs to be consistent
We see it all the time, and we see it more than we think. The higher up’s in a company will see more modern graphic elements, a design scheme that’s cool right now, and decide to switch things up. Well what’s wrong with that?
Well, brands are constantly trying to build authority and trust. The design scene is changing rapidly. However, if a company is constantly updating their branding, it causes customer confusion and shows a lack of consistency that can easily lead to broken trust.
This isn’t to say you can’t take advantage of an epic graphical trend hitting the scene, you simply need to adapt that trend into the brand…. Just be sure that it’s in line with the guidelines and doesn’t change the core of the brand itself.
Consistency is essential because how a consumer will consume your stuff is more visually based than anything they’ll ever read. Eventually, those customers will see your visuals and your company will make an impact on them before they have the chance to consume a single piece of content.
If they like what they see visually, they’re waaaaayyy more likely to engage with your content.
Here is why brand guidelines are so important and how you can keep it all consistent:
Whatever you’re thinking of creating needs to be filtered through your brand guideline because it will always line up to your core; to who you are as a company.
However, when you’re creating content — text, video, graphic, or otherwise — your brand guideline is the actual filter through which you understand your own brand. It’s literally your guide.
If you are writing content around a topic that could be viewed as controversial, the brand guideline is going to help you determine your voice, tone, and style when crafting a piece that is appropriate and matches up with your company values.
“If you don’t have a filter, you could easily be writing stuff that’s emotionally based that doesn’t align with the company’s “why.” Instead, through the filter of your brand, piggyback on current trends to increase your brand awareness.”
If you are creating graphics, that filter is essential because it’s the lens through which your audience sees, internalizes, and understands your brand. There will be a right and a wrong way to represent your company visually, and the visual integrity needs to be protected as much as the company voice does.
More importantly than your customers seeing your brand through the visual filter you’ve created with color and fonts and graphics, the brand guideline gives the company a filter through which to convey themselves to the world.
We hear it all the time. Companies onboard new people and assume they know enough about things to get started. Then, when the first round of work comes in, it’s clear that they only understood the brand on a surface level. Their work may look great on its own but lack the company’s voice.
We’re doing this with Palizay Media right now.
We’re creating a main visual document, yes, but it’s way more than that. The visual and content go hand and hand.
(No one’s going to Instagram to read the comments, and no one is going to a blog to check out the visuals. However, both text and visuals are important on both platforms.)
Whether we get a new hire or simply need to outsource a quick project, any newbie will understand what they need to understand about us. From the voice of the company, to the look and feel of the company, and even the do’s and don’ts of how to use the graphics — it’s all covered.
And it’s not just covered, it’s super specific.
There won’t be any questions when you have the font families, colors and hex codes, as well as visual examples right in front of your face. (At least there shouldn’t be.)
When you document your business’s motivation and purpose behind the messaging (both visually and in voice), you can easily convey it to your prospects, customers, and team.
Don’t worry! Brand guidelines are not here to squash your creativity, but to point it in the right direction. Without these boundaries in place, there will be mixed messaging within the company, which leads to confusion outside the company.
Having strong brand guidelines gives you, as the owner, the confidence that everything is written down, and it shows people that you’re legit. Anyone can take a logo and plaster it on a website, on a t-shirt, on a pen, etc. But your clients will be able to trust you on a deeper level because the brand guidelines show that you’ve clearly thought things through.
Fads. They’re everywhere, and they’re always going to be in our faces as we try to implement the next design. Having a brand guideline is essential to help keep you on track.
There’s a lot going on in the first year of business. You’ve got to work hard to create loyalty to your brand, and changing things up too soon or too often could really make it impossible for customers to trust in you.
So instead of jumping on the bandwagon and changing your branding for every fancy new fad in town, use your filtration system to determine how you can use the fad to your advantage as a company.
The best brands out there are the ones who stay loyal to their original vision, but utilize design trends to enhance their messaging and visuals. Because their filter is so dense, nothing can overtake their brand and it will stand the test of time.
How do I know when to rebrand?
So, there certainly is a time and place to refresh things. Let’s take Coca-Cola and Pepsi as an example.
Coke has never changed their logo. From its inception in 1885, the logo has remained basically the same. Yes, they may have tweaked the logo in slight ways, but Coke really hasn’t wavered over the years. Trust in their original design has led to not only trust among their followers, but a cult-like following that has Coca-Cola memorabilia as a decor staple.
You probably know someone who has collected Coke’s old glass bottles, merchandise or signs. And Pepsi? Not so much.
Pepsi has updated their logo, on average, once per decade since 1898. They’ve switched it so many times that the loyalty just isn’t there—compared to that of Coke fans.
You can clearly see the effort to modernize on Pepsi’s part, but from a point-of-view from a brander, it’s confusing. Even though they kept the same colors, continually changing the visual representation of their brand causes friction.
Coca-Cola took a different route. Instead of redoing the logo every few years, they kept their logo and core values of the company the same, while simply adapting the supporting campaigns around it.
It might be time to rebrand if you’re changing the company’s name, focus, or are experiencing some other huge shakeup. As a general rule, it’s easier to maintain your trust and authority if you stay true to the company’s original vision and mission. Make sure to bring your client base along for the ride to keep the trust and loyalty intact. Be strategic in your communications about your transition.
There’s a lot that goes into the creation of a brand. Whether it’s visual, textual, or simply tone, the brand guideline is something every business needs to provide clarity on how their company is best represented. Rebranding is fine when the time is right, but ultimately, consistency is key.
In order to stay consistent, you need to recognize your brand guideline as your company filter, educational tool, and roadmap.
So ask yourself…. are you going to be like Coca-Cola or are you going to be like Pepsi?
Creative Director at Palizay Media. I'm a digital artist during the 9-5, while I do some painting during the odd hours. I love hiking with my family, eating guac, and going to baseball games.