When you think of a brand, what comes to mind? A logo? A campaign? Maybe the brand’s reputation?
Of course, these are all correct. But if we’ve done our SEO properly, then hopefully you’re a Head of Marketing, a Brand Director or a CEO. If that’s the case, then hopefully the first brand that comes to mind is your own, and you’re thinking about it from an internal capacity. First impressions definitely count…
Working within or for a brand is a bit like being in charge of a robot (for argument’s sake, let’s say the robot is a gorilla). You control how it moves, how it looks and how it sounds – even what it does. As a brand stakeholder, you’re in control. But you can’t be everywhere at once. You’ll likely have an immediate team, maybe a remote team too. Not to mention freelancers and contractors or even brand ambassadors who you entrust with your message.
Your brand in their hands
If your brand is your baby, it can be daunting to hand it over to others. There are so many variables at play; different marketing channels, numerous formats, ‘with strapline’ or ‘without strapline’, and how it translates offline.
Enter the BRAND GUIDELINES – an all-seeing document built with love, care and, often, creativity. In this blog, we’re going to stress the importance of not just brand guidelines, but good brand guidelines that are fair, understandable, tangible, yet somewhat flexible.
A journey into the jungle of brand guidelines
Let’s presume you’ve already secured your purpose, nailed your visual identity and settled on your tone of voice. This is an exciting step for any brand, but without good documentation, things can go awry pretty quickly. A solid set of brand guidelines are a key asset to any brand, not just the big ones. They ensure your brand does not get misunderstood or misused.
From your brand strategy through to your visual identity, how you rollout deliverables, the whys, the whos and the whats and the hows, as well as the dos and don’ts — guidelines solidify the groundwork and demonstrate your hard work when it comes to helping others get your brand out there and maintaining its image.
What better than a well-presented visual guide of rules to educate your staff and suppliers, and to ensure consistency and brand finesse at all times? We firmly believe that a brand guidelines document is an opportunity to truly flex your creative muscles (and ours) and set up a clear framework for the future.
See it as an investment
We’re not just saying this as brand specialists. Of course we’d like to work with you on your brand guidelines. But investing time and money into a branding agency gives you access to specialists who will truly take the time to understand your brand, your people, your channels and your market. After all, why work hard to get your branding right only for it to be portrayed incorrectly due to the absence of guidelines, or maybe worse, poorly made guidelines?
Clear brand guidelines make for a clear brand. You’ll find it immeasurably easier to obtain consumer and stakeholder buy-in with brand consistency, which often helps to build credibility and trust. We live in a noisy, manic world where every brand competes to stand out. So whether you’re looking for customers, investors or fans, it’s imperative that you present your brand well.
Find your purpose
Believe it or not, many companies are unclear on their grand purpose or immediate business goals. We work with our clients to identify these, often through brand workshops and discovery sessions. We like to call these VMVs, or ‘Vision, Mission and Values’.
Typically, we find that our clients either don’t have these in place or what they do have in place is from a bygone era when ‘Passionate’ was a buzzword and logos were created in Photoshop 6.0. But times change, and your vision, mission and values are more important than ever. That’s because consumers now buy into them. Just because a customer likes your product, that’s not necessarily enough to win them over. Many studies reveal that younger demographics must feel that they’re buying into a broader mission and that they’re supporting a brand with like-minded values similar to their own.
Your VMV, especially your values, should run through everything you present to the world, and by housing this brand strategy within your shared guidelines, staff can share your mission and vision, and remind themselves of the values that enrich you as a brand – and why.
Ask yourself today, do your existing brand guidelines talk about your VMV? If not, it might be time to talk to Silverback®.
Brand integrity is, well… integral
Closely linked to your vision, mission and values is your brand integrity. This moves away from identity, design and copy and is more about your ‘how’. Businesses can and do invest a lot of money and time in their brand which, on the surface, paints a positive image. But dig a little deeper and sometimes all is not as it seems.
Living in a world where consumers buy into values and causes over features and benefits, it’s important that brands walk the walk when it comes to how they work and act. It’s not unrealistic to say that failure to do so results in customers walking away, and worse still, boycotting a brand.
The stories of yesterday were Johnson & Johnson using asbestos in their baby powder, or the numerous cigarette companies who convinced the public that smoking was beneficial to health. Thankfully, advertising is somewhat more regulated these days, but there are new trends to watch out for. For example, many brands claiming to be ‘sustainable’ are being called out for greenwashing simply because they’re not doing anywhere near enough to earn the badge.
Work hard—constantly—on your brand integrity. Live up to your values, do what you say you’re doing, and handle your brand with the mindset that the customer can see everything that happens inside your business.
The whys, the whos, the whats, the hows, the dos and the don'ts
Just because your branding is the beating creative heart of the company, don’t assume people know how to use it. We see the mistreatment of brands every day, even well-established, multinational names. With thousands of fonts, colours, image styles, brand graphics, backgrounds, icons and shapes available, we have seen companies dilute their branding by using it incorrectly or stretching it too far.
It’s also not uncommon to see big brands divided up into sub-brands, some notable examples being Samsung Galaxy, Virgin Holidays and Gmail – each with their own detailed sub-set of guidelines. Here we begin to enter a world where one overarching company has multiple marketing and brand departments, which mostly work independently of one another, but must also retain some degree of overall semblance. For example, when Google moved into its ‘material design’ style, its many sub-brands naturally followed.
In more confusing realms, some organisations have internal sub-brands that aren’t publicly facing. You could argue that brand guidelines are less important here, but we’d disagree. Departmental branding has been implemented for a reason, and often gives these departments their identity, offering clarity to the wider business on who they are and what they do. So it’s important to get it right for the greater benefit of the business, and it’s also good practice should that department ever become externally facing.
So, once you have your brand in place, whether it’s your only brand, a sub-brand or an internal brand, stick to the guidelines like glue. Preferably Gorilla Glue. We have no doubt that the people within your business (or any third-party design suppliers you may use) have the best intentions at heart, but it only takes one careless move to resize a logo incorrectly or use last year’s tagline. This can be a real downer, especially when it’s in print. The answer here isn’t throwing the book at them, but asking yourself how it happened. Maybe your guidelines weren’t… guiding enough?
Clearing your throat and finding your voice
We touched on tone of voice a little earlier. Once again, this is an area we often see completely overlooked regarding brand guidelines. Remember, a brand isn’t just how it looks, but also how it sounds and feels. We call this area ‘brand personality’. It’s what makes a brand stand out and it’s what brings it to life. Remember, it’s not ‘copy and creative’. Copy IS the creative too.
Your brand is unique and to portray your voice correctly, it’s crucial to refer back to the work you did during your brand strategy. Who do you want to attract? What kind of customers are they? How do they like to be spoken to? What don’t they like?
Creating and utilising the voice of the brand in the correct way is what’s going to capture these prospects’ attention. Think of the last five clever adverts you saw, whether on a billboard, before a YouTube video, or even just shared on LinkedIn. It won’t have been the visuals alone that got you smiling – it’s highly likely that the dialogue, voiceover or tagline raised a smirk too.
Find a balance between when you’re playful and professional. Demonstrate your values and your personality – always, always respect your audience.
Trust us, you really should invest in your brand voice.
Let’s roll it out *does the helicopter finger motion*
Rolling out the branding across all touchpoints is ‘the final challenge’. A brand can look and sound great in the guidelines themselves (especially if we’ve produced them for you), but the real test is how it translates cross-channel. We’re not talking about Dover to Calais, more print ad to TikTok ad. We are absolutely swamped with social media platforms, ad formats, clip lengths and video dimensions, so it’s important to understand how your brand works in any of these contexts if not all.
An example might be something as simple as your logo. Is it legible as a profile photo? Or perhaps it’s your tagline… does that fit in a short-form video like a Short or a Reel? When we produce these ‘rollout’ pages, we take the relevant touchpoints for your company (and perhaps even some you haven’t thought about or encountered yet) and provide a visual guide of applying your brand.
Covering the seemingly simple like email signatures, newsletters and print, to more complex scenarios like motion design, 3D printing or even experiential, this section can become quite detailed, because we think it’s important that you have a great guide on how to approach your branding across your touchpoints, now and tomorrow. Remember, your brand can and will evolve as your business changes, so a little flex is important (this might be how you apply a sub-brand or enter a new channel or market). We will ensure that instructions are clear to everyone from your Marketing Director to your remote artworker, and that information is concise and easily digestible for new staff members and suppliers alike.
Sure, we’re biassed. This is what we do (and we do it well), but we truly believe that brand guidelines must be at the heart of your brand. We are here with guidance, help and most of all, expertise and encouragement. If you’re:
• A brand looking to refresh your existing guidelines
• A brand that has lost sight of its mission and purpose
• A brand ready for a first set of brand guidelines
• A brand that hasn’t invested any time in establishing values
…then do get in touch with us today and see for yourself what Silverback can do for you, your brand, and most of all, your audience.
Let’s have a chat…
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