Does your company have a logo? Specific company Pantone colors? A typestyle? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then you need a brand style guide. A brand style guide will help you maintain a professional and coherent look to all of your messages, advertisements and marketing.
What is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a printed book or PDF that tells others how to use your logo, colors, fonts, and even images within your company or in marketing pieces like direct mailers, flyers and business cards. The brand style guide can also cover writing issues such as using numbers vs spelling them out; whether or not to use www in your url address; and capitalization of your web and email addresses. The guide sets an example of the correct way to use your logo when printed in four color process, spot color and black and white. Now days, a brand style guide will also cover social media postings and language. As your company grows and other means of communication become available, your brand style guide will evolve to reflect these changes.
What is in a Brand Style Guide?
If necessary, you can break your style guide into three categories: Brand Style, Communications and Corporate Use. Depending on the use of the brand, will determine which section of the guide you will need. Some projects may require all of the sections to work together in unison. The South Carolina Gamecocks, located at the University of South Carolina here in Columbia, have a great example of their style guide online here.
This section covers your company logo, fonts and/or type style, colors and layouts of examples of use.
Determines how your logo will appear on different backgrounds and uses. If you have a stacked logo, how will it be changed to appear on pens or wide print areas. Show the proper way to use the logo and any white space around it. Some guides use the height of the tallest letter in the logo as space around the logo that nothing can go into. Show how the log will print in process colors, spot colors and black and white. Determine if the logo can be printed in one of the spot colors, or should it always appear in black or white (depending on the background color). Also show if the logo should be rotated or shown on an angle.
This section shows the use of your fonts on any given piece. Will you use a san serif or serif font? Are you allowed to mix san serif and serif? How large should headers be compared to body type? What colors are acceptable for type on different colored background? Setting rules for your type style will protect your brand and create a more professional appearance than allowing anyone to choose a font.
It's hard choosing your brand colors when you are creating the look of your company. Without controlling them through the use of a style guide, your colors could shift around depending on the product they are printed on. It is best to pick Pantone spot colors for your logo. Most Pantone colors convert to CMYK fairly nicely. When adding color use in the brand style guide, be sure to add complementary colors that can be used. If you need to, include colors that should never be used to cover all of your bases.
Here is where your business card, letterhead, note sheet and envelope layouts will be shown. These are very important to keep your brand look and feel the same across these different communication avenues. Cover things like will phone numbers have dots or dashes, parentheses or not around the area code; will the web address include the www, will the web address have upper and lower characters; will the address, city, state and zip be separated by spaces, backslash or bullets. Putting thought and time into addressing these issues before they arise can save time and money in printing costs.
The communications section should cover things like your brands voice and writing styles. Sometimes you can not have the same person blogging, writing ad copy and updating pages on your website. If you do not have a guide for others to go by, then your brand will have many different voices and may not be heard.
The Voice of Your Brand
Your voice is how you want your company to sound. Will your copy be playful, inspiring or professional? Is the tone of your voice authentic, honest or witty? What is the purpose of your voice? Is it to inform, educate or amuse? Wendy's social voice is sassy and likes to call out other restaurants, but because of their wittiness, and willingness to step outside of their corporate box, their social following and bottom line increased. Don't set out to copy another companies voice though, find your own and be who you are.
Tackle your writing style at the beginning to keep everything coherent. Look at things like using & or and, will numbers be numerical or written out, what format will dates take, will hyphens be allowed or not, how will you address bullet lists and quotes. If you are not sure how to begin a writing style, find one that is already in use and modify it to the needs of your company.
Social Media Guide
Controlling how your social media posts look and the content is another needed feature of your brand style guide. You do not want your Facebook posts to vary from your Twitter posts or any other social media outlet you use. Address what can and can not be posted as well as how you will handle criticism or bad reviews. As your company grows, you may have to have many different people posting content on your social sites. A guideline to keep them within the standards your company has set will be needed.
The corporate section of your style guide will help communicators stay on track with the moral and philosophical direction of the company.
Is the main purpose of your business to make money, or are you trying to add value to the community your business is located in? This is your core purpose, and it needs to be defined in a manner that your employees can see and follow.
The mission statement of your company should be used to explain the core purpose of the business. As your business grows, make sure to actively live out your mission statement in the way you do business with people and how you treat your employees.
How to use a brand style guide
Gathering information and creating your brand style guide is the first step. Getting and showing people how to use the information within the guide is the next step. Anyone who does any kind of communication for your company, marketing person, press release, social media manager, internal communications, email signatures, needs access and training on using your brand style guide. When you first implement the style guide, someone within your company should look over all communications, postings, copy, anything that concerns your business to make sure that the guide is being adhered to. Once the communicators have a good grasp of what the guide is trying to accomplish, you can skip overlooking every little thing that goes out.
As your company grows, your brand style guide will need to be modified and updated. Any new form of social media that comes along needs to be addressed for the best way to utilize the new medium to give voice to your brand. Having a brand style guide ready for new franchises or other business locations will help your communications have the same look and feel to build on your brand.
Creating your brand style guide takes time and effort, but the payoff for building a recognizable brand is worth it. Work hard on thinking of every instance your logo and information will be used to make the style guide applicable for all forms of communications. We would be glad to work with you on creating your brand style guide. If you need any assistance, please contact us at PrintSouth Printing.
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