Usually your brand develops over time. Totally ok. Most businesses tend to make a promotional item when they need it… just in time, instead of just in case. I understand. For a time I also did it just like that. And there’s nothing wrong with developing promotional material just in time* —as long as you have the proper brand guidelines in place and at your disposal.
BUT, WHAT ARE BRAND GUIDELINES?
...I hear you say. Good question!
“Brand Guidelines (also commonly referred to as “brand standards”, “style guide” or “brand book”) are essentially a set of rules that explain how your brand works. These guidelines typically include basic information such as:
- An overview of your brand's history, vision, personality and key values.
- Brand message or mission statement – including examples of ‘tone of voice’.
- Logo usage – where and how to use your logo including minimum sizes, spacing and what not to do with it.
- Colour palette – showing your primary and secondary colour palettes with colour breakdowns for print, screen and web.
- Type style – showing the specific font that you use and details of the font family and default fonts for web use.
- Image style/photography – examples of image style and photographs that work with the brand.
- Business card and letterhead design – examples of how the logo and font are used for standard company literature.”
For an example take a look at the Brand Spotlight I did on WAKAWAKA.
I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE...
As weird as it sounds as a brand designer I didn’t have proper guidelines for my own brand.
Quite the hypocrite, huh?
Well, in my own defence: as a self-taught brand designer I had to learn all this myself as well. Just like you. I had to learn these things the hard way, but now you don’t have to 🙂
So, as you can see, I understand like no other that it’s a challenge (especially if you’re not a designer and don’t know how to setup guidelines) and most of all it's time-consuming. I can imagine that at times you don’t even have time to eat a proper lunch as it is and now this guys is telling you to make time to do this as well...
There is a catch. Let me tell you.
I believe that it’s a time investment that has a good return.
What usually happens without proper guidelines, you’ll end up without consistency throughout your promo material —throughout your brand. We all know how these things go. You need to quickly get that item fixed and you just make something without thinking about the bigger picture. And over time, you have a big pile of promo material that somewhat resembles your brand consistently. You sort of used the same colours, the fonts might differ slightly from item to item, and the logo looks kinda the same, although you did have to resize it a bit to make it fit on the last flyer 😉
“One can often trace the sources of a brand personality—here it is the advertising, there the pack, somewhere else some physical element of the product. Of course, the personality is clearest and strongest when all the elements are consistent.”
—Stephen King, former JWT executive
Brand guidelines help you keep a consistent look & feel throughout your brand. Even when you do things just in time. But you’ll have a manual with: colours to use and when, fonts to use and when, guidelines for your logo, icons and images and settings that’ll help you make the right decisions for a consistent look&feel —and that'll also save you time. Big time!
How does that sound?
OK THAT SOUND GREAT, BUT WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Another good question!
One of the first step I take with my clients when we’re starting on the quest to (re)brand their business is to gather everything they already have for their brand.
And I'd like you to do the same. It’ll be the first exercise we do together.
Gather your current logo, business cards, flyers and brochures you have handed out, a screenshot of your website, your profile and cover images at all the social media platforms, banners, posters, signage, work clothing… basically anything related to your business that has some sort of ‘mark’ on it that represents/promotes your business online or in the real world.
When you have all this lying in front of you, just take a look and see if you can find the similarities between them. Which elements look the same —visually? Think about colours, fonts, icons, images, patterns, etc. Write them down.
Now take a look and see if you can find the differences between them. Also write them down.
We’re trying to find out if your brand looks consistently throughout all your promo material. A consistent look is very important for a brand. You want to be recognised and remembered. You don’t want to confuse people. Or as Donald Miller from Storybrand likes to say it:
“Confuse and you’ll lose.”
IS YOUR BRAND CONSISTENT?
If so, awesome! You found a lot more similarities than differences. So, you can use the similarities you wrote down as a basic set of guidelines —a great foundation to keep your brand consistency solid.
If not, awesome too! You now know the similarities and the differences. And in your case you found more differences than similarities. Try to think of ways to turn those differences into similarities by choosing 3-5 colours, 2-3 fonts and when to use them (think titles, subtitles, text, quotes, footnotes, sources, etc.), and a style of images you feel represent your brand best. Write those down and you’ll have a basic set of guidelines as well.
Did you manage to make your brand more consistent?
Just post your findings and insights in the comment section below. They could be of great value to your fellow conscious entrepreneurs.
I really appreciate you trying to help others. And to say thanks for you help, I’d like offer you a gift card for a 20 min. call with me. We’ll have a look at your findings and I’ll help you formulate your basic set of guidelines or take them to a higher level.
All you need to do is tell me in the comment section below if this exercise was helpful to you and in what way.
As soon as your comment is placed, I'll send you your gift card, so we can schedule your 20min. call.
Atelier Pan | Brand Design for Conscious Entrepreneurs
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