When businesses build brand recognizability, they are also increasing their value. That’s because brand recognition is directly correlated to how valuable businesses are perceived by consumers.

A unified, well-tailored and cohesive brand also increases awareness and helps boost customer engagement. Most of all, it will lead your targeted audience to choose you first.

A robust branding machine is possible with well-developed and carefully thought out brand guidelines. The will be your North Star for sustained brand awareness and business success.

Brand guidelines basics

Regardless of a business leader’s management style, branding is an area where they must be stringent.

Strong and effective marketing is driven by brand guidelines, a set of standards, rules and processes that provide a roadmap on how the brand will be expressed in various formats or campaigns. From how a business’s logo appears on an email signature to a color scheme, branding guidelines are precise instructions on how to get the word out effectively. Brand guidelines also include style guides, visual standards and other instructions on how to ensure campaigns are consistent, offline and online.

More on specifics and examples on what your brand guidelines should include are below.

A word of caution

If not executed thoughtfully, branding can have an adverse effect on customers. The halo effect is a phenomenon in which people extract associations from their impressions, fair or not. For example, when a flashy, eye-catching campaign or brand leaves a favorable impression, the audience will generally believe that the goods or services behind the campaign are cut from the same cloth of excellence. If the branding misses the mark, however, there could be trouble. A poorly executed brand or campaign can leave a bad taste and warp perceptions, leading consumers to feel less confident about how good the product or services will be for them.

Having a cohesive and authentic brand, along with brand guidelines that articulate it, are the best defenses against the negative outcomes of the halo effect.

Nuts and bolts

Brand guidelines should be tailored with as much information and instructions on commonly used outreach tactics as possible. Because needs may change, it’s best to consider it a living document that evolves along with your organization. If your business thrives on a certain social media platform, for instance, then it’s important to build a blueprint that accounts for how your business approaches outreach on specific channels.

If you’re ready to build your branding guidelines, here are some of the common sections or categories to consider.

Logo wordmark: This is a distinct and recognizable text-based logo of your company’s name. It is the heartbeat and personality of your brand that will be featured in nearly all of your marketing materials. A well-designed and thought out wordmark is unique and unforgettable.

Logo misuse: Branding guidelines will also tell you what not to do. When you alter or distort your logo for design or space consideration, you can do damage to the brand’s identity. Adding shadows, transparency effects or other tweaks are just some examples of misuse that should be clearly noted within branding guidelines.

Color palette: A color palette for the color that should be used for your organization’s brand is another set of instructions to follow. The style establishes primary, secondary and tertiary colors that build a consistent and cohesive feel for the brand.

Logo icon: This is a succinct expression of your brand. When people see it, an immediate connection will be made between the logo and your brand, even if there are no words as context. Branding guidelines will tell you how and when it should be deployed.

Tone: The tone and voice you use to communicate, digitally or otherwise, should resonate with your target audience and what they have become familiar with when engaging with you. Your brand’s personality can be lighthearted or more factual in tone, or both. Branding guidelines will establish a comprehensive voice that always feels consistent and authentic.

Building branding guidelines

Finalizing branding guidelines is a massive project with copywriting, design and strategic elements. They should be reviewed extensively by your team and weighed in on by team members at every level. The more opportunities your team has to give input, the more invested they are in the creation and implementation of your guidelines. After they are compiled, it’s important to provide easy access to these guidelines so they can be referenced often by the entire team.

Guidelines should be reviewed on an ongoing basis, evolving along with your brand. If possible, it’s a great investment to work with a design agency or build an internal team that reassesses and, if needed, reimagines your brand guidelines on an annual basis.

Your company’s efforts to build a strong brand and accompanying guidelines will strengthen the way your audience perceives your brand, reinforcing the trust and loyalty for years to come.

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