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What to Include in Your Brand Guidelines

When it comes to website design and digital marketing, consistency is key.

Regardless of whether your business is brand new or has been established for years, there’s almost nothing more important than staying consistent in your branding.

One of the main reasons why consistency is such an important piece of the marketing puzzle is that it helps to make your brand more familiar and recognizable to your audience.

Take Target as an example. You’d think that with such a simple, straightforward logo that isn’t exactly uncommon, Target would have a hard time differentiating themselves. But, most people can instantly recognize that they’re seeing a Target ad without ever actually seeing the name. And, it’s all because of the familiarity they’ve built with their consistent branding efforts.

Another big reason to always be consistent with your marketing is that it builds trust in your brand. The more people are exposed to a consistent brand, the more they’ll start to put their trust in it.

How do you ensure that your branding stays consistent while your building your website, as well as on your social media platforms, ads, and more? By establishing brand guidelines that you can reference!

6 things to include in your brand guidelines

#1. Brand story

Every brand has a story to tell, and it’s that story that will help to set you apart from your competition in the minds of your customers, add a human touch to your brand, and establish an emotional connection with your audience.

When I talk about a brand story, I’m not necessarily talking about the story of how your brand was founded. Your brand story is really the “why” of it all. Why have you dedicated so much of your time and energy to your brand? What do you hope to accomplish by doing so? To put it simply, why do you do what you do?

Think of your brand story as your company’s mission, your company’s vision, and your company’s core values all wrapped up into a single package with a bow on top.

Your brand story probably won’t look like another company’s brand story, and that’s OK — in fact, it’s a good thing. But, whatever it is, it should be the first thing you put in your style guide, because it should always be the first thing on your mind when you’re marketing your brand or designing your website.

#2. Logos

When done right, your logo will make your brand instantly recognizable by your audience. Take a few minutes to think about some of the most iconic and recognizable logos out there. Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Apple all come to mind. While all of these logos are incredibly different, they have one very important thing in common — they are instantly recognizable, even without the brand name included.

Once you’ve nailed down a logo, you’ll want to keep it consistent (at least most of the time) across your website and all of your marketing efforts, which makes it a must to include in your brand guidelines.

You’ll also want to include variations of your logo so that it can be used across a wide range of materials. You never know when you’ll need your logo to be smaller or a different color, and you want to be prepared for all needs and possibilities.

While color is an important part of creating consistency when it comes to your logo, an effective logo will be recognizable no matter what color it is. Think about the McDonald’s logo. Traditionally, it’s yellow, but they also use it in white on the pavement in the parking lot. But no matter what color it is, people always know it’s the McDonald’s logo.

#3. Colors

Think of your brand colors in two categories — primary colors and secondary colors. Your primary colors will often be the colors in your logo. Your secondary colors are there to add depth to your brand, and they’re probably the colors you’ll be using most often throughout your website, ads, and marketing channels.

#4. Typography

One thing that businesses don’t often think about when it comes to consistency across brands is typography. However, typography can say just as much about your brand as the colors you use or your logo, and it’s absolutely something you’ll want to include in your brand guidelines.

In addition to what fonts you use, you’ll also want to include the size of the text and line spacing. You’ll want all of this information for a variety of text types, including paragraphs, headlines, titles, subheadings, and more.

#5. Imagery

Imagery is a powerful thing both on your website and on every advertising channel. It’s one of the most instantly recognizable things about your brand, so it’s definitely important to establish a little consistency.

I’m not saying that you should use the same image on every page of your website and every piece of marketing material, but it’s important to establish some consistency in the photos you choose. This will mainly be concerned with the subject matter of the image, the composition, and the type of lighting used.

There are a ton of great images out there that you could choose for your website or advertising, and these imagery guidelines will help to narrow down your choices and make finding the right one easier.

#6. Tone of voice

Another important thing to establish consistency on is the tone of voice of your brand. Is it professional and down to business? Is it friendly and nurturing? Or, is it maybe humorous and lighthearted? The tone you use helps to set your brand apart just as much as anything else; it’s just all about consistently using it.

One brand that has mastered the art of consistency in their tone is Slim Jim. It probably won’t surprise you that a brand whose catchphrase is “eat me” has established itself as a beacon for tongue-in-cheek humor on social media. It may not be the most conventional way to get your name out there, but it makes an impact!

When building your own website and designing out your marketing materials, there are so many choices you’ll need to make that can impact the way your brand is presented to the world. Make the choices easy and create some consistency by establishing your brand guidelines.

Originally published on 1/29/20