Why Brands Need a Style Guide

Posted on in Blog

Style guides, also known as brand guides, manuals or the very comprehensive “brand and style guide” are an important marketing tool for organizations of any size. That’s because they document, organize and communicate a brand’s standards for logos, fonts and all the elements that represent your brand, including the voice and tone of written copy.

Ultimately, brand guides save time and help maintain consistency across all assets. Building (and maintaining) a brand guide is critical to a brand’s success.

Read on to learn the ins and outs of documenting all critical aspects of your brand’s identity in one spot.

Brand vs. Style Guide: The Difference Is in the Details

The terms brand guide and style guide are often used interchangeably, but there are some nuanced differences. Companies and agencies referring to a brand and style guide likely have a single resource that covers both areas.

What Is a Brand Guide?

A brand style guide is an internal resource that organizes the visual components of your brand. Think logos, color palettes, fonts and a selection of branded photos. Along with these assets are a set of guidelines (that’s where the guide comes from) on how to use brand elements in print and digital media. Most guides also include examples of how to use brand assets – and how not to use your logos, too.

What Is a Style Guide?

Sometimes called a brand voice and tone guide, a style guide is often a part of a brand guide that focuses on the written elements of your branding. It’s a collection of formatting rules, best practices and a comprehensive list of what your company says – doesn’t say, and how it says it. It also includes branded terms – for example, proper nouns specific to your brand – along with style elements (like superscripts and comma preference) and a list of brand taglines and when to use them.

What to Include in a Brand Style Guide

The more you include in your brand style guide, the fewer internal requests and delays in creating branded marketing content. Every organization should evaluate their brand guide regularly; marketers should audit their guide quarterly to ensure assets are up-to-date, accessible and backed with useful guardrails that ensure brand elements are used correctly.

We recommend having an internal and external brand style guide with a tighter grip on external-facing assets. Consider using a password to protect external assets from unwanted dissemination.

So, What’s in a Brand Guide?

A brand guide should include the whole enchilada – everything you need to represent your brands!

  • Logos – Include vertical and horizontal variations in several file formats.
  • Typography – Fonts play a bigger role in branding than many people think. Your brand guide should include guidelines on which fonts to use on the web and in print, plus the downloadable files to put users in a position to use them.
  • Color palette – Include all the colors of your rainbow by including visual swatches and CMYK codes to get it exactly right.
  • Logo guide – Provide written and visual examples of using your logo across marketing mediums. This is especially important when distributing logos to vendors who may slap your logo somewhere you don’t want it.
  • Other elements – Include other assets as necessary or available, such as brand iconography, photography, or audio marks.
  • Voice and tone guide – We recommend including your voice and tone guide in your brand guide so that stakeholders have everything they need in one place. They’re so important, that we include these as a cornerstone of our brand strategy services.

Remember, the brand guide is yours. Keep track of what’s being used, who’s using it and proactively address new design needs – we’ve got people who do that.

Why You Need a Brand Guide (Yes, You)

There are no small brands, just big brands in their growth stage. Invest in your organization’s image, voice and tone now to maximize its long-term potential.

Brand Consistency

Typefaces, colors, correct logo usage and imagery examples are staples of any style guide. Having a reference document gives everyone the information they need to stay on brand, whether it’s ordering giveaways for your upcoming trade show, creating sales collateral or building your web presence. It might seem like using a slightly different color or font weight isn’t a big deal, but maintaining a consistent brand helps your consumers positively recognize you.

For example, all of those brand pieces – the giveaways, sales collateral and website – could come together at a trade show, and if they’re all slightly off-brand, your consumers can tell. Imagine going to a Coca-Cola booth where all their classic reds were slightly different. It could negatively change how you view the brand. The same thing happens when your logo colors aren’t the same on your coat jacket and your business card – especially if you don’t have over 100 years of market presence and a $260 billion market cap.

Brand Recognition and Awareness

Let’s say you’ve hired a new member of your marketing team or started working with a new agency. How do you talk to them about your brand? Can you remember every detail off the top of your head? (No!) How well will they remember what you’ve told them? (Not very!) A style guide makes this knowledge transfer a more air-tight process, with less effort. Hand over the document and ask if they have any questions. Done.

This is also why it’s so important to make sure the style guide stays up to date.

For example, if your brand guide includes a set of typefaces but it’s later decided that one of them should only be used under very special circumstances, then that needs to be added in as soon as possible. Empower your marketing team to own the brand guide and update it regularly, along with your vendors, if you have them, who are producing or implementing content for you. This will keep the brand consistent and save time by preventing mistakes that need to be fixed.

Establish Brand Intent

You can keep your brand on a clear path forward with your guide. Flipping through your style guide, especially when the document includes the brand mission, voice and tone, can help you gut-check if you are acting on or representing the core values of your business and attracting the right people to your brand.

The Results Speak for Themselves (and Your Brand)

Whether it’s a comprehensive rebrand or organizing the assets you already have, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are many, many, many examples of brand and style guides to help you decide what you need, what to include and where your brand needs work. You also don’t have to do it alone. Branding is kind of our bread-and-non-dairy butter.

Your Brand Guide, Your Way … with Our Help

Creating a brand guide is a big lift for internal marketing teams. That’s why dozens of leading companies have tagged in Oneupweb to help. For over two decades, we’ve helped companies of all sizes and in different verticals establish, define and refine their brands and amplify their message.

Let’s get your brand and style guide started. Contact us online or call (231) 922-9977 today. Tomorrow is okay, too.

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