As your business grows and employees fill more office chairs, it becomes more difficult to stick to the script. Your brand’s messaging, that is. That’s where a brand style guide (also known as a brand book or brand guidelines) proves absolutely necessary. This handy document makes is easier to maintain a consistent voice and tone so you stay on-brand!
The Definition of a Brand Style Guide
Look at a brand style guide as your company or practice’s manual. It’s a completely internally-facing document—only meant for your employees, not the public or customers.
Your brand book dictates which fonts, colors, and logos designers should use and how. It clarifies the way your brand should talk about itself and to customers—including words to use and ones to avoid. Basically, if a new hire reads your brand style guide, they should immediately understand how to impersonate your brand through copy and design.
Here’s what an older version of ours looks like (just the design portion):
Why a Brand Style Guide is Important
In our digital world, so many avenues exist for communication. To ensure you stay true to your company values and brand voice, you need a document to crosscheck every marketing material. That way, if you have social media, copy, customer service, design, and email marketing teams, the communications they create will sound like they come from one person.
Brand style guidelines also keep your company simple and recognizable to customers and patients. When your audience reads something or sees a logo, they should immediately sense who it’s from.
How To Create a Brand Style Guide
Whether you have a rebrand to do or need to create your first brand style guide, follow these steps.
Craft Mission and Vision Statements
A mission statement tells the world why you exist and what you do in this moment. A vision statement expresses your goals for the future. Writing mission and vision statements is a fantastic exercise to go through as a company and leadership team because if you don’t know how to talk about your company, how is anyone else supposed to?
To write your mission statement, ask yourself the following questions
- What does our company or practice do?
- How do we do it?
- What audience do we do it for?
- What value do we bring to these people, communities, or the world?
Here’s an example of a mission statement: Witty Kitty provides digital marketing services with boutique service for health, wellness, sustainable, and medical businesses to help our clients master the art of conversation and grow.
To write your vision statement, consider the following points
- Look five to ten years into the future and decide where you want your business to be and what purpose you want it to serve
- Align these aspirations with business capabilities and your mission
Here’s an example of a vision statement: To make digital marketing accessible, achievable, affordable, and impactful for everyone.
Determine Your Brand Voice and Tone
Branding is all about ironing out who you are, what you say, and how you say it. That’s where voice and tone come in. For our brand guidelines and those of our clients, we like to use the following formula to describe Witty Kitty’s voice and tone in a nutshell.
We are witty but never pompous
We are informative but never boring or jargon-y
We are approachable but never unprofessional
We are blunt but never offensive
Get the gist? Then, take it a step further and craft sentences and paragraphs to show how you do and do not want to speak as a brand. For instance:
Witty Kitty is technically an agency, but don’t let that scare you! At our heart, we’re a collective of contractors who fuse our brains to bring SEO, video, social, and advertising services to our clients.
Witty Kitty is a 100% women-owned business that wholeheartedly embraces boss-lady culture.
Witty Kitty does robust SEO audits, social media, and video for businesses to alleviate your bandwidth.
F men! We don’t need them so we started our own agency.
Blunt and informative? Yes. Approachable, unoffensive, and who we are at our core? Certainly not. Use your brand guidelines to lead by example so your staff knows exactly what to do (and not) and how far to take it. In our case, to show employees what a total snooze-fest or an HR nightmare look like compared to on-brand phrasing. The bottom line? Get as much gray area out of the was as you can with your voice and tone guidelines. That will help free up management and leadership to do more important work than overseeing taste levels for design and copy.
Make a Mood Board
Start with what you like, admire, and want to emulate by creating a mood board. This will help people in your organization understand your point of view and where you want your branding to go. Put together a pdf of color schemes, fonts, and logos you want to mimic. Copy and paste messages from other brands for inspiration. Screenshot websites to show typography hierarchy and types of images and illustrations you want to use. Then, hand your mood board off to a designer to bring to life.
As a company, we use Pinterest for a working mood board. It helps us with photoshoots and marketing inspiration.
Hire a Designer
Logo work and brand guidelines require specific expertise. If you start from scratch, hire a designer that has this skill set. They should turn over Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop files, .jpegs and .pngs of your logos and images, fonts in a zip file, as well as color codes for both print and digital. Once you approve your visual style guide, have them put together a PDF of your entire copy and design guidelines.
What’s Next? Use Your Brand Style Guide!
After you go to the trouble to create a brand style guide, use it! Incorporate this document into your onboarding presentation, orientation, and company pamphlet. Make it required reading for every teammate. The more your adhere to your brand style guide, the better and more consistent your communication will be.
Need more digital marketing advice? Head back to the blog!