Why You Need Brand Guidelines (Plus How to Create Them in 3 Easy Steps)
We scroll mindlessly past hundreds of messages every single day and only remember a fraction of what we see. Your consumers are the same way. They’re speed reading articles, scanning emails, and making their way through their favorite apps fast, often without thinking about who is feeding them the content they see.
The effect of the fast-paced online world is most prevalent on social media. Even if your post is memorable, only 43% of social media users will recall that your brand was the one behind the post.
So how do you stop users in their tracks and get them to truly listen? A great brand guide can be your red light. Here’s what you need to know to create your own.
What Are Brand Guidelines Anyway?
Brand guidelines are the set of rules that define the overall look and feel of your brand. They help you build a brand identity that your audience can recognize across all platforms.
A comprehensive brand style guide outlines everything from your typography and color palette to your tone of voice and mission statement. By doing so, it provides all of the instructions you need to communicate the right messages in the right manner every time you create new marketing materials for your company.
The result? The messaging you send out will feel more whole and connected.
Why Brand Guidelines Matter
Creating an attractive Instagram grid is always a plus, but following a brand guide can help you do far more than become follow-worthy. We’re talking real, measurable results that can make any boss happy (especially if your boss is you).
Here are five of the many reasons you need to put brand guideline creation on your to-do list:
1. Consumers respond to consistency
Brand consistency is a big money-maker in pretty much every industry. When you use the same branding guidelines across all your marketing collateral—including your blog posts, social media posts, and Google ads—you can increase your revenue by as much as 23%.
The power of consistency comes from the fact that repetition drives brand recognition. Just using the same brand color scheme can greatly increase the amount of consumers who can identify you, so when all of your brand elements come together, you can expect results.
Take a look at this Instagram feed for example:
Without even looking at the handle, you could probably immediately identify the brand as Coca-Cola. The massive soft drink brand has used the same visual elements—including its cursive font, bottle icon, and classic shade of red—for decades, proving the incredible impact of consistency over time.
When you continue doing things by the brand book over time, your audience’s moment of recognition will come sooner and sooner.
2. Your team will work faster
If you love a tool that does half the work for you, you will love a brand style guide. Setting brand identity guidelines is an easy way to send your marketing efforts in the right direction before the ideation even starts.
When the brainstorming does begin, these brand standards can quickly help you weed out the “wrong” ideas and narrow down your best options, all while avoiding an opinion-based debate with your team members. Decision-making is sped up and your team doesn’t get into a fist fight—it’s a win-win.
3. Your brand becomes more tangible
Every company has a brand, but some are much more clearly defined than others. When your brand isn’t concrete, you’ll end up being defined by your product or service, which won’t create the strongest impression.
Brand guidelines help you pull together all the elements that make up who you are, so you can build an identity beyond what you sell. Your customers will be able to visualize what you stand for when they hear your name.
Think of Nike, for example. Just one look at its iconic swoosh and inspirational tagline on Facebook and you know what business page it is.
As we continue to live much of our lives online, having a concrete visual identity is more important than ever. The relevance of image search is rising, which means people are discovering brands on search engines through visuals alone.
In order to boost your image SEO, you need to use high-quality, wholly unique, and branded templates that people actually want to share. As your visuals get more engagement and shares—especially on keyword-rich platforms like Pinterest—your recognizable brand visuals will rise on image search, along with your website.
4. You’ll stand out from the crowd
Most of us spend a lot of time on the internet these days, and when you do, the heaps of content marketing on your screen can all start to blend together. But when you’re pushing a clearly consistent brand time and time again, your audience is bound to listen at least one time.
A consistent brand voice is exactly what has made Wendy’s tweets go viral countless times. Audience members have come to expect the brand to have the best comebacks for just about any situation.
Whether you commit to a sassy brand personality or a friendlier tone of voice, staying within your own brand guidelines can help you not only boost brand awareness, but also become a brand that people can’t wait to hear from.
5. Great branding boosts loyalty
When people become loyal customers, it’s usually not just because of a product or service. Think about ridesharing companies, for example. Uber and Lyft provide nearly identical services—often sharing the same drivers—and yet many users have a preference. Branding plays a strong role.
Consumers develop emotional connections with companies that share the same core values, and your brand guidelines help you translate those values to your audience in a unique way. When you gain a loyal customer, they’ll start spending 67% more than new buyers.
3 Steps to Build Your Brand Guidelines
At this point, the necessity of brand guidelines is impossible to ignore. But a brand style guide is meant to be pretty robust, so where do you even begin? We’ll take you through three steps you can take to set up your visual identity with the help of Adobe Spark.
1. Create a logo
Your logo is the central to your visual identity and helps customers quickly identify your brand. When fleshing out your basic brand guidelines, one of the first steps you need to take is settling on a logo.
You can use Adobe Spark to experiment with different icons, fonts, and colors until you have a few different options to decide from. Then, select the one that best reflects how you want your brand to be perceived.
When your final design is ready, just head to the “Brands” section of your account to upload your logo, so it can be automatically added to all your designs.
2. Select your brand color
Another key aspect of your visual identity is your primary brand color. This color is easy to select, since it’s typically the most prominent shade used within your logo.
You can complete the next part of your Adobe Spark brand guidelines by simply selecting the color you want to take the spotlight in your branded graphics. If you’ve already uploaded your logo, Adobe Spark will automatically suggest colors from your design, so you don’t have to worry about finding the correct shade.
3. Choose your fonts
All of your brand’s text should also follow a consistent style. You’ll want one primary font that you’ll use on all your headers and across all designs.
Once you plug your selected font into the last step of your “Brands” section, you can tap “Brandify” on any Adobe Spark template to instantly align your design with your company’s image.
More Brand Elements to Consider
Once you’ve developed the basic look and feel of your brand, you can further flesh out your brand to ensure all your content aligns just by taking three extra steps:
1. Further develop your visual identity
Your brand guidelines don’t have to stop at defining your primary look. Here are a few more visual elements you can consider:
Maintaining a consistent brand color palette is one of the easiest ways to help your target audience identify you. Beyond their primary color, most brands have about one to four other colors within their palettes that can be mixed and matched within each graphic.
The color palette you choose can make a big difference in the look and feel of your brand. Consider these otherwise identical event graphics, for example:
The colors in the first graphic do a better job of conveying a fun, bold brand. The second, on the other hand, is a bit softer and more understated. Neither is wrong, but the images definitely have different effects.
Pro tip: Use the Adobe color wheel to select a palette that doesn’t clash.
You may already have a primary font, but most brands will also have secondary typefaces for subheads and smaller text (no more than two). Always avoid having more than three fonts.
Your brand style guide should also create rules for your font colors, text sizes, and letter spacing. Plus, think about whether or not you want to allow bold or italicized fonts, and on what occasions if so.
Secondary logo designs
Beyond your primary logo, you can also create several variations of your logo design. For example, Spotify’s full logo includes its icon and company name in green, but the company also includes some text-free designs in its brand guidelines with acceptable color variations.
While your full logo should be used whenever possible, having some set variations will help you easily integrate your branding into different designs. A square logo variation is particularly useful for keeping your profile pictures across social media channels consistent.
Defining use cases for each logo variation can also help you stay consistent.
Finally, you’ll add brand guidelines for what your visual elements actually look like. Does your content primarily include photographs? Illustrations? Animations? Videos? Think about your personal skills, your budget, and the talent you have available on your team or in your network before you decide.
Your visual elements should also follow a similar aesthetic, which may require rules for lighting, approved subjects, and more.
2. Decide on your brand message
Your logo alone isn’t going to create customer loyalty. You also need brand guidelines for the messages you want to send. This is your time to define what you stand for in four steps.
If you have a business plan, you probably already have a mission statement that you can add to your brand style guide. If not, your mission statement should be a one-sentence phrase that defines why your brand exists. How do you intend to impact the world and make a difference in your customers’ lives?
Including your brand mission in your brand guide will create a consistent framework for all of your marketing. If a message doesn’t align with your mission, you know it’s not consistent with your brand.
Beyond the brand mission, we also recommend adding your brand story to your brand book. This is a compelling narrative that defines how your company came to be what it is today, and how you want to continue or redirect your trajectory in the future. This should be a story that your target audience can personally identify with.
Perhaps even more than your brand mission, your customers will identify and emotionally connect with your core values. Choose between 3-10 principles or beliefs that drive your company.
Each core value can be as simple as one word (“honesty”) or be a short phrase (“to provide transparency for every customer”), but ultimately should define how your brand interacts with any stakeholder.
Once you have all of the elements above added to your brand guide, sum it all up in one short and sweet tagline that can be used within your marketing materials. This should be an extremely simple, yet memorable phrase that’s no more than eight words.
A few catchy taglines that are recognized across the U.S. include:
- “Think different.” (Apple)
- “I’m lovin’ it.” (McDonald’s)
- “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” (State Farm)
3. Create your brand’s personality
You now know what your company looks like and what it stands for. The final step is outlining how you communicate your messages to your audience.
Your brand should have a distinct personality that your audience can identify just by reading your text. Any copy that’s published by your company should essentially read like it’s written by one person—even if you have a team of writers behind the scenes.
You may find it helpful to add a brand persona to your guide that describes who your brand would be if it were a person. Consider its likes and dislikes, essential values, and key traits. How does this person interact with others and make friends? What does this person do for work and how do they spend their free time? Creating a character you can actually imagine can help you put yourself into its shoes and embrace the complete brand personality.
In addition, make sure to define your brand’s voice and tone. Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- What feelings should your content evoke?
- Is your brand more educational or entertaining?
- What words are preferred over others?
- How do you use punctuation to highlight words or phrases?
Once you complete this final step, you can start using Adobe Spark to create stunning graphics, web pages, and animations that follow your brand guidelines to a T. When you save your visual identity rules to your account, you’ll be able to customize templates to your brand in just one tap. Claim your 60-day free trial here.