Can you imagine trying to grow your brand when consumers don’t trust you? Impossible! And guaranteed to fail. However, when consumers trust a brand, they choose it, advocate for it, and defend it.
How do you build trust as a business? The same way you build trust in a relationship—consistency and reliability. “Customers appreciate companies that use colors, typefaces, photographs, and illustrations in a consistent and logical way. The resulting impression of professionalism and attention to detail suggest… that your brand can be trusted.” – Jaroslaw Morawski.
A Brand Book (also known as your brand bible, brand toolkit, brand guide/guidelines, style guide, and identity guidelines) sets the standard for how everything about your company is communicated to the public. It’s used by your employees, your advertisers, and your investors to communicate your messaging with consistency and reliability.
A good Brand Book is the basis for everything your company says, sells, and does.
Brand Book: The Company Workhorse
Your Brand Book works on behalf of the company every day:
- It identifies your company’s mission statement, values, and goals
- It introduces the company to new employees
- It answers design questions
- It guides the development of new products
- It gives parameters to advertising campaigns
- It identifies your target market
- It sets the tone for company messaging
- It puts everyone in the company on the same page
- It makes collaboration between the company and outside agencies more efficient
A Brand Book can also set the stage for a company’s successful acquisition. When biotech startup Ignyta needed help with their branding, they came to us at KPI. We worked with them to create a new Brand Book and used this to enhance their company perception with investors, drive HCP education, and clearly tell their innovation story to patients. Ignyta’s public perception surged and led to their acquisition for $1.7 billion.
What Should Go into a Brand Book?
Brand Book Element #1: Your Story
Why does your company exist? What makes you different? (Yes, also known as your mission statement.)
A clear mission statement is the first thing to put in your Brand Book. It doesn’t need to be long, but please avoid clichés and buzzwords. Here’s Warby Parker’s:
Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. – Warby Parker
Following every great mission statement is a vision statement. This explains your company’s goals and how you’ll meet them. Avoid glossing over these on your way to the fun stuff (usually the logo and colors). They really are the foundation to your Brand Book, so make them shine!
Briefly tell your company story. This should give everyone the ‘aha’ as they connect your story with your mission and vision. Connection is essential for happy employees, loyal customers, and consistent branding.
Brand Book Element #2: Logo
Your logo and how it’s used will be reflected in every communication and advertisement, so it needs to always be consistent. Be sure to include logo variations (different applications will require different logo dimensions), the colors and how to use them, and where the logo should be placed.
Show examples of correct usage of your logo and incorrect usage. Think of the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter logos that are visible on almost every blog post, article, and business card. They’re always the same. The black and white version is always the same. The color version is always the same. These consistency requirements were set out in their Brand Books and are followed to the letter… or the logo.
Brand Book Element #3: Color Palette and Typography
Colors are one of the most memorable parts of your brand identity (think about Starbucks or McDonalds, and how the same colors represent everything across their brand). Most brands use four or fewer colors for all their branding.
Include color designations for all applications. Even if you use Pantone colors, have alternatives (CMYK, RGB, and Hex codes) that can be used in places like print shops that might not use Pantone.
Some brands have named their primary color. It’s pretty easy to picture “Netflix red” or “Spotify green”.
Although business cards are used less these days, it’s still a part of your company’s branding. Provide business card and letterhead design.
Typography (letter and typeface design) is essential for consistency across everything your company does. Remember, consistency builds trust. Do you have brand specific fonts? A font can suggest playfulness, tradition, elegance, creativity… Choose yours carefully.
How are these fonts used across your website, advertising, and packaging? Is copy always centered or aligned left or right? What about the sign outside your office and warehouse? Limit the total fonts you use to under five (most big brands use three or less). Show how the fonts are used in headlines, taglines, blogs, and image captions.
Brand Book Element #4: Persona
“Brand persona is the same as brand personality. It’s what sets the tone across all your channels, from email to website to social media. If you don’t nail your brand persona, you’ll risk sending out mixed messages to your customers.” Inkbot Design
Look at your brand as if it was a person. What’s it like? How would you describe its personality? How does it behave? How does it approach issues like privacy, environmental issues, and minorities?
“Describing these topics in the brand book helps avoid possible problems during everyday communication (i.e. while posting updates on Facebook) and create a shared and consistent direction for the brand’s growth.” – Jaroslaw Morawski for Holy Sheep.
Have three to five adjectives that represent your brand—and some that don’t represent your brand.
Brand Book Element #5: Imagery
One picture can convey a lot about your brand—and the wrong picture will be confusing and off-putting. Show images that fit your persona and audience.
“To ensure proper image usage, we recommend providing examples of images that have been approved and those that haven’t. You can also include imagery from other brands that are similar to yours in addition to collecting images which reflect the feel that you want your brand to convey.” Jen Finney for Synetics Media
Brand Book Element #6: Voice
Who is your audience and how do you speak to them? Your brand voice will be very different if your audience is healthcare providers or skateboard enthusiasts. Include your market research about your customers, who they are, and why they need you.
Do you communicate with your audience as one friend to another? An expert to a professional? A service provider to an organization?
Is the tone of your communications logical or emotional, playful or serious? Are jokes part of your branding or do you focus on facts and statistics (or maybe you have guidelines to include jokes and statistics).
Voice includes words and phrases to use—and ones to avoid. Show examples of words that represent your brand and those that don’t. Details like whether you use abbreviations, what words you capitalize, how you convey numbers, and appropriate acronyms will all help to communicate consistently.
What about communication in other languages? Or across countries? Do taglines change? Make sure your Brand Book has instructions for localization if you are global so you can avoid things like Pepsi’s Chinese faux pas: Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.
Brand Book Tips
Approach your Brand Book as a clear guide that allows for creative freedom. While it’s important to show where and how to apply things like logos and colors, as long as these are followed and the messaging is consistent, you want creativity to show through in the application!
Your Brand Book is literally a book (hopefully more like a booklet) that you can give to people like employees, designers, writers, photographers, and agencies.
“By supplying possible coworkers or vendors with your brand book you’ll be able to keep your company cohesive—and reduce the risk of costly revisions.” toggl track
Schedule time to review your Brand Book at least once a year and whenever you have a new launch. Things will change, and you want to keep your Brand Book current.
Stick to what works for your brand. As Amanda Gaid shows in 12 Great Examples of Brand Guidelines, your guidelines can be as simple as how to use the logo and symbol like Netflix does, or as complex as NASA’s 60-page document.