The term “brand guide” isn’t one that usually elicits excitement.
In fact, when I usually hear that term, the first visuals that come to mind are a telephone book sized manual or a lengthy PDF — both of which leave me scratching my head.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course it’s important to clearly define how a brand’s logos, fonts, and imagery should be used. However, digging through a 30-page document to understand those requirements is neither pleasant nor productive.
In this day and age, there’s a better way to create, update, and share brand guidelines. In this post, we’ll explore everything about the modern brand guide — why it matters, where it falls short, and how you can represent your brand guidelines the right way.
The Benefits of Having a Comprehensive Brand Guide
One of the biggest benefits of brand guides (also referred to as brand bibles or identity guides) is their ability to inform many different audiences at once, for their own unique purposes. For example, employees can learn how to embody a brand in their work, while press outlets can learn how to represent the brand accurately in media coverage.
Another key benefit of having a brand guide is its ability to ensure consistency — a fundamental branding principle. After all, branding is defined as, “The process of defining or refining your focus; who you are, what makes you different, and what unique value you offer.” To successfully define your focus, it’s essential that your brand looks, feels, and sounds the same across every consumer touchpoint.
Where Traditional Brand Guides Fall Short
Although we support the idea of a brand guide and believe in the power of what a comprehensive one might do, most traditional brand guides fall short in a variety of ways.
One problem with the term “brand guide” is that it’s often misleading. These books and bibles typically focus on specific usage of a creative asset, such as how much white space needs to cushion a logo, or what color a logo should be based on background color.
While it’s important to include this information, it’s only a small part of what should be included in an official brand guide.
Most brand guides neglect to include core brand-building guidelines, such as how to use brand voice in different contexts, how to respond to customer support inquiries, and how employees should use branded imagery on social media. Brand guides should be so incredibly thorough that, after reading from cover to cover, the reader is an expert on every aspect of the brand.
Brand Guides Are Difficult to Update and Share Another problem with brand guides is that they’re typically published in PDF or even physical book format, making them difficult to change and maintain over time.
In a digitally-driven world where marketers and creatives are publishing more eBooks, articles, and infographics, brands are experiencing a faster rate of evolution. When a brand guide isn’t easy to update, marketers are often reluctant to refresh their brand book to match their brand until they absolutely have to. (Returning to a giant PDF file to add assets or tweak usage information isn’t ideal.)
With a constantly changing brand and an out-of-date guide, brands are at risk of improperly representing their brand, and creating an inconsistent image.
While all of this may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be this way. I challenge you to consider a new way of creating, maintaining, and sharing an actual brand guide. (One that includes both your most important brand assets and key information on how to properly use them — oh and one that’s easy to update as your brand grows!)
A Better Solution for Modern Brands
Today’s brand guides must meet the dynamic needs of modern brands. In addition to focusing solely on the visual qualities of a brand, it’s important to represent intangible qualities, such as a brand voice, brand personality, and brand essence.
Contemporary brand guides also need to understand a consumer’s perception of the brand — What channels do they use most? How do they prefer to interact with your brand? These questions will help you create a brand guide that anticipates the future and prepares your internal team for potential issues.
Lastly, a brand guide must be dynamic and responsive. I’m still surprised by the number of companies investing time and money into a new brand identity, only to have it live in a static PDF that’s revisited once every 3 years. To stay ahead of these brands, it’s imperative that your brand guide is easy to update, edit, and share.