This article is for startups, founders, self-employed and basically any new company or project manager.
We are going to very briefly look at:
1. what creates your brand image (personal or company brand),
2. why you need to keep it consistent,
3. how can a style guide help here,
4. what to include in your first style guide,
5. how to use it.
// Hello, I am Arta Citko and this is my take on branding basics - advice to founders from a designer’s (and founders as well) perspective.
Your branding = Your image
If marketing is more about what you say, then branding is more about how others see you. Your image. (Btw, not only how they see, but also hear and what emotions you radiate.)
Also, branding is about where you are placed in the mind of your target market. In smart & heavy strategic brand management books it is called positioning. And associations play a big role here.
So, in short, your branding = your image
Got it? Cool. Let’s move on.
Consistency = Memorability
After you create an image that fits and represents your thing, use that image consistently. What do I mean by that? Size, layout, format may be different, but main elements remain consistent - same fonts, same colour palette, same tone of voice, same mood etc.
Consistency helps your brand to be easily recognised and recalled. In contrary, an inconsistent image is like having a friend, and every time you meet her, she’s a different person. You don’t want that, right?
And more.. this combination (image + consistency) along with some other additions, increases brand equity and at the end of the day makes you more $$$*
* Here is a paragraph from Strategic Brand Management book:
"A brand has positive customer-based brand equity when consumers react more favourably to a product and the way it is marketed when the brand is identified than when it is not (..) Thus, customers might be more accepting of a new brand extension for a brand with positive customer-based brand equity, less sensitive to price increases and withdrawal of advertising support, or more willing to seek the brand in a new distribution channel."
why you need a style guide
A style-guide can help you (and your company) to maintain a consistent brand image.
Given as a cheat-sheet to new employees, freelancers and even used by yourself gives everyone:
1. clarity about what visual elements and tone of voice to use in communication with the customer, what emotions to evoke,
2. understanding of how a poster, facebook event cover or presentation should look like,
3. decreases number of on revisions,
4. saves time on having to describe the company image and feel for each new person again and again.
A lot of good stuff, huh?
When thinking about your brand and how to describe it think about these 3 aspects: visuals, voice & emotion. It is what really builds the brand persona.
Think - if your brand was a person how might it look like, how might it sound like, what emotions might it radiate? This way of thinking may help you to come up with colours, symbols, font style, tone of voice, mission statement etc.
Main parts of a style guide
Here is a list of things to include in a short basic style guide, or as I sometimes call it a brand cheat sheet.
1. name, mission and tagline
2. logo on light & dark background
3. colours + colour codes
4. fonts and font hierarchy
5. shapes, icons, symbols
6. photo and/or illustrations style
7. the tone of voice, status, attitude
8. wins & fails (how success looks like to you, how fail looks like)
9. contacts & links (contacts of the person whom to ask for PDF, AI and other specific work files + links to a shared image, font & logo folder)
And of course if you count in the title page then it is all together 10 pages.
Below is an example. 4 pages of a 10-page style guide I created for European Voluntary Service project Hidden Places.
You can easily & quickly revise 10 pages. I use Adobe Illustrator. You can use PowerPoint or Keynote and convert to PDF. Or ask me and I will help you to create one!
You can actually start with 1 page - the Brand Summary Poster I posted earlier. It is a #veryfuckingsimple branding one-pager. You can download, print it and fill it. Instructions usually are not needed but are included just in case.
Your target audience meets your brand through brand touch-points.
Brand touch-points are basically just channels (like email, social media etc) through which your brand character interacts with your target audience a.k.a. customer character.
Here is my list of brand touch-points:
Think about which channels you might use first. Remember you will eventually adjust your brand image to all of them. At the beginning just pick a few & think about how the visuals may look like, what the message in each is going to be. For example facebook cover, branded t-shirt & a business card.
You can later also add visual examples or text scripts to the style guide. That can be extremely helpful to whoever will be using the style-guide later.
Use & share the style guide
If you don’t use the style guide the benefits doesn't really work. So make it, use it, share it.
keep it in a shared folder
share it with everyone in your company
give it to every new employee
give it to every new freelancer
update & make relevant additions or corrections once in a while
To sum it up:
1. Think about your image, how you want to be seen (visual, voice & attitude).
2. Remember you (or designer) will adjust the image to each channel a.k.a touchpoint.
3. Make 10-page style guide + add a few examples if you can.
4. Place the style guide in a shared folder & share it with everyone in your company.
... and before you leave
BTW.. I have made quite a few style guides in my lifetime. Do reach out to me if you need help with yours! firstname.lastname@example.org or get the Brand Character Playbook
And thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like & share to help others find it.
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