Marketing

The Do’s and Dont’s of Brand Guidelines

CopyPress

Published: November 6, 2018 (Updated: August 10, 2022)

Brand guidelines help define how you want your company, products, and services presented to the world. You want consistent voice and messaging across all your channels. No matter where a client or customer encounters your content, they’re getting the same thoughts and feelings about your company. That repetition helps build brand trust and client loyalty. Today, we’re giving you the do’s and don’ts of how to build your brand guidelines documents from scratch with topics like:

The Do’s of Brand Guidelines

Your brand guidelines cover more than just one topic. They define your visual branding, messaging, tone, and even your content writing practices. This document is critical to consistency across all channels, content, and even employee conduct when interacting with the public. Without it, there’s no cohesion among your team or your touchpoints. This can confuse your audience, which can turn them away from your brand and cause you to miss out on qualified leads and conversions. Follow these tips to make sure that doesn’t happen:

Be Specific With Design

Imagine you’re scrolling through social media and you see an ad for Netflix. Only, instead of the usual bold red and black logo, the ad uses pastel green and orange tones. Assuming you even realize this is a Netflix ad, what’s it going to make you think? Maybe the company is supporting some kind of charity or cause? Maybe this isn’t really a Netflix ad, and it’s spam or a hack instead? A big company like Netflix may play with its logo and visual designs for special occasions without losing sales. But small businesses may not have that luxury, especially when they’re new to the market.

That’s why it’s important to be specific with your brand design and visuals in your guidelines and stick to them. Choose your colors, symbols, fonts, and graphics wisely. With each visual element, you work towards building a persona for your brand. The more consistent you are and the more places you share these elements, the more recognizable your brand becomes with the target audience. Once you build a solid reputation, people seek your logo, your brand colors, or any visual element to signal, “yes, this is content I want to read,” or “yes, this is the company I want to work with.”

Related: How To Develop a Branding Plan (With Templates and Examples)

Include Communication and Writing Rules

characters from Chicago P.D. communicating about brand guidelines

Image via GIPHY by @onechicago

Branding is not just for visuals. They’re important, sure, but there’s more to shaping your brand persona than just your logo. Your written content and communication play just as big a role, if not a bigger one, in establishing your company’s reputation. Every author and journalist has their own unique writing style, like a fingerprint. It comes from their sentence structure, word choice, and even punctuation choice. You want your brand to have that same unique fingerprint, no matter how many or few content writers you have on your team. A style guide is the part of your brand guidelines that helps make this possible.

Some considerations you may put into your style guide rules include:

  • What’s the desired length for paragraphs?
  • What’s the average reading level for your audience?
  • Do you follow grammatical rules for another style guide, like AP or Chicago?
  • Can writers use conventions like contractions or idioms?
  • How do you want to display dates, numbers, or addresses?

Having a style guide is just as important if you outsource your content writing and creation to an agency. That’s why at CopyPress we build style guide creation right into the onboarding phase with each client. We work with you to cover these and other important points to prepare guidelines for our creative team. It keeps every piece consistent no matter how many writers and editors we assign to your project. Ready to learn more? Schedule an introductory call with us today!

Update and Refresh the Guidelines

This point may sound like a contradiction, but hear us out first. Yes, it’s important to keep your branding consistent across channels. But that doesn’t mean your guidelines can never ever change. Content marketing and SEO best practices can change fast. So do trends and cultural expectations. Good brand guidelines are consistent, but they’re also easy to adapt and update if necessary. For example, style guides have been more recently accepting the use of “their” when referring to a single person to be more gender-inclusive.

Set up a schedule to review best practices for SEO, content writing, and your industry. You may do this quarterly or yearly, depending on what works for your company or branding team. Make adjustments where they’re needed and be sure to update any guideline documents and share them with your team. We make sure this option is available for all your campaigns at CopyPress. Your style guide is a living document, meaning you can update it throughout any campaign. This lets our creatives provide you with exactly the pieces you want, even mid-production.

The Don’ts of Brand Guidelines

Just as there are some things you should always do when developing brand guidelines, there are some things you should never do. These include:

Make Universal Rules

No two content marketing channels are exactly alike. Instagram has rules different from your website, which differ from email campaigns, which differ from podcasting. Your brand guidelines are consistent, but they might not be exactly the same, or universal, for every campaign and channel. Yeah, we sound like we’re contradicting ourselves again, but we’re not.

Universal rules don’t leave any room for change, especially in the nitty-gritty parts of your guidelines. With universal rules, it doesn’t matter if the optimum profile picture size on Instagram is smaller than the container on your website. If you’ve put into the universal guidelines that your logo is 100×100 pixels, then you use that across the board. See how this becomes a problem? Then you’re not putting your best work forward on every platform. This actually makes your marketing look less appealing, even sloppy. That won’t attract your target audience. Instead, make your guidelines flexible to fit every channel.

Ignore Your Brand’s Story

Your brand guidelines aren’t just about image sizes and punctuation marks. They’re also about who you are as a company. The human connection of emotion and values plays a big role in convincing leads you’re the right company for the job. Working with a brand they feel good about may be a bigger selling point than price or even convenience. So don’t forget that when developing your guidelines.

The brand story section doesn’t have to be very long or complicated. It should include your mission statement or guiding principles. It can also include an overview of your target audience and why your company is their right choice. Including this with all your brand guidelines can help with the onboarding of new team members. It introduces them to the company culture and mission from day one. This allows them to convey those sentiments to your audience from their very first project.

We value your brand story at CopyPress, too. During client onboarding, we discuss it with you to learn more about your vision and goals. Then, we let that guide the entire campaign creation process. Ready to start your next great partnership? Contact CopyPress today and share more about your content needs and brand vision so we can start developing winning pieces for you that your target audience loves.

CopyPress

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