March 4, 2016 | Dan West | Founder/Executive Creative Director

The Basics of Brand Standards

Anyone with a marketing background knows that creating a brand is about a lot more than creating a logo, tagline and color scheme. In order for your brand to become more than just the sum of its parts, it needs to be instantly recognizable and provoke feelings of loyalty and trust in your target audience. Establishing a strong presence that sets your company apart from the competition requires consistency and cohesion across all touchpoints and platforms. That’s where brand standards guides come in.

A brand standards guide is a set of rules that direct how your various brand assets should be used, both internally and externally. From type styles and colors to proper logo placement and photography treatments, brand standards are designed to protect your company’s presence by controlling its image. In order for brand standards to be effective they have to be comprehensive and precise, and everyone in your company needs to understand why they’re important and diligently adhere to them.

So, why exactly are they important? Good question, with a lot of different answers. Let’s look at the number one reason: Consistency.

Consistency fosters trust and loyalty. Being consistent isn’t just about following rules, ultimately, it’s about creating a reliable experience for your audience. The more your audience’s expectations of your company are affirmed by reality, the more they’ll come to trust you and your brand. And trust, of course, is a key ingredient to loyalty. If your brand is inconsistent it will lead to an inconsistent experience for your audience, leaving them feeling uneasy and unsure about what to expect from you. Once that trust is eroded, it’s incredibly difficult to get back. If your branding is inconsistent and unreliable, people will probably think your work and/or products are too.

So, why do many companies not have a brand standards guide in place? Another good question, thanks for asking.

Perceived cost.

A company looking to save money might think that producing a guide will take time away from making the things we need ‘right now.’ When in fact, creating a brand guideline will save time, money and effort. Let’s say you hire an outside designer or firm to create some marketing collateral for your company. When they have questions about what colors they can use or which version of your logo is final, they will have to email one or more different people and wait for the correct answer, that’s going to result in a lot of wasted effort. This will most likely frustrate everyone involved in addition to significantly impacting your timeline and budget. The same thing applies if you have an internal design department. Brand standards guides eliminate the problem by compiling all those answers in one place and making them accessible to anyone at any time.

So, what should be in the guideline? That is ultimately up to you, but it should contain at least:

  • Brand values
  • Brand tone/voice
  • Logo
  • Logo size requirements, usage, clearspace and specifications
  • Primary and secondary color palettes
  • Typography, fonts and usage

Additional items could be:

  • Brand elements like patterns, treatments, etc.
  • Photography style and treatments
  • Business card and stationery templates
  • Templated layouts and grids for ads, sell sheets, etc.
  • Presentation templates like Powerpoint or Keynote
  • Website specifications for fonts, button styles, tone, reading level, etc.
  • Social media guidelines
  • Internal and external signage
  • Copywriting style

Creating and maintaining a comprehensive brand standards guide does take some up-front investment, but it’s well worth it in the long run. If you want to learn more about how you can better utilize brand standards guides in your business, get in touch!

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