I think we can all agree that branding is important for growing businesses.  However, saying that branding is good and actually doing it well are two different things entirely!

Establishing a brand” isn’t just industry jargon; there are actual, concrete steps you’ll want to take to ensure that your brand is both distinct and memorable.  One of these steps is establishing a set of clearly-defined brand guidelines that dictate how you’ll present your company to the world.  If you haven’t yet created these all-important rules for your business, the 11 recommendations below should help you get started:

How can/can’t our logo be used?

Your logo’s brand is one of its most important pieces of marketing collateral.  As a result, it’s up to you to protect how it’s used by dictating logo restrictions in your brand guidelines documentation.

adobe logoTo see this type of rule in action, take a look at Adobe’s Corporate Brand Guidelines document, which details exactly how the company’s logo should be displayed, whether it’s being rendered in one or more colors, placed in different page locations or altered in size.

Where must our tagline be used?

If your company uses a tagline, you’ll want to use your brand guidelines to specify how and when it must be used.  Should it be shown every time your logo is displayed?  Only on certain types of marketing materials?  While displaying your tagline alongside every instance of your logo may be space-intensive, it can also be a good way to help build brand recognition when your company is new.

What colors will we use in our branded materials?

When Walmart renders its logo in blue, it doesn’t use any old blue!  Instead, it uses a carefully selected hue and uses that across its marketing materials, store displays and more.  Help your brand establish this same type of consistency by adding a color palette to your brand guidelines, detailing the Pantone, CMYK, RGB or hex color codes that should be used every time.

walmart logo colors

How will we make use of imagery in our branded materials?

The imagery you decide to use across your print and digital marketing materials contributes to your brand’s image in a significant way.  As an example, take a look at Zurb’s blog.  Nearly all the posts images are either stylized illustrations or live action shots, creating a cohesive look across multiple content pieces.

zurb blog

No matter what type of imagery you decide to use, make it consistent and make it reflect the emotions and ideas you want associated with your brand.

What fonts and typography styles will our marketing materials use?

As you’ve probably figured out by now, consistency in brand imaging is one of the primary goals of a brand guideline document.  So since you’ve already set the colors and images you’ll use, why stop before selecting your common fonts and typography?

Using consistent text stylization across all your different marketing channels helps customers to recognize immediately when they’re interacting with your brand.  Maybe a stately serif font will suit your needs best in these instances, or maybe a modern sans-serif style will be a better fit.  But whichever way you decide to go, keep it consistent across every communication method you use in order to build brand recognition.

What should our company’s “voice” sound like?

Every brand has its own personality.  That’s why codifying your company’s values and voice into your brand guidelines documentation is just as important as specifying your logo usage or color scheme!

As an example, take a look at the personality guidelines created by Wipro, an IT, BDO and R&D conglomerate:

wipro brand voice

Both the defined values and brand personality as stated give the company’s marketing employees clear guidelines against which to measure their advertising efforts.  If a proposed marketing piece fails to resonate with these values, it can be sent back to the drawing board before it has a chance to hinder the company’s branding efforts.

What feelings and emotions describe our company?

Creating a “voice” for your company may seem daunting at first, but the process becomes easier when you start by listing out the feelings and emotions you’d like to be associated with your brand.  To begin your own brainstorming session, start by listing out the sentiments you’d associate with popular brands (for example, Nike could be “powerful” or “active,” while Apple might be “hip” or “cool”).

Once you’ve generated a list of descriptors, hone in on those that resonate best with how you visualize your brand and select a few (either from your list or piggy-backing off the words you’ve already generated) to add to your brand guidelines.

How should the company be referred to in marketing materials and public venues?

If your company pays for sponsorships or lists itself in professional or industry-specific directories, how should it be referred to?  Say, for example, that your company offers a SaaS product serving the healthcare industry.  Are you a healthcare company or a technology company?  Will you require these public venues or marketing channels to use your logo and your tagline or just your logo?

These considerations may seem minor now, but as your company grows, you’ll be glad to have a set of consistent guidelines to follow to maintain your brand’s image.

What topics will we communicate with our audience about?

Today’s environment of content marketing means that companies must be constantly communicating and engaging with their audiences.  But that doesn’t mean that all topics are automatically on the table.  If there are some sensitive topics you’d like to avoid altogether, consider using your brand guidelines to define which subjects are acceptable and which ones you’ll decline to speak about.

How will we interact with different social networks?

Although the way you interact with different social networks may not seem to be as important from a branding standpoint as your logo or font selections, think of all of your communication as representing your brand in some way.

Take JetBlue as an example.  The company’s Twitter account is so dedicated to providing good customer service to frustrated customers that the airline frequently receives recognition for its efforts.  As a result, you’d better believe that the company’s social interactions are part of its branding success!

jetblue service

How and when can our brand guidelines be changed?

Finally, recognize that while rebranding is a major undertaking, there may be situations where the hassle involved is worth the effort.  But since you won’t want to take on this type of project on a whim, it’s a good idea to use your brand guidelines to dictate how and when things can be changed in the future.

Will you require a committee to formally review, revise and approve new branding guidelines?  If so, which stakeholders should be involved in the committee and what steps should be taken to ensure their proposed changes best serve the company?  In this instance – as in others mentioned above – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to minimizing future branding frustrations.

After all that, I want to hear from you.  Does your company have a brand guidelines document in place?  If so, share your recommendations for going through the standards setting process in the comments below for companies that haven’t yet committed to this undertaking.