04 Mar What’s a Brand Standards Guide and Why Do You Need One?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What’s a Brand Standards Guide?
A Brand Standards Guide is a written document that establishes and explains your company’s branding. It answers the question, “Who are we?” You might hear a Brand Standards Guide referred to with other names such as Style Guide, Brand Guidelines, or Brand Identity. Regardless of what you call it, your Brand Standards Guide is the definitive, go-to document that guides the creation of all company materials. It generally includes information about your organization’s:
- Color palette
- Logo and logo variations
- Visual elements such as icons and graphics
- Key messages such as your mission statement, motto/tagline, values, and company history
- Brand voice
- Preferred language for your company’s specific offerings and industry-related topics
- Visual standards for your company’s products and packaging, if applicable
- Target audiences
Why does it matter?
At Streetlamp Creative, we firmly believe that every business should have its own unique Brand Standards Guide. Here’s why:
Your materials need to look consistent.
A Brand Standards Guide helps ensure that every communication you put out into the world has a consistent look and feel. Without one, your employees and contractors may have differing ideas and assumptions about which fonts, colors, or tone are appropriate when producing materials. As a result, your materials may look inconsistent or hastily thrown-together, giving off the impression that your company produces sloppy, lazy, and unprofessional work. Inconsistent branding can also make it difficult for customers to find your company’s information and products. By making your materials instantly recognizable, you can help customers better understand and engage with your brand.
Having an up-to-date Brand Standards Guide can save you and your team a whole lot of time, hassle, and money.
It can take an enormous amount of time to educate new employees and contractors about your brand. Having this information in one place that can be referenced over and over again will reduce the learning curve and save everyone time, hassle, and money. Even if your team is made up of “long-timers,” without a Brand Standards Guide, these employees are forced to remember critical details or spend time confirming information with each other. A Brand Standards Guide eliminates the guesswork and helps your team work more efficiently by keeping everyone on the same page.
A Brand Standards Guide helps guide successful decision-making.
Once your Brand Standards Guide is finalized, it serves as a foundation for making day-to-day decisions moving forward. For example, if you’re unsure what color to paint your conference room, reference the guide to see which color schemes are appropriate and on-brand. A business that describes itself as upscale and polished should be taking clients out to lunch at a dressy restaurant rather than a local watering hole. A business that views its culture as “chill and laid-back” should naturally have a more casual dress code. Your branding informs not just your marketing materials, but also your corporate culture and daily business practices.
Proper branding helps attract the customers you want.
If your company is trying to be everything to everyone, you may very well end up being nothing to nobody. Some of the most successful brands are those who proudly declare who they are and what they stand for, even if it goes outside the mainstream. Think about REI’s “opt outside” campaign and the fact that they don’t participate in Black Friday. Or, Chick-fil-A’s practice of remaining closed on Sundays. Or, CVS’s recognition of their brand as health-focused and their subsequent decision to stop selling tobacco products. Regardless of what you think of these companies or their decisions, they’ve worked to ensure that their personality aligns with what their target audiences want. They’re not afraid to go out on a limb to potentially isolate some people. Instead, they’re betting that the people they intend to serve will connect with their authenticity and support them.
Okay, a Brand Standards Guide sounds pretty rad. How do I get one?
That’s where we come in!
As an experienced graphic designer and writer team, creating Brand Standards Guides is one of our specialties. We’ll work alongside you and key members of your team to intentionally consider your business’s past identity and past materials and tie those in, as appropriate, with your future goals and your audience’s values.
Because your Brand Standards Guide will shape your company’s materials for years to come, it’s important to get it right. There are a lot of considerations related to font licensing and usage rights, creating the right variations of your logo (black & white, 2-color, 4-color) that will print correctly, establishing colors with the appropriate formats (CYMK, RGB, and Pantone), and more. Think of creating a Brand Standards Guide like remodeling your kitchen. Sure, you might be able to do a lot of research and learning and complete the job yourself – but you can save yourself a whole lot of headaches and time by bringing in an experienced professional.
Plus, the people who work for your company every day are likely to have a little bit of “tunnel vision” when it comes to your brand. They may be overly focused on “the way things used to be” or their own personal preferences – it happens to the best of us! Bringing in a neutral third party to help create your Brand Standards Guide can offer a fresh perspective and new ideas, while still allowing everyone’s voice to be heard.