The Best Brand Guides Give Voice To More Strategic, Engaging And Resonant Communications
Updated: Jan 29, 2022
A brand guide is more than a roadmap of micro technical uses. It's also, most importantly, a key strategic toolkit for articulating your company's greatest asset to the world.
A good brand guide must articulate, through examples, how its voice needs to be used. Voice is what you say and how you say it, in situations ranging from advertising copy, social media posts, and customer service email responses. Your brand has a perspective, it believes in things, it has values and aspires to ideals, just as people do. Paying close attention to your brand's voice in real language and real situations gives you more than step-by-step instructions on how to use the logo, or colours, or font types. It gives your people the power to unlock the strategic power of positionality, of clear differentiation against your competitors, and greater resonance and engagement with customers. It allows you to actually deliver on the promise and potential of your brand in real time. In the 20 years that Donovan has been building strategic brands, we've seen the powerful effects of brand guidelines well articulated, on company culture, internal and external communications, and customer affinity. Brand guides, or brand books as they are sometimes called, are important for communicating the technical uses, the do's and do not's, of how to use your brand in advertising campaigns, print design, and across all communications environments 0nline and offline. The technical requirements of a brand are necessary for those tasked with managing consistency of use, which is indeed valuable for maintaining standards in look and feel with all of those who need to use the brand on a daily basis. To underscore the importance of technical guidelines, one can look to Coca Cola, where its global brand managers ENSURE that the Coke red is always the Coke red no matter where you see an advertisement or buy a Coke in the world. This kind of consistency is vital for brand recognition, recall and trust. Beyond the functional and technical uses, there is also the vital requirement of establishing how to actually use the brand beyond function; the need to help those who use your brand to articulate your vision, values, customer service promise, voice, and character. To successfully articulate your brand beyond function means creating a walking, talking entity and codifying those qualities for everyone to understand and use with agility. How your brand speaks and sounds, the words it uses and doesn't, its personality and perspective and the ideals it embodies; these need to be as carefully crafted for regular use as any technical requirement. Your brand is the living embodiment of who you are as a company; it needs to be alive to be effective, which means giving it a heart, a mind, and a voice. Your brand guidelines need to include real language usage in real situations of interaction and communication with your customers and stakeholders. Without this kind of definition, people will be guessing in the dark on how to use the actual brand personality and voice to help you be as effective as possible in the market. Leaving people to guess at use without direction is a recipe for brand disintegration, in the same way a failure to identify its technical uses would. When we develop brand guidelines we cover all of the bases when it comes to how to deploy the brand technically in standards that include but aren't limited to colour use, font types and sizes, maximum and minimum logo size requirements, placement, and visual representations on how brand elements appear on stationary, business cards, advertisements, brochures, websites, signage, and more. That is really the front section of your brand guide. In the back half, we codify through specific examples how a brand's character, voice, and personality are expressed. We provide multiple use cases, from headlines in ads, to key words for search; from social media promotions to speeches; from commercial scripts and visuals, to email communications and automated responses. This is vital for actually using the brand beyond function in real life interactions; it gives everyone on the team examples of how to use your brand in real time, across all media and in all situations, and gives them and you the confidence that your brand will be living up to its promise in everything it says and does. Your brand is your most valuable asset. It's what sets you apart from everyone else. This is why your next brand guide needs to go beyond technical uses to include the beating heart of what makes your brand a strategic powerhouse against all others.