When you’re taking the first steps to build your brand, it can feel like a whole world of possibilities is at your fingertips. At the same time, trying to carve out a unique identity and space for your company can feel overwhelming. Trying to maintain consistency within your brand identity, stylistic choices, and big-picture vision is a tough ask - especially when you’re working with a variety of different (and often siloed) departments.
This is where a brand style guide can help take the burden off weary CMOs and their teams. Once you know how to build a brand style guide, scaling up your content strategy becomes so much easier.
In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more:
- How do I make my own brand guidelines?
- What should a brand style guide include?
- What are the 7 essential elements of a brand style guide?
The sooner you learn how to build a brand style guide that fits your unique vision and voice, the sooner you can empower your teams to create great content - so let’s dive in!
What is a brand style guide?
Every brand style guide looks different, but they all have the same purpose: to help keep your branding consistent. It’s a master document that includes everything that makes your brand unique, from your visual and stylistic identity, to your company vision and mission statement.
Elements you can expect to find in one include your logo, font types, color palette, tone of voice, photography, and much more. What you choose to include in your brand style guide ultimately comes down to what kind of product or service you offer, and what kind of content you want to put out there.
Having a clear and easy-to-reference guide makes your brand more accessible, which means anyone in your company can create on-brand content. And the more consistent your branding is, the more recognizable you become to your audience, no matter where they might find you.
One question you might be wondering: What is the difference between a brand book and a style guide? We’re so glad you asked!
- The purpose of a brand book is to help people in your company stay aligned with your brand’s overall purpose. It’s all about drawing inspiration from the larger meaning behind your brand.
- A style guide, on the other hand, is more about maintaining a consistent visual and stylistic identity. It helps folks both inside and outside of your brand use your assets consistently and correctly.
These aren’t meant to be strict guidelines though - feel free to incorporate any elements into your brand style guide that feel right.
4 benefits of having a brand style guide
While it’s certainly possible to go about building a brand without a set style guide, we don’t recommend it. Why? Because without a style guide, you’re effectively putting a blindfold on your creative team. Without set standards and rules, you lose consistency and accountability.
Here are just a few key benefits a clear style guide can offer your team:
- Internal Consistency: A style guide keeps your brand identity consistent both internally and externally. No matter what team you’re working with, they’ll know your company’s look, feel, and language. A great style guide helps people learn the ins and outs of your brand quickly so every piece of content created fits together under one voice.
- Clarity: More clarity on content standards means less confusion on how decisions should be made. The clearer the instructions, the less time spent communicating back-and-forth, and more time creating content that stays true to your brand values.
- Customer Trust: People crave consistency in all aspects of their lives, and expect it from their favorite brands too. When you provide a consistent brand experience, you build trust, and that trust can lead to increased revenue. In fact, the State of Brand Consistency report by Marq found that consistent branding across all channels can increase revenue by 10% to 20%.
- Better content, faster: When teams know how to correctly size logos, what color palettes to use, and where to source assets, content can be published swiftly and smoothly. You can also go one step further by including customizable content templates (think social posts, photo assets, etc) within your style guide that can quickly be leveraged across your channels.
How to build a brand style guide
If that all sounds good, then it’s time to start crafting your very own brand style guide! To help you get started, we’ll go over 7 of the most essential elements you’ll want to include. While every style guide is different, these are elements every brand needs to successfully grow and scale content.
Establish your brand identity
The first thing you’ll want to include in your style guide is an overview of your brand identity. This is the glue that binds your brand and content together.
A great place to start is your brand’s mission and vision statements. These not only establish the ‘why’ behind your brand but can be a great asset to reference when it comes to design decisions.
Your brand identity also includes your logo. While creating a strong logo is another topic altogether, many successful logos have one thing in common: a unique color palette. Colors matter - they influence our subconscious and evoke emotion. Choosing the right hues for your logo can help people recognize it easily on any platform.
Define your brand’s voice and tone
If your brand was a person, how would they communicate? Would they lean heavy on the emojis and humor, or would they be more refined and elegant? Finding a clear tone of voice for your company ensures that everything your audience encounters - from customer service emails to social media posts - are consistently on-brand.
It’s important to make sure this voice is aligned with the type of relationship you want to have with your audience. For example, what age range are you trying to appeal to? Thinking about your target audience demographic can help you find a good fit. Brands with successful voices not only effectively communicate their purpose, but also help customers feel seen and heard.
Your brand style guide should not only include high-level recommendations on tone but should outline specific standards for proper spelling and grammar. Guidelines should answer questions like, “is slang acceptable?”, or “can contractions be used?”
Create guidelines for your logo
Great logos are adaptable. No matter the color, size, or medium, customers should still be able to recognize it. The key here is consistency in usage. We recommend including guidelines on how people should use your logo. For example, include rules on appropriate sizing and specs for different platforms like email and social media. What color palettes are appropriate? What are the guidelines for black-and-white usage? Ensuring questions like these are answered helps teams uphold the integrity of your brand’s logo, no matter where or how it’s used.
Build a unique color palette
Like we mentioned earlier, colors matter. Some colors may evoke peacefulness, while others may make you feel excited. Think about the kind of feelings you want your brand to spark, and choose colors that complement that. A successful color scheme helps convey your brand’s identity and messaging, and should be the bridge that connects all of your branding elements together.
When choosing colors, it’s also important to think about how they’ll work with other design elements like font and imagery. To make it easier to maintain consistency, try to pick hues from each color family. This will help your designers seamlessly reproduce logos and other branding assets across print and digital. Plus, varying your color combos gives design teams more flexibility without having to compromise on brand recognition.
Pick your typography
Typography is an often overlooked aspect of great brand design, and should always be included in a brand style guide. When you’re picking fonts, think about how your choice could influence user experience and consistency. You want your typography to be legible across various sizes and mediums (think digital screen vs print). Fonts should also blend harmoniously with other design elements. Just like logo and color choice, typography conveys subconscious messages about your brand.
Outlining rules on font usage within your brand style guidelines makes it easy for those messages to resonate loud and clear.
Outline imagery guidelines
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s especially true in branding. Great imagery and graphics help grab people’s attention and tell your brand story. Whether you’re using photography, illustrations, or other visual elements, maintaining consistency in style, theme, and color makes it easy for people to recognize your brand based on imagery alone.
Depending on the type of imagery you use, you might want to set sizing and usage parameters for different platforms or media types. That way, teams can tailor imagery to fit specific mediums while still maintaining consistency.
Set standards for online content
No matter where people encounter your brand, you want them to have a similar experience when they find you. Setting guidelines for online content gives your teams the opportunity to craft consistent, unified experiences across all channels.
For example, perhaps you’ve set standards on customer service responses, or templates you work off of for blog posts. Wherever you have a digital presence, consider creating guidelines for how your brand should appear and interact with customers.
At the end of the day, a brand style guide equips everyone in your organization with the tools they need to create content that hits the mark. And at Marq, we help you scale your brand by maximizing your content output. Schedule a demo with us today to see how we can help you create better content, and save time.