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Brand guidelines, do you really need them?

brand guidelines quick reference desk guide

For our corporate clients, the necessity of brand guidelines is a no-brainer. However, when it comes to smaller businesses, we often get quizzical looks. They wonder why they need these guidelines, or if they are even worth the investment. We’ve even heard one client dismiss them as a ‘rip off’!

With over two decades in the industry, we’ve created and worked with countless brand guidelines. Yes, we’ve stumbled on a few that were far longer than they needed to be, likely due to an over-enthusiastic designer or a misguided adherence to unfitting templates.

But if you’ve ever marvelled at the consistency of global brands like Apple, Nike, or Starbucks, you’ve recognised the power of brand guidelines. They serve as a user manual for your brand, a roadmap that ensures consistent brand presentation and fosters recognition.

While brand guidelines may sound complex and expensive, they don’t have to be encyclopedia-sized. They should be designed to suit your brand’s unique requirements.

The benefits of brand guidelines

Consistency — brand guidelines ensure that your brand identity remains consistent across all channels, from your website, social media, packaging, to your emails. This uniformity enables your audience to recognise your brand instantly, building trust and loyalty.

Efficiency — brand guidelines streamline everyone’s work. Be it your team, an agency, or a freelancer, with clear guidelines, they can work on your brand without second-guessing or wasting time. It’s a factor for us when we’re estimating projects, we can plan less time if your brand is clearly defined.

Protection — your brand is invaluable, and guidelines help safeguard it. They act as a shield, defending your brand from misrepresentation or misuse. In today’s digital age, maintaining control over your brand’s image is more critical than ever.

One size does not fit all

The mention of brand guidelines might conjure images of a mammoth 180-page manual. However, your brand guidelines should be a perfect fit for your needs, not a one-size-fits-all document.

For small businesses or start-ups, a simple guide featuring key elements like your logo, colours, fonts, and tone of voice might suffice. As your business expands, your guidelines should evolve, becoming more detailed and comprehensive.

Larger companies or those with multiple product lines will need more extensive guidelines. These can include instructions for sub-brands, region-specific marketing rules, partnership management, and even crisis communication.

The right format 

The format of your brand guidelines should align with your business size and structure. A multinational brand might benefit from a brand guidelines microsite, while a start-up can work from a simple PDF.

Remember, your guidelines should be easily accessible. A PDF lost in the depths of a shared server won’t do much good. We’ve found that a desk guide serves as an effective quick reference, allowing team members to easily access essential brand elements and rules.

An investment worth making

Creating brand guidelines may seem costly, but it’s crucial to view them as an investment rather than an expense. They lay the foundation for a strong, recognisable brand that pays dividends over time.

Brand guidelines can save you money in the long run by preventing costly mistakes, unnecessary rebranding, or redesigning. Moreover, a consistent brand can cultivate a loyal customer base and boost sales, ensuring a return on your investment.

Also, consider the hidden costs of not having guidelines. We’ve seen new brands morph beyond recognition within weeks, thanks to a series of ‘new creative’. This loss of brand recognition can lead to tangible business losses.

Brand guidelines are an invaluable tool to ensure everything about your brand is aligned, helping you tell a great (and consistent) brand story.

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