A brand standards manual (also known as a brand book, style guide, bible, etc.) guides anyone on the use of your brand’s appearance & messaging across all platforms. It plays an important role in protecting and building your brand—it tells your story so employees and vendors know what you stand for and how you want to be perceived by travelers and consumers. While you know your brand, new employees and partners rarely do. But, with a brand standards manual, they can educate themselves quickly and it can serve as a valuable rule book to keep your brand cohesive across ALL messaging. From elevator speeches and portraying your mission to embroidery on a polo shirt and event sponsorship displays, your brand standards manual will help with the delivery of a consistent brand presence.
What is a brand standards manual?
It covers as little or as much as you want of two important pillars of your brand: The first is your brand identity, such as your mission, values, personality, tone, and more. The second is your brand assets and how to use them, such as your logo variations (usually vertical and horizontal options), tagline, color palette, typefaces and fonts, photography style, patterns, and more. It may even delve deeper into language, tone of voice, email signatures, etc.
What format is normally used?
A brand standards manual can be a PDF, a printed booklet, a specialty kit, a website, etc. Really, anything that allows for ease of use and sharing with a broader audience. More often than not, organizations utilize a PDF format to control the sharing of their brand standards with the appropriate people.
Does it require an elaborate design?
The most important thing about the visual aspect of your brand standards manual is that it is easily understood and accessible. It can be a very basic document or, if you prefer, something dressed up more like a brochure for your brand. The key is to not let the design process stop you from assembling the information in an easily shareable medium.
How will it be used?
Brand standards help police your brand. For example, ensuring your logo does not show up in a color that is not your brand color—if somebody uses your logo and changes it to a non-brand color for an event, you risk the chance of it being your competitor’s brand color (and creating confusion). Other examples include somebody rotating, stretching or squeezing your logo in order to fit a predetermined space. Sections in your brand standards manual will say that this is not allowed and ease tensions related to hurting personal feelings.
What do they look like?
Here are some examples of brand standards manuals for major brands.
- Twitter’s brand guidelines
- Walmart Corporate Brand Guidelines
- Mozilla Style Guide
- Coca-Cola Brand Equity Package
- Apple Affiliate Guidelines
How do you enforce your brand standards?
The most important thing you can do is ensure all employees have access to your standards and keep them top of mind. Remind employees in emails and staff meetings of how to access these standards and make sure they have read them. Every employee is an ambassador for your brand, from front line staff to CEOs. Assign one person, such as your marketing director, to be judge and jury. This enforcer of the rules can also check with employees periodically for any issues people are running into upholding the standards. It may be that a section needs to be clarified or expanded on, or changed altogether. Brands can be ever-evolving, so a checkup every year or two will help keep your standards up to date.
Where do you start when creating one?
The most basic brand standards guide will cover required branding colors and logo versions. You can start there and expand as you go. A “what not to do” page should be included in your basic version as well.
If you would like some help, our creative and account service teams would be happy to work with you on developing a standards manual to help protect the outward appearance and reputation of your destination’s brand. Email Susan (Susan@stampideas.com) to get the process started.