Your brand is your business’s identity, it helps define what you stand for. It should encapsulate the values of your business and shape its personality, so that your customers, clients and prospects understand exactly who you are, and what you can do for them.

Branding does not come easy, in fact the more natural and unforced the end result appears, the greater the likelihood that a huge deal of thought and hard work has gone into creating it. But once you have created your brand you have to be able to control it. This is why brand guidelines are so important.

Setting the Rules
Even if your brand is some sort of maverick, “edgy” creation, you still need rules. This is not about preserving civilization at all costs, it’s simply sound business sense. In order for your brand to be memorable it needs to be consistent and appropriate. Strong brand guidelines will help ensure that this happens.

There are two kinds of information you need to consider for your brand guidelines. These are your brand identity and your corporate guidelines.

Your brand identity comprises the elements which make up your brand, including: your logo, and how to use it; your colour scheme; what fonts you use; templates for letterheads, business cards and other communications; and web guidelines.

However, a brand isn’t just a visual thing. You should also consider your tone of voice and how you communicate to your audience. Is your style casual, authoritative, or formal? How is this channelled through your advertising and marketing, and how do you use social media?

Alongside these branding issues are your corporate guidelines. Now your business may not be a corporation, and you may not be planning to become one any time soon; but these guidelines are still valuable as brand building tools to ensure that your brand presence is consistent.

Corporate guidelines should include: your core purpose and values; the positioning of your brand and its unique characteristics, and how these should be expressed; your target audience and the type of customers you are looking for; and guidelines around pricing policy, who you are or are not, and what businesses you will, or won’t, do business with.

Consistency and Continuity
Brand guidelines give your communications structure. They exist to ensure your content remains clear and on message, consistent with your brand values. They are evidence of how seriously you take your content, and by extension, your audience.

No brand wants to be confusing – brand guidelines help to ensure all your communications make sense, regardless of who is responsible for them, whether in-house or outsourced. Brand guidelines police the quality of your communications, guarding against the wrong use of your logo, colours or fonts.

Finally, they ensure continuity in your communications. You may have key individuals employed to look after your marketing communications, or you may have a degree of personal control over your brand; but you need the assurance that your brand will be properly looked after in the absence of this kind of control.

Many businesses face periods of upheaval, and you want your brand and its values protected during such times. Properly devised brand guidelines will help ensure this.

Reform Creative is a Manchester-based design agency and we understand how vital brand guidelines are in the creative process. We work with existing guidelines and we can create new ones, depending on what you need.

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