I’d be very wealthy if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the leader of a company declare: “We don’t really need a brand guide,” “We all know what colors to use,” “We know who we are,” or “We have a brand guide, but no one really uses it or seems to know what it’s for.” Unfortunately, these statements pain me as a designer. Why? Because your brand is your culture is your brand.
Defining your brand in a brand guide is essential for both your external customers and your internal culture. Your guide should answer a number of questions, such as: “Who are you?”, “Why these colors?”, and “What does our brand represent?”
If your company’s employees don’t have solid answers in mind for these questions, how will your customers connect with your brand? And if your employees don’t know your brand, what are they really connecting with? What will make them stay on your team?
I’m throwing a lot of questions your way, so I’ll throw out some answers. Here’s six reasons your brand is vitally important, and why your company absolutely needs a brand guide—one that is real, regularly used, and easy to access!
1. Branding Creates Customer and Employee Loyalty
A brand is not just colors, fonts, and a logo. It’s much more. A brand includes the meaning behind it all. A brand guide helps explain why colors were chosen, what the logo means, why your culture is how it is, and what differentiates your company from others in your industry.
Customers connect with your brand in a number of environments. Your brand is not just your one-page brochure design, but it’s in the way your employees treat customers, in the consistent phrases they use, and in the back story to your company. Employees connect with your brand if it’s strong, reinforced, and consistent. They become loyal if they understand your brand and relate to its meaning and your company’s values.
Your Account Manager may know how you started, but does he know the full story of how you got to where you are today? Does he know the main brand message he should be communicating to customers? If you have a solidified brand and brand guide, he will know, and his loyalty to your brand and mission will show. Customers will recognize this and see your company and its employees as a trustworthy resource.
2. A Brand Guide Ensures a Consistent Company Message
Have you ever been to a Nike store and not seen “Just Do It” somewhere? Or visited Subway and not been surrounded by the term “Eat Fresh”? Even when you check out at a Walgreens drug store, they almost always say “Have a good day and be well.”
These brand messages are not only words, they are consistent idioms that are used from the CEO down to the cashier. They make the brand memorable. But they also ensure that no one goes rogue. (Imagine a McDonalds commercial with “I’m likin’ it!” Weird, right?)
3. A Brand Guide Keeps Employees in “Check”
Okay, maybe you have great employees. But nobody is perfect! Sometimes, if we are left to our own devices, we mess up. If you have a specific brand guide and branded materials, these mistakes are brought down to a minimum.
Your employees will have a standard email signature that’s recognizable and unique. They will have a PowerPoint template to use whenever they give a presentation. They will have a key phrase to explain why your company does what it does. They’ll ultimately be prepared for it all because they have key words and expressions engrained in their minds, and they’ll believe them to be true of your company.
4. Brand Symbols and Colors Create Recognition
As I stated earlier, a brand is not just its logo and colors, but they sure help. These consistent symbols make your company memorable and set you apart from the rest. Whether they’re simple and monochromatic or detailed and multi-faceted, brand logos and colors are what differentiate you from the rest of the products on the shelf.
If your employees don’t have specific brand guidelines, they may think it’s okay to change your logo colors, to skew your logo proportions, or to use a random purple color to liven up a line of an email when your brand colors are orange and blue (The horror!).
5. Branding Creates Trust and Credibility
Potential customers make judgments about a company’s brand within the first few seconds of encountering it, whether that is when entering your website, approaching your trade show booth, or passing by a company vehicle.
Without a solidified, consistent brand, your website or vehicle can look a bit messy and unplanned. With a stable and well-defined brand, you automatically look like you know what you’re doing before the customer even figures out exactly what it is you do.
6. A Brand Guide Gives You Parameters
Too much freedom will eventually detract from any company’s brand. With specific parameters around colors, fonts, icons, layouts, and company voice, your creativity has some much-needed boundaries, and your employees can feel more comfortable with the work and content they put out for the world to see.
Branding isn’t just colors, fonts, and a logo. It’s who your company is and what exactly they want to show to the marketplace. It’s a danger to your credibility and appearance to assume your employees and customers know who you are. So show them—and put it in a Brand Guide!