Brand Guidelines for a Memorable Identity: Build a brand that sticks in people’s minds and you will have the key to establishing and maintaining a successful and well-known business.
Skip forwards to:
- Why does your brand need a memorable identity?
- What is a memorable brand identity?
- What is your target audience and brand persona?
- Develop your brand identity - From Story to Hierarchy
- How to build your brand guidelines
- The brand is really taking shape, how will you build on this?
The digital era has not only provided businesses with more opportunity to reach a targeted audience but also to connect and engage with this audience in a way like never before. It is now extremely important to consider how every piece of communication will alter how a consumer will see the brand and how they will react to it. It’s not just about using the right content and connecting phases on the marketing funnel but it’s also about doing so in an exciting and attractive way, no matter your industry.
Here, we will delve deeper into the importance of each aspect and the processes through which a brand build must go to achieve this.
Your brand identity is key in building a brand, it is the very basis of such. It is the personality of your company, it is the message that the consumer will get about who you are. It is portrayed to the consumer through every element of branding and communication, it makes you instantly recognisable and will build a relationship then between your brand and the consumer.
For instance, you will instantly recognise Facebook as a brand not only in seeing the logo but also when you see the font or the dark blue colour, or even in the icons- such as the messenger or friends icons.
A powerful brand identity should be:
Distinct and different, it should stand out amongst competitors
Memorable, it should have an impact on the audience
Scalable and flexible, it should have the potential to evolve and grow alongside the business itself
Clear, this will allow anyone working on brand collateral, like designers, to get it right every time
Cohesive, every asset should complement the brand identity
Trustworthy, your audience will need to have trust in the brand before they buy into it
Gaining trust from the consumer is ultimately the reason behind creating a brand guideline or brandbook: just as with people, you wouldn’t trust someone who changed how they look and act all the time, and the same applies to brands. In building trust between the consumer and the company, the key is to be consistent. This consistency should be outlined in your brand guideline and should be woven into every part of the brand’s collateral through repetition of the chosen logo, fonts, colours, images and tone. This repetition will present the brand as reliable and recognisable, both of which are necessary traits in being memorable.
The first thing a brand build needs to achieve a memorable identity is to know its audience. The best way to do this is to create an ideal brand persona, this is the semi-fictional character that encompasses the qualities of who you are attempting to reach. This can include factors such as age, background, gender, career, social media usage etc. This is paramount as it will give you an idea of what kind of media will be most effective in reaching them, what motivates them, the kind of content they will be interested in seeing and so on. There are some really handy tools that will help you to do this, such as MakeMyPersona.
After creating your brand persona, your brand style guide can develop this further, and could show other potential personas. For example, take a look at the audience identified for I Love New York:
See the brandbook here.
In their brand guidelines, I Love New York has segmented its core audience of ‘travelers’ into more succinct categories, allowing for a better basis on which to form its communications to be targeted at specific groups of people.
See the brandbook here.
Urban Outfitters have two clear brand personas in their brandbook which describe their characters by name, occupation, personality and perfect day. This alongside the images and design give a clear idea of who they are trying to target and how they are trying to target them.
In knowing your audience, you will now know what interests them and what kind of brand will appeal to them, and that will help you to decipher what kind of design and what kind of tone to take in producing your brand guidelines and any communicative asset going forwards. You should use this information alongside research on the kinds of branding, media and methods used by your biggest competitors, both effectively and ineffectively, to allow you to use what they’ve done well and to avoid any of their mistakes.
You will need to define your brand in terms of what makes you unique, your value proposition, what you can offer consumers that a maybe bigger and more resourceful brand can’t. Ask yourself, why does your company exist? This can use any aspect of your business, whether that be the product itself, your customer service, the level of expertise amongst your employees or anything else that makes you different.
Take a look at a globally successful brand, Apple:
Through every piece of communication, visual or linguistic, Apple define their brand as being different because of their focus on being a part of the future, which they pair with an emphasis on clean, sleek design. This focus is interlaced into every piece of collateral they produce, they are universally recognisable because of this.
In positioning your brand, consider the following categories of brand positioning:
Warm And Fuzzy Positioning
To read more about these types of positioning, please click here.
A successful brand in the modern day is no longer just about the product and how it is marketed, but it has become increasingly true that consumers will connect with not just the brand itself but with how it represents itself in terms of values. According to a 2015 Cone Communications CSR study, more than 9 in 10 millennials would choose one brand over another if the other was associated to a cause. This newfound emphasis on social responsibility means that when you build a brand you should consider how co-branding with a non-profit could benefit your business. This will not only tick the socially responsible box but could also help you reach more people, should you partner with a more well-known brand than your own. It is important to note here that whichever brand you partner with, it must align well with your own.
The following questions will help you to work whether the co-brand you’ve chosen is an appropriate partner:
Will your partner’s audience be interested in your business?
Is your partner a well trusted brand?
Will both parties benefit from the partnership?
A brand that does this really well is Toms, who have built themselves on the idea of ‘One for One’ where for every product purchased, Toms will help one person in need:
This focus on social responsibility has become one of Toms’ USPs and their brand is largely built, very successfully, around this idea. We are not saying that every company should do the same but applying this even in a small way will vastly improve how your business is seen in terms of ethics and values, thus making it more likeable.
Your brand guideline will not only be a guide for the creatives behind your brand, but will also be important for internal employees to grasp who they are working for, to connect with the brand on a personal level, for them to really believe in the brand, and so will produce better work and increase productivity.
Your brand guidelines should offer guidance on 6 key elements: brand story, logo, colours, typography, imagery and tone.
The first is your brand story, this should be a short introduction to the company itself, its vision, its values; the story behind the company should be made clear before creating a brand story, it’s important to have built up an idea of who you are and what your USPs are. Then, you will move on to processes of design, first you should think about the logo, in creating a logo use core imagery that gets across the message before the addition of colour in the design. This is best practice for creating an effective and interesting design. Your brand style guide should also describe where and when it is appropriate to both use your logo and to change the colours in the design of your logo, it may that print letters may require a more toned down version in terms of colour than the logo used for social media, for instance. You may also need to describe how your logo should be sized in different situations.
The tone of voice you use will go hand in hand with your brand’s story and values. It will vary across any content you produce, for instance, your tone on social media may well be very different to the tone you take in email marketing or in print; but they should all align with one another and fall under the blanket identity of your brand.
Is your company playful? Academic? Financial? Highly industry specific? Will it require legal language? These are questions that must be answered before producing any kind of content.
Let’s take a look at a great example of tone:
The tone here is clearly pushing the brand as being a source of inspiration for its audience, this is exemplified throughout: it is punchy, it puts points in twos or threes, the language used is very emotive etc. It positions Fitbit as having an impact and as being a constant in the lives of its owners, thus producing real results. The tone is successfully giving the audience an image as to what the brand is about, what its values are, what its goals are etc.
You will need to describe the tone of voice to be used in all pieces of communication for your brand in the brandbook, so that all colateral appears to have come from the same 'personality' so to speak.
Below, you will see the guidance given by Skype on how their brand should sound:
See the brandbook here.
Noting the human aspect of their voice, Skype make it clear here that they aim for simplicity in their copy and even match this simplicity and conversational tone to the font, colours and elements of visual design.
We just touched upon colour but this is one of the most important aspects of design that will make your brand recognisable, so consider the colour palette of your brand carefully. You need to remember that colour is very emotive and this should be influential to your choices. Your brand colours need to be flexible and should offer designers enough choice without being overwhelming.
Now, you can move on to typography, where best practice would be matching your font choices to the shapes in the design of your logo. When choosing your brand fonts, it’s most useful to ignore any recent trends as these will come and go within a blink of the eye, and you should choose a maximum of 3 different fonts to be used in your assets.
The brand could also need to have clear guidance on what kinds of imagery and photography are on brand, should your communications use imagery regularly. This may include the colours, the lighting, the content etc. This could be shown in either existing brand imagery or in a moodboard of aspirational imagery.
There are so many more aspects of design you could focus on within your brand guidelines. For example, you can consider how your iconography will be structured, this will largely be based on your industry. Your industry will affect how you approach various other aspects of design too, it may be that you will need to include other elements in your brandbook that other industries do not. This could include guidelines on designing packaging, physical signage, brochures, digital banners etc. In the case of a digital orientated business you could outline any hierarchy and layout rules to your website, what kinds of things can be posted where; this will create consistency in every piece of content you produce for the digital sphere.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
See the full brandbook here.
Firefox’s brand story is summarised here in their brandbook after a series of more detailed pages on the company. It defines their mission, their values, their reason for existing in a sense.
See the full brandbook here.
Here you can see how their use of logo is very clearly defined, as are aspects of typography, hierarchy, layout, colour in use etc.
See the full brandbook here.
You can see the primary fonts and font weightings that Uber clearly outline in their brandbook.
See the brandbook here.
NJORD have a particularly effective brandbook, where they show the very specifics of colour to their brand, they also define the photographic style across their brand, as well as the style of imagery for merchandise etc.
See the brandbook here.
Bijou describe here how hierarchy should be implemented on their website and show which sections will need which fonts.
Once you have produced a brand guideline, you will need to use it to build your brand up within the minds of your audience.
At this stage, take what you know about your target audience and apply this to the kind of content and platforms you should be pushing. This may not be enough however, so it could be beneficial to collect some data about the online behaviours of your audience so as to implement a very targeted strategy which will help you work out where to dedicate your resources.
When it comes to the website, visitors truly will judge a book by its cover, so it’s vital that you get the website design right. Maybe start by asking the following questions about your current site: is it fluid and interactive? Is it simple and user friendly? Is the banner and logo across every page? Do you have clear contact details?
This however, is just the beginning. The design of your website is the very face of your company and will be what visitors largely base their thoughts towards a brand upon. So, you will need to pay close attention to detail and to what your audience wants and needs from your site in order to convert those leads.
Spotify have a well thought out design, this is the face of their company. They are modern, simple, user friendly, and target an extremely wide audience. We can see these aspects of the business immediately upon entering the site without even needing to browse deeper.
Using social media is a great way of planting your brand into the minds of your audience by creating a two way conversation or interaction between them and the brand. But, to appeal to the right consumer you will need to be using the right kind of social media, the right tactics and the right content.
For instance, if you are selling premium legal services, using Instagram won’t be the most effective platform as 90% of its UK users are below the age of 35, showing how its users are predominantly young and so perhaps not in need of any legal service, and especially not premium services. It may be that, when considering age, in this instance, Linkedin is one of the most effective platforms as 61% of its users are aged 30-64 and 21% are aged over 65.
In terms of content then, this will vary according to the audience, but as a starting point perhaps consider: creating conversations, responding to feedback, answering questions, resolving issues, posting engaging content such as links to blog posts, as well as promoting the business and its services.
The tone you will take on social media is likely to be the most casual form across all platforms of communication. Dependant on your reliance on social media as a marketing tool, this may be something you need to describe in your brandbook.
See the guidelines here.
Mailchimp, being an online email marketing platform, rely heavily on their social media so have produced guidelines and tips on how to produce such content for them in various situations, with various different types of consumer. You can see their focus on informal language that has boundaries in a situation on Twitter or Facebook in response to loyal users.
Your brand’s blogs will be a core part of building a successful digital marketing strategy. In order to be seen as the expert who has key knowledge in your industry, you will need to first identify your niche and then focus entirely on it. Blogs have been found to be the third most trusted source for consumers, behind only family and friends. This shows how important it will be to get them right. You need to optimise your blogs to respond directly and specifically to searches, this content may well turn strangers to your site into regular visitors who trust your expertise. You should aim to create targeted content and lots of it. This could involve advice, commentary on latest news, problem solving and so on. In doing this, you will establish a brand personality to your audience on top if this you will provide value and build trust. Blogs are a great way to reflect your brand, it’s tone and it’s values.
You can massively improve search engine rankings through blogs and they can even serve to populate your social media platforms, giving you masses of possible content across the board. Because of how useful blogging is to your company, it may well be a good idea to create an editorial calendar to ensure you are posting regularly enough to your blog to get the results you want from them.
Staples, the stationary store, have really nailed blogging in their ‘Knowledge Centre’:
You can see here that their blog posts are in a specific area, being about the office space, and offers helpful and informative advice on various aspects of this space. This definitely presents the brand as being an authority in the area. This expertise is what every brand should be aiming towards in their industry.
Implementing every method in the marketing book won’t hide a poorly run business, so, ultimately the best way to succeed as a company is through word of mouth and earned media. UK businesses lose over £37 billion a year through bad customer service, an unnecessary loss that if fixed would mean spending less resources on marketing and advertising. This is not an area to forget when trying to build up your brand but on the contrary is an area to put considerable focus on.
Amazon does customer service particularly well. Their whole website is focused on the consumer and this is shown in the clarity of reviews, the ease of making a complaint and the speed of replies, just a few of their customer services that have been key to their success as a business.
Your brand is ready to take its first steps into the world of success, you just need to implement the key elements discussed here and apply them with your own brand story and your own brand aesthetics. These tips are by no means exhaustive but will give you a good basis on which to form and build on your brand and your brand guidelines to be reliable, recognisable and memorable. Good luck!