Inbound Marketing + Sales Blog

January 29, 2019

Before You Create a Brand Style Guide, Read This

3 min read

Written by: Nicholas Frigo  |  Share:

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It’s easy to lose yourself in colors, fonts and logos when you create a brand guideline. Without a framework to steer you in the right direction, design decisions and marketing strategies can change on a whim. Sticking to these fundamentals will help you build a brand guideline that showcases your true value.

Consider Your History

  • Mission & goals

Early in your branding process, it’s important to remember your history. Think back to what your blue-sky goals were on day one — what motivated you to get the company up and running? If your company is evolving and you’re looking to establish new guidelines and best practices, dig deep into your new objectives and spell them out clearly.

  • Early inspiration

Think back to the moment when the idea of your company was born. There was probably a unique skill or gap in the market, and you realized you had a solution. The spark of your idea might have evolved since then, but don’t lose sight of what pushed you to build something in the first place.

  • Don’t forget the ‘Why’

To truly trust your brand and choose your solutions, your customers need to know that you believe in what you’re doing. They want to see your commitment and witness your passion firsthand. Create a brand guideline that’s centered around ‘why’ you do what you do, and prospects will want to grow alongside you.

Consider Success Stories

  • What brands do you admire?

Look closely at a few brands that you admire. How do they tell their story and show their competitive advantage?

Think about how their appearance reflects their personality and mission. Do their word choice and color palette give a certain feel to their product or service? Do they come across as trustworthy? Funny? Youthful? If they’re a big-name company, you can bet they’ve left none of this to chance. They probably have a detailed brand guideline in place that informs their content and direction. Don’t buy it? Check out these examples:

The Subaru 2017 Safety Campaign featured video ads that built deep trust. They appealed to families and parents by connecting with their need to keep young drivers safe.

Festool is an elite power tool company. Their content is technical and their website shows their perfectionist approach to tools, building and customer service,

Yeti products have exploded across the market over the last 5 years, thanks in large part to their dynamite branding team. Everything from their color language to their name guarantees that their products are rugged.

The common thread that runs through these companies is their branding efforts. They’ve established brand guidelines that tell their story and convey immediate value to customers.

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Consider Your Audience

  • Who are they?

Businesses that aren’t customer-focused are doomed to fail. Brand building is no different. To create a brand that customers will turn to for solutions, you have to understand who your target customers are. Establishing buyer personas is crucial to understanding their challenges and crafting solutions. Personas are also key to providing helpful, contextual information to prospects.

  • Where are they in their journey?

Consumers of your brand’s content will be at different stages in their buyer’s journey. Some website visitors might’ve landed there for the first time to learn more about your field in general. Others might be ready to ask questions or seek solutions. A robust brand will attract people at all of these stages.

Consider Your Competitive Advantage

  • What problem do you solve better than others?

No matter how crowded your field, every company offers something unique. Your competitive edge is huge when it comes to creating a brand guideline. So how do you use it to differentiate yourself?

Ask yourself how you do things better than the next guy. If you offer superior customer service, make that a central theme in your language and imagery. If your software simplifies a complicated process, consider simple, clean visuals across your website. Whatever you do, build guidelines that highlight what makes you unique.

  • What are competitors doing well?

It’s impossible to do everything at once. If a competitor is focused on one of their strengths, try looking for other ways to distinguish your brand. Using sharp language with no jargon can be a huge asset, especially in the B2B space.

  • Where do you fit in the market?

When you’re positioning yourself against competitors, be realistic. There might be giants in your industry that are hard to knock from the top spot. If your brand is younger and smaller, use it to your advantage. Highlight your agility and fresh approach, and stay in tune with what makes you different.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve flushed out who you are and where you fit into the marketplace, it’s time to turn your insights into concepts. Think about your main delivery channels (web, print, video) and how prospects will interact with your brand on each one.

If you get stuck during the process of developing your guideline, turn to these fundamentals to ensure that your brand always points back to what makes you unique.

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About The Author

Nick is a Growth Strategist at New Breed. He guides our clients and partners as they make strategic decisions about product, positioning and messaging. When not in strategy mode, he's neck-deep in design and storytelling, crosswords and pasta-making.

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