Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: yes, you need a brand book.
Prospective clients ask us all the time, “Do I really need a brand book?” and the answer is always, “Absolutely.” Not only do you need a brand book, but you need to constantly revisit it to ensure it still represents who you are as completely and accurately as possible. Or, to ensure you haven’t strayed too far from your path. In almost all cases, you can always edit or add more content in order to add value to your brand book.
But let’s take a step back and talk about what a brand book is.
A brand book is a document that outlines the basics of who your business is and what it represents. It’s your company’s DNA. Also called brand guidelines, a brand book ensures that your employees, stakeholders, partners, etc. understand your brand identity through and through. It’s also a necessary building block to your relationship with an agency as it allows your new marketing partner to pick up on your voice and visual identity as soon as possible—saving you time and money and ensuring proper representation.
At its most fundamental level, a brand book must include your mission and vision, your logo and colors, your typography, and sample imagery. The best brand book, however, has more than the basics. The truth is that many brand books are missing extremely helpful information.
As a creative content marketer with a background in graphic design and branding strategy, I’ve seen quite a few brand books. Most of them have the typical elements, from logo usage guidelines to core values, but a surprising majority have been missing some key components. These are the three I think are most important:
A brand book is as much about who you are as it is about who you aren’t. Saying what is on brand doesn’t necessarily tell your audience what is off brand. Spell out phrases that are legally off-limits or words that are denotatively correct but connotatively incorrect.
To illustrate the point, I once worked in senior living marketing. At the time, I was in my early 20s, so I wasn’t as enlightened about ageism and ageist language as the brand’s audience. Fortunately, most senior living organizations’ brand books included a section that stated which words, such as “elderly,” were off-limits as to not alienate or offend its audiences. “We serve the old people of our community” may have technically communicated the mission, but it didn’t represent the brand.
I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it a million times more: your brand isn’t who you say you are, it’s who others believe you are. Branding is all about a strategy to ensure your audience believes the same things about you that you do. Therefore, you need to know who your audience is and how they think.
What are their hobbies? When are they most willing to spend? What are their needs that your product or service can solve? You need to think like your audience in order to cater to them. Building out audience profiles based on customers who already know, like and trust your brand is a fantastic way to accomplish this. And, most importantly, don’t only focus on the positive psychographics. Also ask, “What are their turn-offs?” and, “What concerns would a new customer have about our business?”
You’d be surprised by how many brand books… aren’t branded. Strategists and graphic designers and marketers spend a great deal of time deciding on your colors and voice, so why wouldn’t your brand book be in your colors and in your voice? It seems fundamental, but so many brand books miss the mark.
Brand guidelines aren’t only a north star that show you the way; they act as a PSA to tell people, “We know who we are.” So if the typography section says your official typeface is Times New Roman but your brand book is in Calibri, or if your official colors are Olive and Tuscan Brown but your brand book is black and white, I see that as a problem. The words tell one story while the visuals tell another
If you don’t have a brand book at all, the time to develop one was, like, yesterday, but if you have one and you want to ensure it’s comprehensive and rich with quality content, let’s take a look! Contact us and let our team of branding experts tell you how we can elevate your brand today.
Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand