At the foundation of your marketing strategy or at least its appearance lies the brand book. It's like a bible describing the commandments of how thou shall and how thou most certainly shall not use the company logo and other brand related items.
When starting out with your business this might not seem like an investment worth the time but take a moment to think how much content you’ll be creating in a year’s time for instance if you’re going to attract people. All this content should convey a similar image because it affects how others perceive your brand. Additionally, a consistent image is remembered better and comes across as more professional. Even though you may have all of this in your head and it’s clear to you what everything should or should not look like, feel like, or hear like, others are bound to have differing ideas. In short, a brand book keeps everyone on the same track.
In this blog, we will have a look at the important materials you can describe to create this track.
1. Brand name and Logo
This might seem like a no-brainer but it is not. For some reason it is hard for people to accept that a logo or a brand name should not be edited because it looks fun or fits better. If you let it run wild it won’t be long before you logo starts showing up in all shapes, colours, and sizes and subjected to all kinds of lovely effects.
To make sure this doesn’t happen be sure to describe how to use it very clearly.
show all approved versions of your logo and when to use them
show the different color variations
list minimum size and proper proportions.
give clear spatial instructions on where to put it
describe many ways how people shouldn’t be using it
Tip: visualization is the easiest way to get this done
2. The way you tell your story
Try reading some texts on different websites, chances are you’ll notice instantly that these texts were written by different people. Much like our actual voices, written copy can have a tone which can appeal to an audience or not.
If you already know what appeals to your audience, describe some best practices here, if it’s still unclear make an educated guess or describe the personality which suits your company’s values. To clarify to others what exactly you mean, compile a list of preferred examples of words that fit the profile.
For instance, name words you don’t want to use because you don’t want people to think you’re a tool. Instead of a global leader and provider innovative high-quality solutions in something, you might be better of selling yourself as a local and authentic specialist that’s able to adapt quickly.
In general, decide if your copy is going to be formal or informal, elaborate or succinct, empathetic or authoritative, etc.
Tip: let 1 person write all or re-write most of the prominent content, this will sustain a consistent tone of voice.
3. Colour scheme
Colours. I love them.
Describe them all in HEX, CMYK, RGB, PANTONE, it will come in handy for sure at a later stage. These codes are always numbers that you don’t use often enough to remember them but people will need them at some point to be able to reproduce your brand digitally or on print / signage.
Usually companies pick 2-3 main colours and some additional secondary colours with some hues and stick to them. Even if your brand image is going to be black, white and grey, it’s advised to note which shades you want to use.
You’ve probably already thought about colours when you were busy with your logo but if you’re having troubles finding a matching palette you like: try this article.
For instance, my own primary black and white colour scheme with coloured accents:
Codes in case you'd like to steal it (be my guest).
GREEN HEX #1AA35F; RGB (26,163,95)
RED #F73939; RGB (247, 57, 57)
YELLOW #FFEA4F; RGB (255, 234, 79)
BLUE #3D9BE9; RGB (61, 155, 233)
There is actually A LOT to be told about fonts. But, because I’m not a typologist and it’s also not necessary for your brand book, we’re going to take a dive into that some other day. Just keep in mind that picking the right fonts well can support the tone of your copy and the way you are perceived.
For your brand you’ll need to decide which font(s) fit your audience. Is it traditional (Garamond), humanist (Myriad), modern (Futura), or the classic (Times New Roman)? When you decide to use two different fonts make sure they have a shared quality but also a benefit compared to each other and apply them differently in your styles. Easy example: headers and body text.
Sometimes different documents will require different fonts and sometimes your font won’t be available on another person’s laptop. It’s ok to have different standards for certain documents. You might have fonts approved for creating letters, PowerPoint presentations, proposals, client reports, and all other colleague-generated documents. However, for marketing materials like your website, brochures, banners and service sheets you might want to use a different one.
5. Style items and images
Many brands make use of shapes, lines, and recurring patterns in their marketing materials or certain styled graphics. While mostly intended to wow its audience it can become real chaotic in the long run because people tend to have their own thought on how to use all of the available options.
The best solution is probably to get ahead of this challenge and create several templates on which all of the future documents are based. This will save you a lot of time wasted in endless review cycles.
Make sure to name the most commonly used templates in your brand book:
Content & Literature
Tip: lock the graphics for editing.
A large part of the branding’s impact and ability to be remembered can come from compelling imagery. Think of graphical representations of your product, stunning images in a certain theme of very specifically edited photos.
You’ll want to be very consistent in what you show your audience so besides explaining the meaning behind your choices in the brand book you want to consider referring to an ‘asset library’ of sorts where your employees can find whatever they need to create consistently compelling presentations.
6. Branding the brand book
What? Brand the brand book and double, triple or quadruple check it. It would nothing short of mad not to do this. The people you’re subjecting to your iron fist of marketing might very well be on the look-out for any mistakes to put in the spotlight and say “Ha! You don’t even follow the rules of your brand book in your own brand book.”
We all know a person like this, so don’t take chances. Brand the brand book.
Availability and awareness
When you’re all done and the brand book is finished don’t forget to store it in an accessible place and create some awareness around its existence and, more importantly, its relevance. It would be a waste if you’ve taken this step towards building a solid brand just for it to be forgotten. Besides, this little bible you’ve created represents your thoughts on what your company should be and that’s something you can be proud of.