How to Create Brand Guidelines

By Tony Hardy

Brand guidelines, sometimes referred to as brand identity guidelines, are a document that you can use to help identify, build, and grow your brand.

When your company works on a new branding project or goes through the rebranding process, you should be given your shiny new brand guidelines on completion of the project.

Your new brand guidelines document can then be used both internally and externally to ensure consistency and continuity with your brand’s visual identity and underpinning strategy.

However, there is often more to it than that.

Or for the full deep dive, keep reading!

As well as documenting your brand identity, your brand guidelines should also include the following brand strategy elements;

  • Audience personas
  • Competitor research
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand story
  • Brand values
  • Brand mission
  • Brand touchpoints
  • Brand messaging
  • Tone of voice
  • And finally, your brand identity

Audience Personas

Your Audience Personas should epitomise your customer base. These fictional profiles will help to ensure your brand and marketing efforts will appeal to your audience.

We typically lay these out in brand guidelines based on our Customer Persona Template.

By documenting your customer personas in your brand guidelines, you’re showing people the type of customers you’re trying to attract.

This can work in a number of ways. Not only does it help everyone align their efforts with your customer base, it can also help to generate referrals.

Competitor Research

Profiling your competitors within your brand guidelines might seem an odd choice. But, it gives people a unique insight into your industry.

By taking a deep dive into the competitive landscape, you begin to paint a picture of where you sit and how you can grow to exceed customer expectations.

We typically dedicate a page to each competitor, and look at a mix of local, national, and international competitors, what they offer, and profile any key learnings that help our client’s brand.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the process of placing your brand in the mind of your customers. Within your brand guidelines, you should outline how you’re doing that.

Typically, when including brand positioning in a guideline, we only include the final brand positioning statement.

If they’re having difficulty, we help our clients formulate their brand positioning statement using the following formula:

[Brand Name]’s [offering] is the only [category/service/product] that [benefit you bring to your customers].

Brand Story

Your Brand Story is unique to you – it can be funny, unexpected, serious, ambitious… but one thing is for sure, it must spark an emotional reaction.

It’s the story of your brand, and how you help your customers.

To document this in your guidelines, we typically include the final brand story as a paragraph on a slide of its own. Sometimes, we’ll include the direct pain points that our client’s solve for their customers.

If you’re struggling with creating your brand story, check out Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller.

Brand Values

At the core of your Brand Strategy, you will find your Brand Values. This collection of words should pack a punch. They are intrinsic to every aspect of your business, not just your>marketing materials.

When including brand values in a brand guideline, we typically state the value, and accompany it with a descriptive sentence.

Try to avoid cliches like “transparent” and “honest” afterall, we expect everyone we deal with to be honest!

Brand Mission

Some people call it a Brand Mission, others a Vision, others a Purpose. At Canny, we always call it your Brand Mission.

Mission is apt, because just like putting people on the moon, you’re answering the question:

“Where are we aiming to be?”

Again, it’s a paragraph on a page. Nothing overly ambitious! Just be sure you detail exactly where you’re brand is going, and what you’re setting out to achieve.

Brand Touchpoints

Your brand touchpoints are the time and place where a customer comes in contact with your brand.

Touchpoints can be very tricky to document in your brand guidelines. We’ve found even just having a list of them, or some sort of table, that documents how and when customers will come into contact with your brand can be useful.

We try and avoid word clouds at all costs (because they’re tacky as hell!) but if there was one place they’d be appropriate, this could be it.

Brand Messaging

Your brand messaging is “what” you’re trying to communicate, and how you communicate it. It acts as a framework on which to base all of your external communications.

Again, you can list out your key messaging with little to no difficulty.

However, what we’ve found most useful in the past, is actually showing the messaging in use alongside that.

Maybe slot a Facebook advert, or a banner you’ve created onto the messaging slide too.

Another great way to visualise your brand messaging is by breaking it down into your brand pillars. If you’re unsure on what brand pillars are, check out this post.

Tone of Voice

Your brand’s tone of voice describes how your brand communicates with the audience and thus influences how people perceive your messaging.

Are your emails signed off with; “Thanks, thank you, regards, kind regards, faithfully, yours sincerely…”?

Do you greet people with; “Hi, hey, hello, howdy…?

The tone of voice your brand uses can help accentuate the brand you want to communicate.

To document this, we typically include a tone of voice table. This shows you the characteristics, description, do’s, and don’ts of how your brand communicates.

Rounding Up Your Brand Strategy

The creation and documentation of a brand strategy is no easy task.

That’s exactly why we always recommend using a professional branding agency to help. Formulating a branding brief will help steer your strategy in teh right direction.

If you’re determined to have a go at creating your own brand strategy, do make sure to download our guide that will help give you the best possible start.

Seems like overkill? Sure. But your brand guidelines are the documentation of your brand, from start to finish.

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