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What should you put in your brand guidelines?

12 min read
Toni Burlaczenko
What should you put in your brand guidelines?

What should you put in your brand guidelines?

You might not believe us when we tell you that businesses don’t actually sell products and services.

They sell feelings.

Coca-Cola sells togetherness, not beverages. Apple sells innovation, not tech devices. Tiffany & Co sells love, not jewellery.

Customers choose you because of the emotional connection they have to your brand. And building a recognisable brand starts with your brand guidelines.

Here, we’ll talk you through what you should put in your brand guidelines to engage new customers, establish your position in the market and create consistent experiences that build brand loyalty.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines, also known as brand style guides, are a set of rules and standards that define how a brand should be represented across various media and platforms.

As well as visual assets like logos, fonts and colours, brand guidelines also define the company’s tone of voice and values. These guidelines help maintain a cohesive and memorable impression, making a brand easily recognisable and trustworthy to its audience.

By providing clear instructions on how to use the brand’s assets, this helps everyone on your team (and external partners) to correctly and professionally reflect your brand’s identity across all of your marketing materials.

Why are brand style guides important?

Brand guidelines are used to keep everyone on the same page so that every marketing message or customer interaction is unmistakably ‘you’!

Here’s how a brand style guide can protect your brand, regardless of who in or outside of your team is working on it:

  • Consistency: Brand guidelines make sure that all of the visual and verbal elements of your brand are used correctly and consistently across different platforms and media. This helps to create a cohesive brand identity that customers can instantly recognise.
  • Professionalism: Adhering to brand guidelines helps maintain a polished, professional image of your business – from your website design to your social media marketing. This in turn can enhance your brand’s credibility and reputation.
  • Efficiency: Having a clear set of guidelines streamlines your design and content creation process by providing a single point of reference for anyone involved in producing brand materials. This efficiency saves time and resources, and allows teams to work more effectively.
  • Brand integrity: Style guides ensure that your business comes across exactly how you want it to by consistently communicating your core values, mission statement and visual assets.
Build you brand with Bubble call to action graphic

What should you put in your brand guidelines?

Your brand guidelines will be unique to your business, but there are certain aspects that you should include to make sure your brand design is consistent at every touchpoint.

Use the following points as a template for your own brand guidelines…

Define your brand proposition

First and foremost, you’ll need to define what makes your brand different (and better than your competitors!). The brand proposition serves as a foundation for all marketing and communication strategies, and so should be the very first section you cover in your guidelines.

Mission statement

Your mission statement is a simple, summarising statement that explains why your business exists, reflecting your goals and aims. This statement informs everything your business does and therefore will play a vital role in your brand strategy.

To create a mission statement, outline what your company does, how you do it and why. Here’s a super simple template to get you started:

“To create/build/provide [what you offer] for [target audience] so [impact].”

And here’s that same mission statement template in action…

Tech company: “To provide innovative software solutions for small businesses so they can streamline operations and achieve growth.”

Educational institute: “To create comprehensive online learning programs for adult learners so they can advance their careers and achieve personal goals.”

Environmental organisation: “To build awareness and provide resources for environmentally conscious consumers so they can make informed choices and reduce their ecological footprint.”

Fitness brand: “To create accessible and effective fitness programs for busy professionals so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle despite their demanding schedules.”

Retail business: “To provide stylish and affordable clothing for fashion-forward individuals so they can express their unique identities with confidence.”

Brand story

Your brand narrative is a compelling story that resonates with your audience on an emotional level. It includes your origins, challenges, passion and the unique value offered to customers.

It’s a vital tool for building a meaningful, memorable and influential brand that resonates with your target audience.

Core values

Your brand values are the core principles and beliefs that guide your actions, decisions and behaviours. As well as aligning your team and creating a unified culture, working towards distinct values can also differentiate your brand and attract customers who share those beliefs.

As an example, here are the values we live by at Bubble!

Bubble brand values

Audience personas

Audience personas, also known as buyer personas or customer personas, are detailed, semi-fictional representations of a brand’s ideal customers. They are created using market research, data analysis, and insights into the target audience’s demographics, behaviours, motivations, pain points, and preferences.

Each persona typically includes information such as:

  • Demographics: Age, gender, income level, education, location, etc.
  • Psychographics: Interests, values, lifestyle, personality traits, etc.
  • Behavioural patterns: Shopping habits, product usage, decision-making process, etc.
  • Goals and motivations: What they aim to achieve, their desires, and aspirations.
  • Challenges and pain points: Problems they face that your brand can solve.

Understanding who your audience is allows you to more directly and effectively target your marketing campaigns, new product or service offerings and customer experience.

Establish your tone of voice

The way you communicate with customers leaves a lasting impression and plays a crucial role in establishing an emotional connection. From your packaging design and marketing emails to customer queries, your brand’s voice should be consistent across all written and verbal communications.

In this section of your brand guidelines, you’ll want to include the following:

Brand personality

Here, you’ll want to describe the characteristics of your brand’s voice (how you sound). Some brands sound formal and professional, while others opt for a witty tone of voice.

It’s useful to include a few dos and don’ts in this section too. For example, vocabulary that you want to use and phrases you want to avoid.

Your brand tone of voice will be heavily led by all the work you’ve already done on your personas. You’ll know the exact audience you’re writing for and how they expect to be spoken to.

Writing style

Include guidelines for grammar, punctuation and overall writing style. For example, you may want to encourage your team to use contractions (e.g., ‘you’re’ instead of ‘you are’) for a more chatty tone of voice.

These little details are going to make a big difference to how you’re perceived by your customers.

Examples

Provide examples of your tone of voice in different contexts to give readers a better idea of your style and personality in action. Examples can include social media posts, website copy, emails – whatever your main forms of communication are.

Build your visual brand identity

The visual elements of your brand will tie together your values, tone and personality into a digestible, easily recognisable format. Here are the most important visual brand elements you should include in your brand guidelines.

Logo

When you think of the world’s leading brands, you immediately picture their logo. McDonald’s has its golden arches, Nike has its tick, Mercedes has its three-pointed star. It’s an incredibly important aspect of your brand.

Therefore, your logo should be represented consistently every time it’s used. In your guidelines, you should outline how your logo should or shouldn’t be used, the size and proportions of your logo, colourways and any exclusion zones.

Typography

The fonts you use also convey certain things about your business and can become a recognisable part of your brand.

In your brand guidelines, identify your choice of fonts and how to use them (headings captions, main body text). You should also consider text alignment, spacing and how to use the correct font size depending on the context.

When choosing your brand fonts, be sure to consider accessibility. Carefully selected fonts that are easy to read allow you to create an inclusive, user-friendly brand that can effectively communicate with a diverse audience.

Colour palette

Your palette should typically include primary colours, which are the main colours associated with the brand, and secondary colours, which complement the primary colours and add flexibility to the design.

Having a defined colour palette helps maintain uniformity in all brand communications, from digital interfaces and print materials to advertising. This consistency enhances brand recognition, making it easier for consumers to instantly identify and connect with the brand.

Plus, colour choices can have psychological impacts on our audience that impact how your brand is perceived, making this an essential part of your guidelines.

Images and icons

Your brand guidelines should also establish the types of photography, illustration and iconography your brand will use.

Include examples of imagery that should and shouldn’t be used and list out why or why not that image represents your brand.

How to create and distribute your own brand guidelines

Once you’ve gathered everything you need to put in your brand guidelines, you’re ready to document and distribute them.

Common formats include PDF documents, printed documents and online brand portals. You should always include a table of contents or navigation links for easy access to different sections.

Distributing your brand guidelines

Widespread distribution of your style guide ensures that your brand maintains consistency, professionalism and alignment across all customer interactions. This in turn reinforces brand recognition amongst your audience. Here’s how to distribute your brand guidelines document.

Internal distribution: Ensure all employees have access to the brand guidelines. Distribute the document via email, company intranet, or a dedicated brand portal. Encourage employees to familiarise themselves with the guidelines and use them as a reference in their daily work. You can also conduct training to reinforce the importance of brand consistency and provide guidance on how to apply the guidelines effectively.

External distribution: If your brand works with external partners, agencies, or freelancers, share the brand guidelines with them as well. This ensures that everyone involved in creating brand materials adheres to the same standards and maintains consistency.

How often should you update your brand style guide?

Brand guidelines should be living documents that evolve with your brand, which means you’ll need to schedule in time to regularly assess their effectiveness and relevance.

While there’s no hard and fast rule on how often you should update your branding guide, we recommend scheduling in a review once a year. Not only is this a good opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your guidelines, but it’s also a great excuse to pause and reflect on everything your brand has achieved in the past 12 months!

What are the best brand guidelines examples from real businesses?

If you’re looking for a little visual inspo, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favourite brand guideline examples and why we love them…

Duolingo

Duolingo are all about making language learning accessible to everyone – and their brand guidelines reflect that to a T.

We particularly love their creative take on personas by imagining the Duolingo brand as a celebrity, vehicle or song!

Duolingo brand guidelines picture of a green vespa

Slack

Slack is known for its cohesive, well-put-together SaaS brand. Behind the brand is a comprehensive guideline that uses comparative lists to get things right.

Slack brand guidelines voice and tone page

Starbucks

You know a brand has a strong presence when they coin their iconic colour ‘Starbucks Green’ in their brand guidelines and you know exactly what shade they’re talking about.

The Starbucks brand guidelines are incredibly interactive and user-focused. Every element can be clicked and information is hidden away to create an easily navigable experience.

Starbucks brand guidelines brand colours

Start growing your business with brand guidelines

Ready to create a brand that stands out and drives meaningful connections? Or do you need to refresh your existing brand strategy to reflect your business’s growth? Get in touch with our expert team today for a no-obligation chat about elevating your brand to new heights with bespoke brand guidelines.

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