What are brand guidelines?
There are a few different names for Brand Guidelines which include Visual Guidelines or Visual Style Guides, however essentially, they are the same thing. They provide a comprehensive set of rules for a company’s positioning, their design elements or even their audio representation. The guidelines should include everything from fonts, colour palates, tone of voice, values, vision and mission, logo use and photography styles.
The Brand Guidelines then provide a set of instructions for anyone working on communication elements to ensure that they deliver the correct look and feel and tonality in all collaterals and channels – from PR to digital marketing, outdoor and social media. However, a brand is so much more than a set of logos and colours, the branding should work together to provide a business or company with a consistent personality. It is this personality that helps clients and customers relate to a brand.
Why are Brand GuidelineS Important?
It has always been important to have a strong brand, however with today’s reliance on social media and the reach of digital channels, a company’s brand presence has become even more important. A brand can be seen by almost anyone, anywhere in the world. With the right approach there is the opportunity to make your branding work harder than ever before.
People are constantly exposed to new companies, so businesses need to ensure that they stand out from the competition. They need to be memorable and easy to recognise. One of the simplest ways of achieving this is to be consistent and create familiarity. If the fonts, colours, tonality and photography style is consistent then it will be easier for the consumers to recognise the brand. Think about brands who have done this well, for example Ikea, Tiffany’s, Coca-Cola and Apple to name just a few.
An easily recognisable, well put together brand is going to stay in a customer’s mind for longer and then when they are ready, that consumer is more likely to engage and spend their money with the brand.
The impact of effectively applied brand guidelines can be seen on your bottom line. It is reported that a consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 33% (Lucidpress 2019).
Although the visual elements of brand guidelines are very important, they should be complemented by the companies’ core values and what they stand for. There are many different techniques and approaches to establishing the values, however once they are developed the brand communications need to draw on these and ensure that all the brand’s products, services and communications reinforce them. They should not be empty words. Like-minded consumers will be attracted to these core values and, according to research, 77% of consumers will buy from organisations with similar values to their own (Havas Group 2019).
Trust, authority & loyalty
Earning and keeping trust is critical to the success of any business. Although it takes time and can be challenging, it is financially a positive investment. Research indicates that 81% of consumers need to trust a brand to consider buying from it (Edelman). However, when there are gaps in a brand’s presentation to the public it is so much harder to build trust. Consumers expect companies to have a clear professional looking brand, which is the same across all channels. If this is not the case, they will choose the brand which does have these characteristics. A consistent brand approach will show customers that a company is established and a credible business.
Consumer trust will also come from a business having a clear set of values and consistently basing their business activities on these values.
For example, Volvo’s core brand values are:
• Environmental Care
Their products and services adhere to these values and are consistent internationally. Over the years the Volvo brand has become synonymous with automotive safety and quality in a way that no other car brand has ever achieved. Thereby they have built trust and credibility amongst their target audience.
A brand which has earnt consumer trust will also have more authority, which again will only strengthen its brand’s impact. It will enable the brand to become a leader within its industry sector. Consumers will feel that a business knows what it is doing and be more likely to spend their money with them. Customers will spend up to 67% more with companies they trust (Adobe).
Once a company has established authority and trust amongst their target audience, they will in turn increase loyalty. Loyal customers have historically been good for the bottom line of a company. In the UK, 4 out of 5 companies agree that retaining loyal customers is cheaper than acquiring new prospects (The Circular Board). Additionally, loyal customers spend 33% more than new prospects (The Circular Board).
Improve advertising results
Most businesses rely on advertising to some extent and brand guidelines are essential to good campaigns. It is your opportunity to communicate the core values of your business. If your ad campaigns are inconstant both visually and in tone, you are not going to get your brand and therefore your company’s personality into consumer’s minds.
Employee recruitment and retention
Clear brand guidelines are not just about your external image, they are also important for your internal communications. By taking care of internal branding staff will feel part of a team, which in turn will help with motivation. Don’t take it too far however; some well-presented branded colleague areas and branded merchandise will create a sense of unity and a sense of collective purpose. Colleagues do not want to feel like they are owned by the company so the balance of internal branding is really important.
A company which has a positive brand presence will also find it easier to recruit, as candidates will have a greater awareness of the business and are more likely to join a business that they feel they know. In fact, 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job (LinkedIn).
Another advantage of brand guidelines is it will speed up your marketing team. They will be able to effectively use the rules to create consistent communications. However, brand guidelines don’t just help marketing, the core values and brand personality can help development or operations teams create new products and services which truly fit the needs of the consumers and match the brand and the core values.
In summary, the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis and Ukraine war, although important, will not hold back progression and change. We will see technology continue to make disruptive changes to how we carry out our everyday lives. The drivers behind this disruption will be our human need for interaction. A trend mirrored in the physical world where our high streets become places for experiences and meeting with friends and family. We will see women’s sport develop and grow at a rate not known before, driven by our need for equality. So in terms of the top 5 marketing trends for 2023, brands who focus on these human needs will be the ones who win in 2023.
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