How to develop one-of-a-kind brand guidelines


August 12, 2019 2:00 pm

To understand your brand, you need brand guidelines. Guidelines lay out every facet of your brand and what makes you stick out — they act as a road map of what your brand means to the world. 

Developing unique guidelines is integral to staying on the right course toward brand success. Follow these steps to build your own one-of-a-kind brand guidelines.

Make mini guidelines

Brand guidelines include every internal and external element of your brand. From copy to design to specific usage and beyond, everything in your brand guidelines should be detailed and carefully thought out. 

Regardless of the size of your business — be it an international corporation or a mom-and-pop corner store — your brand is a big deal. Luckily, big deals can be broken down into smaller, easily digestible pieces. 

Take copy, for example. Chances are you’ll include a whole section devoted to explaining your copy choices from a bird’s-eye view. Your copy, however, consists of many different subsections. Messaging is one; tone of voice is another, and the tagline is yet another. Putting time, attention and work into each of these sections and fully developing them will eventually lead to an entire piece that is sound and substantial at every level.

When you do break those pieces down, it’s important to look at each piece of the puzzle in the same way you’d look at the whole picture. Think of each guideline section as an individual whole, treating every concept as if it represents your entire brand. When you flesh out each piece, they’ll come together to make an exceptional whole.

Create audience personas 

How well do you know who you’re selling to? This is a question every business must answer if it wants to streamline its way to success. Locate your minimum viable audience — the people who are looking for exactly what you have to offer. Exploring and defining your minimum viable audience in your brand guidelines is an awesome way to explore and define the brand itself.

Make sure, however, to go as far with your explanation as you can. You don’t want your audience to be strangers to you. Being mere acquaintances won’t get you very far either. You need to understand your consumer base as if they were some of your very best friends. 

Don’t create consumer personas only as they relate to your brand. Try to get to know your consumers on an intimate level. Come to understand what their lives are like outside of your services or product, outside of work. Invite your ideal consumer to a happy hour after work, and ask them about their family and friends, their favorite things, their least favorite things, etc. Ask them where they’ve been in life and how it has affected them. Find out where they want to go.

If you explore your consumers in-depth, you’ll discover the complex journeys of their lives and how those journeys lead them to your product. Once you understand that, you’ll have a better picture of who to sell and tailor your marketing campaigns to.

Put your guidelines to action 

Explaining your brand is great, but bringing your brand to life is essential to adding dimension and interaction with the real world. Imagine your brand in the wild — what your brand ads will look like on billboards and on social media, how people will wear your branded apparel, how your campaign efforts will play out in real-time. This is necessary to achieving brand success when you finally decide to roll out to your audience.

One of the best ways to achieve this is by making mock-ups specifically for your brand guidelines. Mock-ups will make a reality out of what was only hypothetical before. A great mock-up will create a crystal-clear mental picture of how your brand will interact and collide with reality. A vivid mental picture can inspire more confidence before you officially launch and will help you make adjustments as needed.

For added realism, consider combining sections of your mock-ups and consumer personas. Put your shirt and hat on an audience persona. Place your billboard or sign in an environment your persona regularly inhabits. If your persona frequents shopping centers or takes a certain route to work every day, where would they be most likely to see your ad as they make their way to those destinations?

With detailed mock-ups, you can bring your brand to life before actually bringing it to life.

Following these simple steps can help you develop guidelines that bring your brand to full focus. When followed carefully, they’ll be sure to lead you in the exact direction your brand should go.

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This post was written by Keywords