What Are Brand Guidelines? (And How to Create Them)
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Behind every successful business is a set of brand guidelines that set a solid foundation for the brand’s identity, purpose, and voice. Consistent branding is critical to building a successful business.
The most recognizable brands we know and love today are at the top because they’re reliable, have a consistent presence, and market to consumers who identify with their values and are most likely to buy their product or service.
Creating brand guidelines will be just as useful for your business, so putting plenty of time and thought into creating your guidelines is worthwhile. Bookmark this page so you can reference it during each stage of the process. Then, read on to learn about everything you need to create your own set of brand guidelines.
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines are essential elements, such as core values, tone of voice, and visual style, that serve as guiding principles for your brand. They establish and maintain a strong visual brand identity and personality that will become recognizable to potential customers.
Your brand’s guidelines will also establish your business’s overall purpose and values. This is beneficial for maintaining a healthy and motivating workplace culture for your employees.
Why Do Brand Guidelines Matter?
Effective brand guidelines accomplish several things for your brand.
First, when you sit down to create your brand guidelines, it helps you establish what your brand is and what you want to do. It also helps you to clarify details about your brand that you may not have sorted out yet.
Second, strong brand guidelines protect your business from inconsistent branding. By establishing a strong and distinct brand, you’ll become recognizable to your customers and stand out from the competition.
Finally, brand guidelines will help you retain customers and build a community of loyal customers who keep returning to your business for your products or services.
Simply put, when you take the time to create a set of guidelines for your brand, you set your business up for success!
What to Include in Your Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines consist of several essential elements that will help you create a consistent presence for your brand. These elements include:
1. Mission Statement
A mission statement is a summary of your business’ purpose and intention. Essentially, it’s they “why” of your business, the purpose of what your business does.
Mission statements are brief, usually only 2-3 sentences long, and should use simple and concise language.
First, write your brand’s mission statement by describing what your business does. Do you provide a particular product or service?
Next, consider how your business provides your products or services to consumers. This doesn’t have to be literal — think about the values you apply when serving your customers. Do you value product quality? Is sustainability an aspect of how you source your products? Maybe providing fast or responsive customer service is most important. Think about the values that are important to you.
Finally, think about why you do what you do. Did you start your business because you’re passionate about helping people? Did you start it because you knew you could solve a certain problem or issue with your product or service?
Identifying what your business does, how you do it, and why will help you draft the perfect mission statement that will clearly define your business to employees, consumers, and investors.
2. Core Values
The core values of your brand set a foundation for your business’ culture, which in turn will:
- Help you attract and hire the right type of people
- Align employees and stakeholders with your brand’s mission
- Make business-related decisions that support and align with your business
- And much more.
To identify your business’s core values, consider the things that are important to you when it comes to your business, the culture of the workplace for your business, and the type of customer experience you want to provide to consumers.
For example, innovation might be a good core value if you value new ideas and a curious, experimental mindset. If having an internal team that works well with others is essential to you, then teamwork or collaboration are two values you may consider choosing.
You’ll be able to attract employees, consumers, and investors motivated by those same values once you’ve identified a few core values (most companies have three to ten core values).
3. Brand Personality & Voice
Brand personality is a set of characteristics that reflects the nature or essence of your brand. An effective brand personality elicits an emotional response from consumers. This helps consumers connect with your brand on an emotional level.
Think about some of your favorite brands and the connection you have with them. How do you identify with these brands?
Chances are, the brands you like have a personality similar to yours. Likewise, consumers who strongly identify with your brand will likely become customers. So, it’s important to give your brand a personality that people relate to.
There are five types of brand personalities, including Excitement, Sincerity, Ruggedness, Competence, and Sophistication. To determine the personality that best fits your brand, consider reflecting on characteristics that describe how your business feels and the customers you want to attract.
If you’d like more guidance, you can create a mood board to visually represent your brand. Or you can search online for a brand personality quiz to help determine which of the five personality types best fits your brand.
After you determine brand personality, you can use that to influence the tone of voice your brand has. The brand voice comes out in any form of communication your brand initiates, from the writing style of blog posts, website content, and social media captions to advertisements, email campaigns, and other forms of marketing communication.
By ensuring the verbal tone of your brand matches your brand’s personality, your brand will establish a more authentic and relatable presence that stands out among competitors and connects with people who are more likely to become customers.
4. Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a fictional character modeled to represent a user of your product or service. Buyer personas are created by using information (obtained through market research) about how different customers may use your product or service.
This will help you better understand your customers, which will help you create more effective marketing strategies to reach your target audience. On the backend, it will also allow you to further develop products and services that your customers will find valuable.
By appealing to your ideal audience and developing products or services that are actually of value to them, you’re able to generate stronger sales leads and grow and maintain a steady customer base.
5. Brand Color Palette
Brand colors make up a large part of your brand’s visual identity. You’ll use these colors to create visual content across all mediums, from your business logo to your website and social media content to product packaging.
Generally, your brand colors should feel natural to your business and the industry. Typically, a brand’s color scheme includes a combination of primary colors, secondary colors (also known as accent colors), and neutral colors.
6. Editorial Style Guide
An editorial style guide is a simple guide that outlines specific rules for maintaining a distinct and consistent voice.
These style rules should establish whether your brand uses the active or passive voice, the first, second, or third person, and the tone of voice (formal, informal, etc.).
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure to include any grammar conventions like spelling preferences or stylistic punctuation choices. You may also want to include a list of words to avoid using and abbreviations to use or not.
7. Fonts and Typography
Now that you’ve established your brand’s voice and editorial style, it’s time to choose your brand’s fonts. It goes without saying that the typographic style of the fonts you choose should be aligned with your brand’s personality and voice.
For example, if your business is more modern or sleek, you may choose a sans-serif font. You’ll probably opt for a serif font if your business has a more elegant or traditional feel.
You can also choose a calligraphy or modern script font or a display font if it fits your brand’s personality.
It’s smart to research some visual examples of how fonts fit into different brands to see how an effective font can tie together marketing materials and other visual elements you create for your business.
8. Logo Guidelines
Your logo is one of the core elements of your brand’s guidelines. It’s part of your brand’s visual identity and is the biggest identifying factor of your brand for consumers.
You’ll want to include all versions of your logo (your primary/main logo and any secondary logos you may have). Also, include the HEX codes of your official brand colors so that any graphic design work created for your brand will remain visually cohesive.
Whether you’re designing business cards, social media graphics, website banners, or printed advertisements, everything you create should look like it goes together.
Creating Your Brand Guidelines
If you’re looking for assistance with the process, you’ll find many brand guideline templates at Envato Elements. These templates make it quick and easy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Brand guidelines are created to establish a solid brand identity and ensure consistent branding over time. Brand guidelines impact all aspects of your business operation, from ensuring that your brand’s marketing is geared toward your ideal audience to attracting employees who are motivated and aligned with your brand’s values and broader mission.
Brand guidelines should include a mission statement, core values, and visual elements such as your brand’s official colors, logos, and fonts. Additionally, brand guidelines should have a comprehensive style guide for editorial materials, a distinct brand personality and voice, and a few research-based customer personas.
There are plenty of brand guideline examples online. When building your own, feel free to research and find one you like as a reference.
In big companies, a branding agency, brand manager, brand consultant, or brand designer is traditionally hired to create and manage brand guidelines. However, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs may create their own brand guidelines with the help of a brand designer or consultant.
Of course, you can also fully DIY your brand guidelines too. Plenty of online resources and tools can help you create brand guidelines that are polished, professional, and effective.
Final Thoughts on Brand Guidelines
Now that you know exactly what brand guidelines are, what they accomplish, and what goes into them, it’s time to get to work creating your own.
As you complete each element of your guidelines, you’ll see a clearer overarching image of your brand. Once you build this foundation, you can be confident you have a solid start to a successful future for your business.