Brand Guide

What’s a Brand Guide and How Can it Help Your Business?

Brand owners and managers frequently talk about having a brand guide, or brand guidelines. Often this will be in the context of preparing some promotional material, website, brochures or helping to define the look of an online shop. However, many businesses do not have a Master Brand Guide. Indeed, a lot have never even heard of them.

A brand guide or guidelines  is a comprehensive and extremely important tool to manage and protect your brand. A brand guide helps you protect your brand’s various assets because it articulates and controls the boundaries around which your brand can be deployed or not, as the case may be. In this article we’re demystify brand guides for you so you can see how a brand guide can help any business, regardless of its size, to perform more effectively and be more profitable.

Using a Brand Guide Helps You Protect & Manage Your Brand

Part of the value of a brand guide is the way it enables you to communicate consistently to customers, suppliers and other brand partners. A strong well developed brand has a clearly articulated brand purpose and brand promise, offering a certain level of quality and service standard. But this can be undermined if the brand is communicated in inconsistent or incongruent ways across different communication channels or brand collateral. Customers can feel confused about the brand promise or doubt the reliability of the brand because of its inconsistent communication.

Related: Why Do I Need A Brand? I’ve Got A Great Product and a Logo

A brand guide helps ensure consistency by setting out a clear set of rules about the proper use of the brand and most importantly, what not to do. Often this will be illustrated with examples of the brand being communicated correctly and also examples of it being communicated incorrectly. 

The rules about how to communicate the brand will include elements such as the brand profile, purpose, vision, mission, values, promise, positioning, product hierarchies, personality, tone-of-voice, language style, keywords, brand story, purchaser personas and visual execution through logos, font size, colour schemes and brand collateral like; a website, brochures, uniforms, app and so forth. But often they will be more than just that. For example, how the brand behaves and expresses itself in the right way through its people internally and through customer interaction. 

Related: 4 Ways You Can Be More Customer-Centric to Grow Your Business

Brand Guide

Image via Findcourses

A good example is the professional services provider BPP. They need their brand to have value to a wide range of target audiences, such as students, professional bodies, staff and firms who may look to recruit graduates. Working in a number of professional fields, the firm has a broad range of offerings. Communicating multiple offerings to such a broad range of audiences can easily lead to muddled and inconsistent brand communication. A clear, concise messaging and tone of voice helps a company like BPP avoid this. At the centre of this, a brand guide helps different parts of such a business speak from the same script. 

Related: 6 Brand Culture Do’s and Don’ts for Attracting and Retaining Your Ideal Customers and Top Talent

We know that sometimes it’s a struggle to build a brand strategy that really engages your ideal customers effectively so we’ve developed three different ways of working with us to help you build your brand, depending on your preferences, so if you’d like us to:

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  2. Empower you to build your brand – check out the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind here. This is a two-day intensive where you work on your brand with us codifying and mapping out your brand strategy for business growth. Alternatively, join our half-day Branding Accelerator Masterclass for a fast-injection of brand building essentials. Ask about our Personal and Corporate Leadership Brand Alignment Masterclass
  3. Want a DIY solution? check out our how to build a brand eprogramme here and our how to audit your brand yourself eprogramme here

A Brand Guide Helps Communicate Brand Decisions, It Doesn’t Take those Decisions

Before you document guidelines, you need to formulate them. It’s important to remember that a map is not the same as the territory. The brand guide sets out clearly and unambiguously certain key elements of the guide. The guide is not the source of those decisions, it simply communicates them.

That said, the process of pulling together even a basic brand guide can often act as a spark for useful internal discussion and brainstorming on what the brand stands for. They can instigate thinking about the brand purpose, vision, mission, brand values, brand archetypes and more. It’s common, especially in small businesses or those who do not see marketing as a core activity, not to have thought a lot about exactly what their brand stands for.

Related: Discover How to Use Brand Archetypes To Build Your Winning Brand

Brand architecture or product/service hierarchies involves considerably more strategic consideration because there is much more to it then merely creating a new brand name, even though that is an important process in itself too. An important side benefit of pulling together a brand guide is that it forces you to think more strategically about your brand, from its brand story to its brand identity, and make more informed choices which the brand guide formly captures for ongoing development and future use.

Related: What Game Of Thrones Can Teach Us About Brand Story

Well known retailer Marks and Spencer decided to launch a major environmental initiative, dubbed Plan A. Marks and Spencer has a very well-defined brand. Their environmental initiative “Plan A” is delivered consistently within those brand guidelines, as seen in this video. It is because a brand like M&S has such well-defined brand guidelines that it can generate such initiatives in a way which is consistent with the brand. But the Plan A sub-branding doesn’t come from a brand guide – the brand guide is simply the tool to make sure it fits into an overall agreed brand approach.

Brand Guide

Image via © Marks & Spencer

A Brand Guide can be a Helpful way to Stimulate Discussion about Your Brand

It’s often said that it’s best to know the rules before you break them, and that is true for branding strategy. Sometimes well-known brands do something which causes discussion because it comes as a surprise. But there is a big difference in business terms between a slip up and a new expression within fixed brand tramlines – a brand guide helps ensure that deliberately engaging in a surprise strategy with your brand is done in a way which still builds it rather than damages it.

Both internally and externally, setting out what you stand for as a brand in itself helps to elicit feedback and discussion. Sharing draft brand guidelines with selected business partners can help give you some food for thought on how your brand is perceived.

This can even be used as part of your marketing activity. For example, the crisp brand Walker’s is so clear about what is fixed within its brand architecture, they have nothing to lose by inviting consumers to suggest seemingly wild new flavours, as seen in this video

Brand Guide

Image via Talking Retail © Walkers

Are you a business leader, manager or entrepreneur who wants to re-evaluate or build your brand strategy so you can use tools such as a brand guide to help increase your sales? Are you curious about how to build or scale a highly successful standout brand? Join one of our branding masterclasses because they empower you to build your brand, enhance customer experience, expand your market impact and create higher perceived value so you can command a premium. 

In fact, the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is all about fast-tracking you, your brand and your business through the brand building, brand strategy process using professional big-brand know-how with proven systems that get results so you can grow your business faster and more effectively. Be The One — your ideal customers’ favourite brand of preferred choice commanding a premium. 

If you want a tailor-made solution specifically for your brand then we also provide inhouse bespoke Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Intensives working with you and your team so you can grow your business faster and more profitably. Contact us to discover more [email protected] or +353 1 8322724

A Brand Guide Demonstrates You’re Serious About Your Branding Strategy & Marketing

Small businesses are often so caught up in managing the operational side of things with limited resources on a day to day basis that time for strategic thinking can seem like a luxury so it’s not unusual for many SME business leaders, owners and entrepreneurs to feel that branding and marketing is not a core necessity. If you have a small customer base, rely on personal relationships, are a one-person company, or mainly sell to other businesses, it can feel tempting to get out and sell instead of focusing on what some people regard as marketing  ́’fluff’.

In fact, it’s these very businesses that often need branding as much, if not more than any other. A well developed brand helps you build visibility, differentiation, credibility, likability and most importantly trust. A strong brand, even in the context of an SME business, reassures potential and existing clients that yours is a  professional, trustworthy organisation and so empowers you to drive growth. 

It’s essential to remember that underlying every successful transaction B2B or B2C lies the concept of trust because without trust people do not buy. Your brand helps you build trust with your core target customers so you can build a far more profitable enterprise. In turn, your brand guidelines help you develop, manage and nurture that trust. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that it takes years to build a reputation and moments to undermine it. Your brand guidelines help you protect that valuable entity.

Related: Brand Hierarchy Fundamentals for Multiple Brands To Avoid Confused Customers or Stagnant Sales

A brand guide is a signal amongst your collective team internally that branding and marketing is a structured activity about which you are serious because it expedites the potential growth of your business – it’s no longer just something to spend a bit of time on as and when, if it feels necessary. 

It’s also important to realize that if you’re considering selling your business or enticing investors then your brand guide underpins aspects of that valuation. I’d even go as far as saying that it’s essential if you want to raise significant funding for your business. Potential investors will want to know that you understand your own brand and have at least a basic grasp of marketing essentials.

Your Brand Guide Empowers Your Internal Team to Communicate Consistently and Effectively

Especially in large or multi-site organisations, it can be a challenge to ensure that people are congruently speaking about your brand in the same way. This is also true, for example, when one business is merged with another. Managed badly, and you run the risk of confusing and alienating customers. But it can even be true when you open multiple locations and there is limited interaction between them. 

Related: Redefining Your Brand Culture After a Rebrand, Sale or Merger

A brand guide is an essential tool to help internal users understand what their brand stands for and maintain a consistent brand narrative. The brand may still be expressed in locally relevant ways, but the brand guide will help ensure that a coherent master plan ensures that localized expressions build and do not damage the brand.

This can take the form of a document, which typically is a brand guide. It can also be expressed in many other ways, for example the brand values written on the wall of locations, training videos for airline staff which show how to deliver the brand experience consistently, and brand scripts for contact centres which helps them keep language they use on-brand.

Related: How to Use Brand Values to Drive Unwavering Customer Trust and Commitment

A case study is retailer Harvey Nichols. Their growth in outlets and variety of goods meant that the brand had become increasingly fragmented and lost some of its clarity. Brand guidelines brought clarity for internal stakeholders as well as customers, as shown in this video

Brand Guide

Image via Business Insider

Lorraine Carter is a branding expert and professional speaker delivering talks that inspire and motivate along with masterclasses and workshops that inform and support transformational outcomes fast, and consultancy solutions that solve problems so you can outshine, outperform and leave your competitors way behind. She enables you to Be The One — your ideal customers’ favourite brand — commanding a premium with 7-figure growth.

If you’d like to discover more about building and maintaining a thriving, high performing, highly profitable standout brand, then get in touch because we’d love to help you make your brand into a profit powerhouse.

  1. Schedule an appointment — we can meet in person or online
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  4. Contact us [email protected] or ring +353 1 8322724 (GMT Dublin/London time 9:00 – 17:30 weekdays)

A Brand Guide Helps You Manage How External Partners Promote Your Brand

A lot of businesses rely on external partners and collaborators to communicate their brand on their behalf. These can be wholesalers, retailers, resellers, franchisees, sales people and others such as influencers. Such third parties often have limited time to devote to getting to know any one brand and anyway may not feel as constrained in their communication as a company employee.

A brand guide is a simple way to help third parties not only understand what your brand is all about but stick to the appropriate script when talking about it or presenting it. If your guide is compact then it can be shared directly, or if its more extensive and fully developed, then excerpts from a brand guide can be made available to third parties as appropriate. For example, at its most basic, companies include a logo bank and visual identity guidelines on their website for third parties to use.

Using a social media heavy approach risks a lot of third party content which doesn’t congruently match or express your brand. Virtual working facilitator Powwownow ran a social media campaign encouraging people to share what flexible working meant for them, at key holiday periods. This enabled engagement in line with the brand values, as shown in this video.

Bradn Guide

Image via The Drum © Powwownow

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you think branding or marketing is important in your business, the fact is, your brand is like the shop window into which the world gazes – customers, potential customers, employees, stakeholders and alike. 

Figuring out what your brand stands for, setting it out clearly and concisely in your brand guide, then sharing this with your relevant primary audience helps you speak with a single consistent voice so you build trust. Remember, customers don’t buy if they don’t trust you or what you have to offer and an inconsistent or incongruent brand undermines trust.

It also enables you to manage your differentiation factors in relation to your nearest competitors so you stay focussed, or in jargon terms ‘stay on brand’, and don’t unintentionally dilute or sabotage your brand building power. 

It empowers you to consistently focus people’s attention on the key brand power factors that are most relevant to them and what your brand stands for so you can leverage your brand effectively to the full.

Most importantly, it stops you making horrible, costly mistakes!

That is a smart way to maximize the effectiveness of your brand communication, no matter how much or little of it there is so you can increase your market share and profits – maximise the return on your investment.

Questions to Consider

  1. Are you contemplating selling your business in the future or getting investors on board? Then consider how effectively a strong brand guide will help you bring clear articulation, controls and solidity around the central asset underpinning your business and its perceived value?
  2. What questions or issues about what your brand stands for are not clear today?
  3. Is there anyone in your organization or network who would have the skills and expertise to translate your brand into a master brand guide?
  4. Do your staff know what your brand stands for and how to talk about it consistently?
  5. How clear is your brand today to third parties who may work with it?
  6. Have you got clear brand management tools in place to protect your most valuable asset?

Your Persona Client Satisfaction Guarantee

  1. When you work with us we’ll create a customised brand building plan and strategy with clear investment for you tailored to your specific requirements and preferences
  2. You’ll know each step of your brand building journey before we start because we’ll discuss it, document it and agree on it with you before work commences
  3. You’ll have timelines, key milestones and deliverables to evaluate and approve for each stage and part of your brand building process
  4. Because we know the unexpected sometimes happens we can make adjustments along the way if you need it and if something extra is requested we’ll ensure you’re fully appraised about what that entails before committing
  5. As we achieve pre-agreed objectives you’ll be able to evaluate your brand building work and strategy in progress, coupled with the outcomes to ensure return on investment

Get in touch today because we’d love to get started helping you build your standout, powerhouse brand so you can increase your profits and leave your competitors way behind. 

Email us [email protected] or ring us +35318322724 (GMT 9:00-17:30) and ask about our Persona 7-Figure Business Building and Brand Strategy Mastermind.