This first section provides an overview of the document, explains the purpose of writing it and identifies its target audience. Usually written by the firm’s top executive, the introductory message usually includes the story behind the brand and the benefits it brings to the customer.
Brand Vision, Mission, Objectives and Values
Every firm, should have these elements strictly defined and communicated. These elements help the firm create a more profound connection with its customers, and provide inspiration and focus to the internal personnel. The brand manual is the perfect place to have the vision, mission, objectives and values clearly mentioned.
One of the most important sections of the document, this part summarizes the firm’s competitive advantage, including the main differentiation points and supporting elements. It is particularly important for the internal personnel and external service providers to understand the uniqueness of the firm in the competitive environment so they can work towards sustaining that competitive advantage and properly communicating it.
An integral part of the branding strategy, the tagline/slogan summarizes the brand positioning in a just a few words, and should be included in all the communication materials. The brand manual should address the do’s and don’ts of using the slogan, such as typography, colour, spelling, punctuation marks, and location on the page and vis–vis the logo.
People often describe brands as persons. Each has a distinctive “personality” that has to be crafted and consistently promoted in the marketing collateral. In order for a designer to create materials that facilitate an emotional connection between the brand and its audience he/she has to fully understand when human characteristics the brand should reflect. Multiple factors contribute to its personality: tradition, colours, fonts, imagery, and communication style, to name just a few. A comprehensive document provides insights on how the brand should “act”.
One of the most powerful assets of any firm, the brand name should be correctly communicated and used. The guidelines should describe what the name symbolizes, the correct spelling, the fonts associated with the symbol, and the inclusion (or not) of the registration mark. Some companies go to greater details and even recommend generic names that can be associated with their brand name.
The logo is the most distinctive and visible element of a brand’s identity. It is also the symbol that’s most frequently used by the internal personnel and external suppliers. As a result it is important for brand managers to implement strict guidelines regarding its usage, such as the Pantonecolour(s), background colours, alternative colour variations, minimum size requirements, and placement. Make sure you also list the elements that are not acceptable, such drop shadows, boxes, fonts and sizes.
In Marketing, photography is used to convey the brand personality in a simple and direct manner. Brand imagery also help position the brand in the mind of the consumer: Apple, for example, uses product key shots to highlight the elegant design and leading edge technology. In order for your marketing collateral to reflect a consistent theme, take time and write the specific attributes that photography should convey. This will make your collaboration with photographers, graphic designers and advertising agencies much easier. It will also makes choosing stock photography faster as many websites have implemented filters that allow you to get the results you want quickly.
Colors become very often associated with brands. Think of the UPS brown or DeWalt yellow for example. A typical brand color system consists of primary colors (most frequently used) as well as secondary, and even tertiary ones (used for backgrounds, headings, subheadings, paragraph, bullet points etc). The guidelines should include a visual listing of the colors in each category (including the Pantone number), as well as details on the proper use of each color in the communication process.
Any designer will appreciate real-life examples of how the brand elements are being used in communication materials (print, web, advertising) and public relation campaigns. The last pages of the document usually include screen shots of the website, catalogue covers, newspaper ads, PR announcements, signage, merchandising, and branded clothing. These real life examples really help with maintaining the brand consistency. Brand manuals differ from one company to another, and the suggestions above are by no means exhaustive. No matter how simple or complex, a brand guideline document is guaranteed to save marketers time and cause less headaches.
My name is Michael, a Toronto-based Professional Certified Marketer. I am the publisher of BrandUniq, the Marketing strategy and Brand Management blog that offers strategic advice on how to build strong and differentiated brands.