Brand guidelines - What is it, how to use it and how to create it

Content Marketing 5 min read

Brand guidelines are a must in today's competitive business world. Companies have to look for ways to connect emotionally with customers and create lifelong relationships. We can't say it enough: people fall in love with brands.

Below, you’ll find a complete rundown of the importance, usage and creation of brand guidelines. Here’s what’s covered:

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What are brand guidelines?

A brand identity is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or company. It's what others think about and feel about us. It’s in how we pick up our phones, how we behave, how we communicate, how we dress, how we talk,...

Brand guidelines are a collection of do’s and don’t on how to communicate as a brand. They come in the form of an instruction manual that typically includes guidelines on:

  • Mission statement
  • Core values
  • Logo
  • Color pallets
  • Typography
  • Brand voice
  • Imagery

Why are brand guidelines important?

Regardless of what you call them, brand guidelines are a set of tools designed to give your brand consistency and flexibility. By default, they are most often used by designers to make certain they’re using the right fonts, color palettes, and versions of your logo.

But effective guidelines should be much more than that; try to see them as a defined resource that everyone in the company can use to represent the brand and communicate with your customers.

Here are five reasons why brand guidelines are important:

1. They bring value

It is essential that everyone understands the value of the brand and how to use it. By implementing brand guidelines, you make it easier to maintain the quality and integrity of your brand’s image.

Great brands are like friends - you encounter a huge number of them everyday, but you only remember the ones you love. (Luc Speisser, MD Landor)

2. A clear understanding of your brand

Brand guidelines explain how employees can reflect brand values in the way they deal with customers; for example, customer focus, innovation, leadership, and the way they deal with customers. Think of it this way - everyone should have a clear understanding of what makes your organization unique.

How strongly people believe in an organization and its basic precepts weighs heavily on success. (Thomas Watson, JR., CEO IBM, 1952-1971)

3. Consistency in your visual communication

With brand guidelines in place, you can ensure your brand’s elements are used effectively and look professional every time they are used. Guidelines give your company control over the way other people use your brand so that its visual appearance is always consistent.

The best brands marry intelligence and insight with imagination and craft. (Connie Birdsall, Creative Director, Lippincott)

4. Relationships

You can use brand guidelines to demonstrate the relationship between your company and the stakeholders associated with it. If you have referrals or affiliates, provide them with guidelines to help them represent your brand better.

Design differentiates and embodies the intangibles - emotion, context, and essence - that matters the most to consumers. (Moira Cullen, VP Global Beverage Design, PepsiCo)

5. Perception

Every time you communicate with customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists, and the community, it is essential to set, build, and keep a consistent perception of your company.

If you think that good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design. (Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar Land Rover)

6 essentials to include in your brand guidelines

Brand guidelines can take many different forms, assets, and formats. To help you out in creating your own or re-branding the existing one, we want to share our own StoryChief brand guidelines together with some other examples you can use as inspiration.

Element 1: Mission statement

A mission statement tells people what you strive for as an organization. You want to make sure your brand identity is distinctive, relevant, and consistent.

WeWork is a community of collaborative workspaces around the globe. With a focus on three words, WE WORK HERE, their brand mission became easy to explain and easy to understand.🕴🏻Find out more here.


Element 2: Core Values

Your core values should express the principles your organization is built on.

Raka chocolate is making unroasted dark chocolate from scratch, progressively sourcing single-origin cacao beans, and crafting recipes that celebrate each cacao’s distinct flavor profile. Their re-branding is truly a great example of a symbiotic relationship between great design and core values. 👏

Rakka chocolate: Inspiration for packaging

Your core values can be translated into your visual and verbal brand. They define the way you communicate online, your brand personality and tone of voice.

Element 3: Brand tone of voice

Your brand tone of voice is defined by the way your brand makes use of language and emotions. Your voice and messaging convey a message and spark a mood or emotion within your audience. Some brands have a very outspoken tone of voice whereas others prefer to take a neutral stance.

Netflix's tone of voice is an example of a casual and humorous brand personality, meant to reflect the natural language used by friends.

Here’s a list of examples that help you define your brand tone of voice:

  • Casual
  • Formal
  • Humorous
  • Serious
  • Edgy
  • Quirky
  • Authoritative
  • Playful
  • Provocative

StoryChief’s AI Brand Studio learns each users’ unique brand voice by feeding it any document or URL, so it writes content in your brand voice from the jump. Create your unique brand voice for free.

StoryChief’s AI Brand Studio

Element 4: Logo/Typography/Usage

Think about how you will implement your logo and typography across your website, emails, ads, and more.

Is anybody else excited about the new incredibly cool MailChimp look and feel? 🤩 Check out how MailChimp did its re-branding here.

MailChimp: Re-branding done right!

Element 5: Color Palette

Don't be afraid of the color! More and more brands are embracing color, not only as accents. Yellow, pink, blue, neon - welcome to the big stage! 🌈

Here at StoryChief we are all about colorful visuals and we show it in our brand guidelines.

Colors of StoryChief

Element 6: Imagery (Illustrations, Photos, Icons)

The human mind processes things in images. The majority of people respond quickly to visual images instead of texts, so make sure your visuals support your message.

The Field Museum is putting a stake in the ground as a forward-thinking leader in scientific discovery. Their visuals and logo-as-window model is a fresh approach to classic museum brand guidelines. Check out how Field Museum did their re-branding here.

Field Museum logo-as-window

Examples of stellar brand guidelines

1. StoryChief

2. Spotify

3. Starbucks

4. Shopify

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