Ever wondered how to make a brand book that represents your brand well and enforces your brand voice? Keep reading to learn the foundations of creating brand identity guidelines.
A strong brand is more than a pretty logo and vibrant, memorable colors. Brand assets are important, but they are only elements in the grand scheme that is designing a powerful brand strategy.
In this article, we’ll lay out the process of researching, compiling brand assets and designing a brand style guide and brand messaging, that your company can use throughout all marketing campaigns and corporate communications, to assure brand consistency and achieve success in terms of creating a memorable brand.
Building a brand is not an easy task, as it is something you create for the long run. So, the branding and visual design you create with the help of design and marketing professionals needs to be well thought out, contemporary, catchy, and most importantly, it has to relate to your brand’s values and goals.
Here is how your research and development roadmap should look like.
Do a market research
No branding can be created without a detailed understanding of the market you are entering, as well as the trends and stakeholders that move it.
It is extremely important to have an exact picture of who your target audience is, what are their preferences and what they consider to be good-looking, professional, relatable and trustworthy.
You also need to research the competitors well:
- What are their strengths and shortcomings?
- What can you do better than them?
- What messaging do they use?
- How can you improve on their brand values and key propositions?
You also need to take some time and research the trends in design and marketing. This relates to things such as colors, typography, the preferred aesthetic of your target audience and the most important media channels for your advertising to be placed on.
Another thing to consider is the values and ideology your target audience believes in. Are they all about quality or tradition? Do they prefer novelty, sustainability and local production? Do they care about the source of the materials you use? Is it important for them to know you give back to the community? All of these things can help you position your brand as a company that can be valued and trusted.
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Finally, you need to learn what the target audience needs. Great brands solve the problems and needs of their customers. Instead of you needing them, you have to convince them that they need you and your product or service. This is an incredibly important part of modern branding: inbound marketing starts from the product and service, and your brand needs to have that in mind.
Once you establish these learnings, you can move on to the actual creation of your brand identity.
Build a brand identity prism
A simple blueprint of a brand prism will help you crystallize your ideas and build a voice and character for your company.
The Kapferer identity prism is a model that helps businesses build strong, enduring brand identities that reflect their core values. The French sociologist Jean-Noel Kapferer believed that a brand identity can be defined by these elements:
- Physique: the design and iconography, the visually noticed identity of the company
- Personality: how the brand communicates with the outside world, its tone of voice
- Culture: its behavior, both internal and external
- Relationship: the relationship between the brand and its customers
- Reflection: the typical personality of the customers, ideal buyer persona
- Self-image: how the customers perceive themselves and the ideal that brought them to that brand
By filling in the blanks and adding characteristics that define these six elements for your brand, it will be easier to define the brand design as well.
Make sure you know what to tell your designer
Assigning a branding identity is a serious matter, and you cannot risk losing some of the important details due to miscommunication.
Here is how you can task a designer with your brand identity:
- Provide a project overview: Answer who you are, what you do, who your clients are and what you want to achieve with the branding.
- Specify the products that the designer needs to create: logos, typography, iconography, symbols, branding guide, etc. We’ll get more into what a brand guide consists of in the next section.
- Provide inspiration: Whether it’s photos, logos, whole brand identities, art… Pretty much anything that’s not too abstract and is tangible for the designer to understand, and you want it to be used as inspiration.
- Give them a brand story, values and tone of voice: Based on what you make out of your brand, they will design a visual identity to pair the story.
- Ask them for their opinion: Make sure you understand each other and appreciate your opinion. Ask them for suggestions on improving the brand prism.
- Make sure to communicate openly: From budget to reviews and revisions, provide objective feedback and don’t miscommunicate.
Follow this process for brand identity creation
Now that you’ve done your research and finalized the tone of voice, aesthetics and the target persona you are trying to appeal to, you can move onto the next steps of creating and establishing your brand identity.
Based on your research, you now need to decide on visual aesthetics, messaging and the brand’s “heart” (values, purpose, ideology). Try to explain what your company stands for and what people it attracts with its services and visual identity. Write your conclusions so you can help yourself clarify the strategy.
Then, pinpoint the marketing channels for your company. Based on them, you will easily know where to advertise.
In this phase, you also need to compile visual inspiration. Create a mood board and look for examples that you like, so you can use them as a reference when you assign the brand design.
In this stage, you already have a defined strategy and visual examples that your designer can use as a reference. During this phase, you will need to provide a detailed and clear brief for the designer, studio or agency that is developing your visual brand. Follow the suggestions and tips in chapter 3.3 to know how to design the best brief you can.
Here is a simple roadmap of the brand creation process:
- Based on your findings, brief and their own thorough market research (focused more on the visual aspect and design trends), the designer creates a draft proposition.
- The designer creates a brand character, on which they will base all the elements later used.
- The designer creates a draft version of the logo and chooses the basic elements, such as color, typography and visual elements used in grids, background and patterns. They use the brand character they created, as well as the client’s brief, as a base.
- After a first check with the client, they refine the primary idea and create alternate versions of the logo and additional elements.
- After the logo is done, it is usually tested on different backgrounds, surfaces, mockups and it is established if the chosen color palette works well.
- If the proposed logo and brand identity are accepted by the client (there might be some back and forth until the designs are finalized), the designer goes on to create a definitive brand guide that will in the future be used as a guideline for any marketing and advertising effort.
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Use the branding guide and establish the visual identity
You now have a branding design and guide in which every single detail, from your logo and its use, all the way to how your posts on social media look, are established.
The next step is to make sure you implement and manage your branding every step of the way, consistently and true to the brand guidelines.
Set up the branding guidelines
Once you create your branding and visual identity, you need to make sure that it is respected and implemented correctly and consistently.
That means that you need a guidelines document, called a branding guide, which consists of all the information about your brand’s specific look and tone of voice.
This branding guide will help your collaborators, hired marketing professionals and outsourced agencies, and of course, your employees use the brand identity as it is intended.
Include these elements in your branding guideline
Typically, a brand guide must have information about the logo, alternate versions of it, backgrounds it can be applied on, branded typography, iconography, usage of photos, etc.
It also includes the values, story and messaging, so that the reader can understand the personality of the brand easily.
As an example, we will use the branding guide of ManyPixels. As you can see from the table of contents, our brand guide includes the brand history and values, who we usually work with, and what we believe in as a brand.
Further on, the reader of this brand guide (let’s say it is a marketing agency which we hired for a promotional campaign), will learn everything about the idea about our logo, its variations, backgrounds it can be applied on, where it should be placed on collateral, the favicon and how not to use the logo. Make sure you add limitations about the usage of the logo. For example, we don’t allow monochrome variations that aren’t white, skewing or rotation of the logo, widening or stretching, etc.
Additionally, we have all the Pantone color codes that make ManyPixels’ branding color palette. This helps everyone inside and outside the company know what colors to use when creating assets, starting from merch and stationery, all the way to social media marketing.
Use your brand guide well after your branding launches
As you can see from our branding guide, you already have an idea of what to include in it. Some of the applications of it are:
- In marketing: You will create your campaigns and assets according to your brand’s aesthetic and tone of voice
- In internal branding: Your employees will know the brand personality and will adopt the culture of your company easily
- For future rebranding: The original brand will serve as a base for any rebranding, as it shouldn’t be too far off the original design
- Brainstorming new products and services: Whenever you have a dilemma about whether or not you should adopt a new invention or practice, the brand guide will be there to help you.