Why and How to Create a Brand Book

Posted by | October 09, 2014 | Branding | No Comments
A brand book example

“Branding” may be a major buzzword these days, but it’s a lot more than just jargon. Having a solid brand identity that is understood by your employees can be crucial to your success.

However, it’s not enough to simply define your brand in your head and have some catchphrases that your team uses. Once you have decided upon your brand’s look, language, mission and promise, it’s time to compile it into a pretty guidebook that is not only shared with the marketing team (or the other awesome people putting it into action), but also with your entire organization from top to bottom.

First, what is a brand?
First thing’s first. You may not be at the brand book phase yet…if you’re starting from scratch, your step one is to know what you brand is, right? Then, you can create a brand Bible for your company. We’ve already put together an entire post on how to define your brand [link here: http://messagesproutinc.com/branding-basics/]. Check it out if you need the 101, then head back over here.

So what’s a brand book all about?
This is a manual of sorts that defines your brand’s identity, preferably in as much detail as possible. This gives you and your employees something to reference as often as needed to ensure all company communications with the outside world—whether linguistic or aesthetic—stay aligned with your unique brand.

Some brand books stick to visuals only, covering logo use, color palettes, typography and other graphical standards. Other brand books incorporate language and tone, usually outlining words to emphasize or avoid. (Of course, as wordsmiths, we lean towards these for a more well-rounded approach.) Others go a step further and outline not only the mission or vision of the organization, but the brand promise.

Show me some great examples, already!
Easy, killer. Here are several world-class examples of brand books from influential companies over the past few years:

Nike Football

What information should be in YOUR brand guidebook?
Your brand book should be tailored to your business; if your materials are mostly visual, the bulk of yours may focus on design and imagery. If the majority of your communications are written or based on in-person interactions, your book may focus more on communication style and tone.

Here are some areas you may want to cover:

● Your story. Give a background on your company’s history and what your mission and vision are.
● Your promise. What do your customers expect from your brand, and how do you provide that must-have experience at each touch point?
● Your customers. Who are your customers and why? Go into as much detail as possible, even creating personas if necessary.
● Aesthetics. What is your color palette? What imagery should you use (and not use)? What fonts do you use and which do you avoid? How should your logo be treated?
● Language. What tone do you use to speak to customers? What buzzwords should you use and which should you stay away from? You can also include a content style guide in your brand guide, but if it will be extensive, consider having a separate guide for content.

Who all should receive a copy?
Old-school thinking dictates that only marketing departments need a copy, but it’s smart for everyone in the organization to have one. This especially includes employees on the front lines who deal with customers face-to-face, such as retail employees or cashiers.

Why would a fast-casual restaurant cashier need a brand book? They are the people coming into contact with customers more directly than anyone else, so it’s key that they understand the brand’s values, tone and promise so they can embody it in their interactions.

Rather than just passing out a copy, consider having a meeting or attaching a cover letter so you can explain how important their customer-facing roles are and how this brand book can help them communicate in a way that helps the company’s image.

If your guide goes into granular detail about design that you think might be lost on some departments, consider creating a condensed brand book for other departments. It can leave out the guidelines on logo use and imagery, and instead focus on the brand’s identity, tone and mission.

Need help defining your brand or creating your brand guidebook? We’re happy to help.

Photo courtesy of Dplanet

Ready to spread your message? Contact us!