Brand standards are a set of guidelines for the colors; photography and graphic elements; logo specs; fonts and messaging that comprise your brand. They’re the glue that holds your brand together and help to create and protect your firm’s brand identity.
Once they’re established, it’s imperative that all employees understand and uphold them. Many firms invest a considerable amount of both human and capital resources into developing a unique brand identity, only to see them diluted along the way. Here’s why brand standards are so important, and why you should implement them within everything that you do.
The most powerful brands not only have a great visual identity, but that identity is methodically reinforced across every single touchpoint. Having a brand standards guide that is strictly enforced throughout the company helps to ensure consistency, which over time supports strong brand recognition amongst clients and prospects.
The whole point of brand guidelines is to help every person in the organization understand your mission and uphold the integrity of the brand in everything that they do. Providing context for what the brand represents and how the various elements work together gives employees a common language and reinforces the importance of a consistent brand experience. Additionally, documented brand standards can help onboard new employees or external agency partners by serving as a reference for communication materials.
Your logo is the cornerstone of your visual brand identity. Therefore, a logo specifications guide is one of the most important elements to document, providing strict instruction on how the logo can, and cannot, be used. No one should ever be able to adjust the look of your logo. Critical guidelines for size, positioning, margins and colors should be clearly outlined, as well as various “lockups” for all acceptable variations (color, black and white, horizontal, vertical, etc.) of the logo depending on placement and usage.
The brand guidelines should specify a primary set of Pantone colors to use for the majority of your communication materials. You may also have a secondary color palette to use as accents that enhance the design of marketing materials. It’s also important to specify your palette in RGB and HEX color formats for use in digital applications, such as your website, social media profiles and email.
In addition to specifying the color palette, it’s equally important to specify the corporate typefaces or fonts that represent your brand. You’ll first specify the names of the fonts (usually 2-3 different fonts are used), but you’ll also want to give guidance on weights (light, regular, bold, condensed, etc.), size specifications and other considerations such as rules for all caps, no caps, small caps, italics, etc.
Equally as important as the visual representation of your brand, your brand voice should be communicated clearly and consistently in every customer interaction—from digital and printed marketing materials, to sales presentations and speeches by top executives. Defining the set of key messages you want your organization to convey helps ensure your people are consistently conveying your brand. As a rule of thumb, three to five messages are about the most anyone can easily remember and consistently deliver. These messages start to define your brand story and writing style. This sets the tone for all company communications and provides clear instruction for how your brand gets translated into the written word.
Brand standards are only useful if you have a solid brand to enforce with your team. If your brand is tired, dated or suffering from inconsistent application, it may be time for a brand refresh. Once you have a strong, modern logo and brand, then implementing brand standards is the critical next step to maintaining consistency, maximizing the impact of your investment and increasing brand recognition. Should you decide to undertake a brand refresh, be sure to quickly get rid of any old brand materials, and give your employees access to materials with the new brand to speed up internal adoption and external recognition.