Did you know that consistent branding produces 23% more revenue annually? Despite the obvious advantages, only one-fourth of businesses have formal branding guidelines such as a brand book (also known as a brand style guide) that they enforce consistently.
This article covers all you need to know about a brand book, including its definition, step-by-step instructions for building it, benefits and best examples.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Brand Book or Style Guide?
- Three Key Elements of a Brand Book
- What To Define When Creating a Brand Style Guide
- Seven Elements To Include in a Brand Book’s Style Guidelines
- Why Your Business Needs a Brand Book
- Five Brand Book Examples: How Leading Companies Maintain Brand Consistency
- Brand Book Takeaways
What Is a Brand Book or Style Guide?
A brand book, or a brand style guide, is a document that sets specific guidelines for perpetuating brand identity in all external and internal communications.
They most commonly focus on:
- The use of logo
- The use of color
- Image and photo manipulation on brand's products and deliverables
- Brand's tone of voice
Professional branding agencies can help you with creating a brand book that will accurately reflect your business value and mission.
Three Key Elements of a Brand Book
Typically, brand books contain three main sections:
In this section, you need to specify your mission, values, and target audience. Defining this right from the get-go gives context to the content that follows and adds logic to everything you or your partners plan to do using the brand style guide.
2. Visual Guidelines
In this section, you should list the following design elements:
- Logo: Its placement, variations for different platforms and channels, colors, size, and proportions
- Colors: Primary and secondary colors as well the monochrome version
- Fonts: Corporate typography to be used in headlines and bodies of text in official documents
- Photography: Style and guidelines used for consistent presentation
- Brandmark: Where to use it
- Other: Patterns, textures, graphics, icons
3. Communication Guidelines
This section of the brand style guide defines the following:
- Language: the official language or languages in which a brand communicates with its audience
- Style: formatting, technical, and non-technical messaging
- Tone of voice: professional, logical, emotional, humorous, etc.
- Social media presence: posting types, posting times, different social media styles
- Emails: structure, signature, and tone
- Readability and grammar: types of sentences and its lengths, capitalization, numbers, abbreviations, acronyms, proofreading with Grammarly or any other similar tools
What To Define When Creating a Brand Style Guide
Businesses should create their brand books only after defining their unique character and vision — specifically, these four elements:
1. Vision and Core Values
The brand’s vision and core values guide the brand and all business decisions. They point the company toward long-term objectives like gaining brand awareness, trust, and customer loyalty.
Answering the following questions can help determine your vision and values:
- How big do you want your company to get?
- Do you plan to branch out with products and services not currently offered?
- What kind of legacy do you want your business to leave behind?
2. Brand Mission
Ensure your brand mission is clear and grounded by answering these questions:
- What are your company’s purpose and its reason for being?
- What is the difference it is trying to make?
By doing so, you’ll differentiate your business from the competition, inspire greater consumer engagement, and hire talent that fits the company’s vision. Your mission and vision should be in the opening lines of the brand style guide to underline why it is important for everyone to be aligned with the following style rules.
3. Brand Persona
Brand persona or personality is vital for getting the right tone of voice for messaging across all channels. Consistent messaging from a well-defined persona makes it easier for customers to connect and identify with your brand.
You can think about a brand as a person with a list of traits you want it to have. Once you identify the characteristics to incorporate into a persona, they can become a guide for the company’s messaging.
4. Target Audience
Target audience is one of the most important things to define. To do that, answer the following questions:
- What type of people do you want to use your products?
- Who would you like to visit your site and subscribe to your newsletters?
- What are your audience’s needs, wants, and values — and how do you factor into them?
Knowing your market segment narrows your audience’s focus and allows you to tailor your message to specific demographics.
Seven Elements To Include in a Brand Book’s Style Guidelines
These are the seven essential elements of your branding that should be defined in a brand book:
A brand style guide should define how to ensure that a distinct logo stays optimized and consistent in different media environments. It should detail all the variations and versions of your logo, how it will look in these different platforms, and what its placement, sizes, and white space will be.
It’s standard practice to pick four or fewer main hues as your primary color palette. This type of book should define when and how to use each color:
- Which one is used for the text and which for the design elements?
- Which color is for the logo, and which is for the background to make it “pop”?
Sometimes, these books also define the specific brand color names, color hexadecimal, RGB and CMYK values, or a Pantone name and number, secondary and alternate colors.
Similarly, there should be a defined font style for both print and digital applications. In your book, typography should cover how and when to use certain fonts, which typefaces are acceptable, as well as guidelines for additional styling, size, and use of color.
As pointed out by Mayven, most brands use one or two primary typefaces, complementary typeface, and substitute typefaces.
4. Voice and Messaging
Your tone of voice needs to be consistent across all communication channels — email, social media, press releases, blog posts, ads, etc. Your brand’s voice should be aligned with its persona, mission, vision, values, and target audience.
You can start by identifying words you like and don't like to be associated with. Then, decide what type of language fits your persona and your target audience. Go back to your list of adjectives describing your brand personality to come up with a language that is on-brand.
Apart from indicating whether you'll be using photos, illustrations, and other types of graphics (as well as when and how you'll be using them), your brand book should also detail how to edit images, which colors to place them with, and any other design elements related to image use.
Collect inspiration from successful brands, particularly those that have similar brand messaging as yours. You can also create a mood board with images that convey the feelings you want people to get when they interact with your brand.
6. Do's and Don’ts
Brand style guides that also include the things that marketers, designers, partners, and advertisers shouldn’t do — along with the things they should — are double helpful. Having “Do” and “Don’t” columns with specific items under each helps drive home the point and importance of adhering to branding requirements.
7. Other Specifics
Don’t be afraid to be very specific about anything that you feel is necessary to be explained. The more details you have in your brand book, the better. It could be helpful for everyone to include specific scenarios, case studies, visual aids, and examples of use for different logos, imagery, tone of voice, and colors.
If you want to have a different font used across different communication channels, demonstrate this in very specific examples of typeface for body copy, headlines, and titles on all of these channels. This leaves no room for interpretations and uncertainties.
Why Your Business Needs a Brand Book
Here are a few reasons why a brand book can be beneficial for your company:
- Improved consistency. A brand book ensures that all of your marketing materials follow the same guidelines, helping maintain a consistent look and feel across all channels and improving brand recognition.
- Strong brand identity. Your brand is more than its visual identity, logo, or color palette. A brand book helps define your brand identity, including your company's values, mission, and personality. This information is important for ensuring that your messaging aligns with your brand and helps build a strong emotional connection with your audience.
- Increased efficiency. With a brand book, your design team won't need to spend time reinventing the wheel every time they create a new marketing piece. The guidelines provide a roadmap for producing consistent, effective marketing materials, which can save time and resources in the long run.
- Facilitated collaboration. Clear guidelines and standards can ensure that everyone works towards the same goals and produces cohesive, effective marketing materials.
Five Brand Book Examples: How Leading Companies Maintain Brand Consistency
Let’s take a look at five companies whose brand books stand out and bring them business success.
The half-eaten apple is one of the most immediately recognizable logos in the world — but is merely a fraction of what makes this brand so memorable.
Appel's brand guidelines are made for internal use and for use by companies that promote Apple, in order to “reap the benefits of the Apple identity and contribute to its strength.”
Its content spans using Apple channel signatures such as:
- Minimum clear space and minimum size
- Avoiding signature mistakes
- Merchandise items
- Stationery guidelines and more
It also outlines reseller stores identity, using Apple assets and trademark and credit lines.
Samsung is a brand that is quite diversified and consists of multiple subdivisions — each having its own set of standards. Samsung Mobile’s brand book outlines standards that define this brand and is an “evolving source for consistent communications across a wide audience of consumers and agencies.”
The brand stylebook contains elements such as proof points and archetypes, that discuss visual standards through a range of specific examples, as well as Samsung's personality.
It also specifies:
- Master logo
- Logo variations
- Device logos
- Campaign logos
- Color palette
- UI elements
- The role of photography
Besides these fairly standard features, Standard Mobile also has specific requirements when it comes to product presentation. Their brand book discusses requirements for device angles as well as poses and composition with devices.
The firm allows advertisers to use Amazon branding elements within the requirements that are specified in the document. Also, advertisers must submit the material they intend to use to Amazon for approval.
Amazon’s guidebook outlines:
- Call to Actions and Amazon text link CTAs that should conform to standards in typeface and sizing, graphical styling, color, and .com usage
- Branded button CTAs
- Capitalization and punctuation
- Brand phrases
- Branding on and off Amazon site
- Logos and imagery
- Clear space
- Icons and site elements
- Product imagery
This personal care and beauty brand has a very brief brand style book that opens with an introduction and a story about a brand’s longevity, values, and mission. Claiming their pivotal role in skincare innovation, the company sets the tone in these opening lines by citing its brand ambassadors and accessibility across the world as some of its strongest points.
The brand book moves on to define these elements as essential for its employees and marketing campaigns:
- Brand colors
Lancome’s brand style guide is significantly more concise than the other brands on this list. The reason for this is that the mentioned elements don’t vary too much across different channels and are quite uniform. Also, the dose of exclusivity is enhanced through this minimalistic approach, which gives an air of luxury to a mass product.
World’s number one ride-hailing app has a stylish brand book that contains nine core elements:
- Tone of Voice
Each of those takes up its own section in the brand book and is very detailed in the way it explains how every core element should be constructed for consistency.
For instance, Uber specifies that its primary color, which is its global association with the brand, is black. The company also defines a range of secondary and tertiary colors to be used in order to work with black in instances of alternate logo versions.
The brand book also contains guides on logo construction and clearspace, as well as its scale, placement, and typeface.
Uber is very detailed in determining its unique tone of voice to be used across all touchpoints. They define consideration, simplicity, and consistency as their messaging’s key worth; as well as sounding optimistic, inviting, and bold.
Brand Book Takeaways
A brand style book is very important for keeping your brand’s identity consistent and distinctive. As your company grows, this document will help with keeping the larger number of employees on the same page with the requirements and standards of the business.
This ensures your brand sticks in your target audience’s mind by always remaining faithful to your logo, colors, tone of voice, typography, and other vital elements that constitute your business.
And as your business grows and matures, this will help to build a trustworthy and reliable experience for everyone who engages with it — which means more customers and more profits.
The best branding agencies can provide all the necessary guidance for creating a brand book.