A brand is more than just a name and a logo that you can slap on a product or service or company to stake claim to said product, service or company. Though, historically, branding has its origins come from the marks burned on cattle to distinguish who owns which herd of livestock. In this day and age, however, there is still no one fixed definition of a ‘brand’. Wikipedia calls it “an overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer” - very corporate in jargon. Some people would say that a brand is a ‘promise’ to customers; others see brands as a ‘status symbol’. Still, others would say, it is ‘perception’ or an ‘idea expressed as a product’. One of the more intriguing definitions we’ve come across is, a brand is what people say you are when you aren’t in the room.
One thing is certain, however, a brand is definitely intangible. And because it is intangible, any brand would require a set of rules or guidelines on how it is expressed, used and applied across different media.
Enter the Brand Guideline.
A Brand Guideline (sometimes also called a style guide or brand book) is a set of rules that ensure the brand is showcased correctly and consistently, on whatever medium it may appear in. As a standard, it encompasses the design, composition and overall look-and-feel of a company’s branding (source: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/examples-brand-style-guides).
What is included in our Mäd brand guideline?
● The Brand
● Visual Identity
● The Brand Elements
A further dissection to the brand that lays the foundations for all other elements to follow from. Ideally, this includes the brand’s values, objectives, mission, vision, purpose, among other things. Some companies have a comprehensive, strategic document in a proprietary format encapsulating the ‘soul’ of the brand. This isn’t always necessary for all company types so a more concise version usually would suffice.
At Mäd, we use our version of the Branding Pyramid that captures the Brand Essence (its ‘Why’), the Brand Personality (what the brand would be like if it were a person), its Emotional Benefits (what the brand’s audience will expect to feel in interaction with the brand), and Functional Benefits (what purpose/s it serves or addresses).
For more on the Mäd Brand Pyramid click here.
The visual identity (the meat of the matter)
With the intangibles in place, it’s now easier to define or create how the brand is expressed visually. A brand’s core visual expression is usually its logo - that combination of lines, curves, corners, and colors that convey one central idea of the brand.
There are simple logos and more complex logos but the following elements are usually discussed in any Brand Guideline:
Logotype – discusses the rationale for the choice of elements that make up the logo as well as how these elements combine to form a cohesive mark.
Wordmark – the choice of fonts used with the logotype. There are instances where secondary and tertiary typographies are also needed not just for the logo but for other text-heavy assets where the logo may be showcased.
Logo Variations – There will be instances (i.e. size constraints or production limitations, etc) where the full logo could not be used and a ‘stripped down’ or ‘reduced’ version is needed.
Clear space requirements - to avoid violating the Brand’s identity, its logo and its elements in all its permutations, minimum clear space requirements need to be defined clearly, especially with the allowed minimum logo size.
Use and misuse – Discusses the Do’s and Dont’s of the logo application on various media. Highly dependent on the logo but general areas cover visibility, legibility, proportion, position.
Primary Colors – the main colors used, usually identified by either CMYK, HEX, and RGB codes.
Secondary Colors – hues that complement, highlight, enhance or contrast with your primary palette. May be used on secondary elements like text, filters, or any other graphic assets. Similarly in CMYK, HEX, and RGB codes.
Primary Typography – The main typography to be used by the brand. usually the primary typography is usually used in bigger formats as titles and marketing materials.
Secondary Typography – The secondary typography is mainly used in the supporting texts within the marketing material as well as any other type of materials. this typeface is never or rarely used as a title.
Co-Branding – In the event of strategic alliances with other brands, it is key that the Brand’s identity is maintained and respected within this co-existence.
The direction of imagery should stem from the Brand Personality defined in the Pyramid and informed by the Brand’s core target audience: should your brand exude lively and fun energy? Or should it ooze sophistication, elegance, and style? How about a bold, creative and rambunctious vibe? (We like that last one best around here.) On occasion, the imagery can depend on the type of product or service.
Lifestyle Images - With close similarity to the mood board, these lifestyle images showcase the feeling the images of the brand's lifestyle should spur onto the customers.
Product Images - Especially if the brand is a consumer good, you would need a collection of ways to showcase ‘beauty shots’ of the product/s. May include technical information such as color levels, lighting, angling, allowable cropping, etc. Detail of information depends on the product segment or category.
The Applications - Sample executions on the more common materials such as stationery (i.e. business cards, letterheads, forms, presentation decks, etc), communication materials (i.e. posters, billboards, point-of-sale materials, livery, packaging, etc) to digital assets (i.e. social media posts, covers, templates, etc)
Having a clear and comprehensive guideline will allow the brand’s stewards, from the marketing teams to designers, from producers to suppliers and even the sales force, to ensure your brand’s identity remains consistent, clear of any violation and most importantly, reinforces to your end-users what they perceive to be a positive experience, feeling, promise or idea - however way they define “brand”.