How to create brand style guidelines and why you need them

by Lindsey Francy Mar 24, 2023 News
How to create brand style guidelines and why you need them

Content is created across multiple channels if your brand is similar to most.

It's possible that you have more than one creator on your team.

How do you make sure the content you publish is consistent? How do you make sure it stays true to your brand?

Consistency in your brand content and presence is a must. How will this guide explain it?

What are brand style guidelines?

Brand style guidelines govern how your content looks and feels. Think of standards for your brand voice and tone, your logo and colors, how to use and spell your brand name, how to use visuals in content, and more.

The guidelines are usually recorded in a shared document. Your guidelines are followed by each creator to make sure their content stays consistent.

Why you need brand style guidelines in your content strategy

A well-developed set of brand style guidelines is a key way in which your brand identity is solidified.

Each piece of content you create contributes to your overall reputation on the internet.

Consistency can increase revenue by as much as 20%.

What happens if you don't have brand style guidelines?

People who interact with your brand are at risk of being confused.

Your brand voice is casual and light-hearted, even though you have a serious, facts-driven tone to your post. Your audience will get a mixed message from that.

If your content and platforms have a variety of styles, tones, and voices, you will experience the same thing. Your brand identity will be different from a pillar people can trust.

That is the most important thing at the end of the day. You can trust.

Trust is built by consistency. It's killed by inconsistency. Consistency is helped by brand style guidelines.

How to create brand style guidelines

If you want to create brand style guidelines, you need to know your brand's identity, including your mission, values, audience, and goals. You will base your guidelines on these things.

You have to figure out each piece before you can document them in a brand style guide. Continue until you achieve this.

1. Brand identity: Mission, vision and  ‘About us’

Records your business's mission statement, vision for the brand, and values underlying everything you do to start your brand style guidelines.

How was it founded can be included in this section. How did it start?

There is a list of definitions.

  • Mission statement: A short statement that details why/how your business exists. Who do you serve? How do you serve them? What’s the outcome of serving them? 
  • Vision statement: A short statement that sums up your brand’s vision for the future. What do you hope to achieve, ultimately? Instead, think about your larger impact on the world beyond revenue or customer goals. 
  • Values: What values are important to the brand? What values do you try to uphold while doing business?
  • Story: How did the brand get started? Who started it, and why? How have you grown and changed since? What have you accomplished?
Mission and goals

These elements are included in your guidelines because they can tell you a lot about your brand. They can tell you how to create content.

The brand was started out of the founder's basement. A group of friends hang out and spitball. This story can be used in your content. It could inform your brand voice, which is casual, friendly, down to earth. There is a place for this story in the brand style guidelines.

If you want anyone who reads and follows your guidelines to understand what you stand for, you need to paint an overarching picture of your brand.

2. Audience

An overview of your audience is the next step. If you haven't done audience research yet, now's the time.

If you already have personas for your audience, add them here. The brand style guidelines for Mozilla Firefox include written descriptions of their two personas.

Mozilla Firefox Audience 800x385

Content creators who work with your brand need to know this piece of the puzzle. If you don't understand the target audience, you can't write targeted content.

Search marketers rely on daily newsletters.

3. Visual elements: Logo, color palette and typography

Rules for using visuals can be included in your style guidelines.

It's important when you work with designers or developers. Standard visual rules will help make your content look cohesive across channels.

Medium has strict guidelines on how it can use its logo.

Medium logo guidelines

Starbucks has guidelines on how to use their preferred typefaces.

Starbucks brand guidelines

4. Brand voice, tone, and style

Rules are needed to guide how creators present your brand to the world. Stipulating brand voice, tone, and style is one of the main ways to keep your message consistent.

The voice is a brand one.

Your brand voice is what makes you who you are.

When you communicate with customers, it's how you come across.

It's possible that your brand is intellectual and nerdy.

Your guidelines should explain how your voice will appear in the content.

A brand with a spirited, fun voice might include jokes in the content. They might use some of the internet's most popular video games.

Their explanations will be clear and down-to-earth.

The tone of the brand.

The tone of your voice is determined by your brand.

If you come up with a great promotion for customers, you might let them know about it.

If you have to deliver bad news, your tone may be apologetic.

Your brand voice stays the same because it's associated with your brand personality. Different situations can cause your tone to change. It's possible to specify which tones to use in your brand style guidelines.

The writing style is called brand writing.

Your brand writing style includes your preferred word usage.

  • Word usage: Which words should creators avoid altogether? (For instance, maybe they should avoid slang words like "gonna" or "shoulda.") How should they speak about or refer to your products/services? How should they use and refer to your brand name?
  • Grammar and spelling rules: Does your brand use Oxford commas? How should writers approach abbreviated terms? Can they use contractions (i.e., don't versus do not)? Should numbers be written or spelled? Etc.
  • Formatting rules: What are your rules for using numbered and bulleted lists? Do you have any rules for using headers? What about links?

A great example of brand writing style guidelines can be found at Mailchimp. They are a completely different guide.

There are detailed rules about their voice and tone, how to use specific web elements in their content, and a lot more.

Mailchimp brand guidelines

There are a few tips to keep in mind.

It's a good idea to create a separate document for writers if your writing guidelines are also this in-depth. The rest of your team will have to wade through irrelevant information if you don't.

There isn't time to make an encyclopedia of writing style rules. It's a good idea to base yours on a pre-existing manual.

Large publishing entities have already developed style guidelines that you can use to support your own. Layer your brand voice guidelines on top of these, using them as the foundation. The best match for your brand can be found in the manual.

These helpful sections should be added to your brand style guidelines.

Rules for using visuals in content

Adding rules for how to source images is something you should consider. Stock photos can be used. All images should have custom graphics. There are questions about whether or not there areScreenshots allowed. Is there a look or feel you want to have?

Rules for sourcing and citing statistics, studies, research, and other data

It is important for writers to source and cite research in their writing in order to maintain consistency.

Is it possible to find any sources off-limits. How should sources be mentioned in the content?

Use cases

There are use cases and examples of do's and don'ts when writing brand assets and content.

Correct and incorrect uses of your logo, good and bad examples of brand voice, good and bad visual usage, the right and wrong way to link to sources in content, are some of the things to show.

Specific examples of how to use the brand voice/tone are included in the guidelines.

Mozilla Firefox guidelines

Ready to create your own brand style guidelines?

Building a content strategy includes creating brand style guidelines.

It is important to keep your brand presence consistent across the web.

Consistency is more important than you think. Your audience will trust you because of your consistency.

A constant presence is better than a wavering one. No matter what happens, you can trust it to be true.

Do you want your brand to be seen as reliable, trustworthy, and constantly changing?

Brand style guidelines can help determine which category you fall into.

The guest author's opinions are not necessarily those of the search engine. There are staff authors here.