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The importance of brand guidelines

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As a successful brand grows to serve customers through multichannel avenues (packaging, online, retail and customer service), it is essential that all aspects of the brand follow a consistent model. …

As a successful brand grows to serve customers through multichannel avenues (packaging, online, retail and customer service), it is essential that all aspects of the brand follow a consistent model.

Additionally, just like an orchestra working in harmony to play a symphony, all internal and external stakeholders of the brand need to understand this unity through all modes of the brand’s communication. This in turn leads to a stronger performance in the company’s respective industry.

This is where the importance of brand guidelines comes into play. When corporate branding or packaging and retail design is executed, it is crucial that a cohesive set of brand standards is developed.

Published in: Marketing, Business, Design

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  • 1. The importance of brand guidelines Tips on how to ensure they are followed
  • 2. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 1 At Shikatani Lacroix, we design compelling purchase moments that connect in the blink of an eye. Shikatani Lacroix is a multidisciplinary branding and design firm with expertise in corporate identity, naming, packaging, retail, brand strategy, wayfinding and communication design. Our philosophy and strategic design approach, the Blink Factor, hones in on that instant when a consumer makes a decision. Everything we do is geared to owning the “at purchase” moment. We forge customer connections that build trust and drive sales, while measuring ROI, developing growth, and increasing brand loyalty. About the author Ryan Talag, Account Coordinator at Shikatani Lacroix As an account coordinator at Shikatani Lacroix, Ryan works with retail and corporate brands such as Second Cup International and TD Bank Group. A graduate of Communications, Culture & Information Technology at the University of Toronto, Ryan conducts research and analysis for client projects and presentations. Prior to joining SL in 2012, Ryan did a work term in the Middle East as a brand strategist for The Brand Union in Dubai, U.A.E., where he worked on the following brands: Riyad Bank and Dettol.
  • 3. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 2 “Companies The answer to all with greater As a successful brand grows to serve customers through multichannel avenues (packaging, online, retail and customer service), it is essential that all aspects of the brand follow a consistent model. portfolio coherence outperform their peers in terms of operating margin” – Traci Entel, Booz&Co. Additionally, just like an orchestra working in harmony to play a symphony, all internal and external stakeholders of the brand need to understand this unity through all modes of the brand’s communication. This in turn leads to a stronger performance in the company’s respective industry. SL’s recent white paper on brand coherence includes a quote that effectively summarizes this notion: “Companies with greater portfolio coherence (that is, those whose business units have mutually reinforcing capabilities that distinguish the company as a whole) outperform their peers in terms of operating margin.” – Traci Entel, Booz&Co. This is where the importance of brand guidelines comes into play. When corporate branding or packaging and retail design is executed, it is crucial that a cohesive set of brand standards is developed.
  • 4. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 3 What’s so great about brand standards? For starters, they establish and protect the integrity of the brand identity through consistent visual representation of the brand; and consistency over time is essential in building strong brand equity. Before we dive into the different ways you can onboard brand guidelines, first let’s glance over some key details found in brand identity guidelines. The brand story Before delving into the guidelines’ technical specs, it is important that every stakeholder involved with the brand – from brand managers to packaging printers – has an understanding of the brand’s overarching story. The introductory sections of the brand guidelines should communicate these aspects. This includes such things as: • brand essence (the core point of difference that clearly defines the organization and how it fits a specific consumer need) • brand card (a promise of performance and a summary of the interaction, attitudes and experience of its brand equity) • brand position (defines the target group, the unique needs the organization is providing, and the credible reason why the organization can meet these needs)
  • 5. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 4 • brand personality/tone and voice (identifies the key characteristics that define the organization in humanistic terms, similar to how you would define an individual. The brand personality sets the tone and manner by which the organization communicates with its key audience) Why is it important for everyone to understand this? Creatively, the essence of the brand will be integrated into all artistic elements of each brand touch point. If a brand focuses on being high quality, optimistic and reliable, a graphic designer will choose to use a particular method of gradients, colours and shapes to illustrate that. Furthermore, a photographer will understand why she must execute a certain style (i.e., capturing genuine and emotionally engaging real-life moments). Even from a technical perspective, the brand essence will be referenced when working with logo-safe zones (clear open space), signage dimensions, photo lighting, gradients, etc. Once every person involved with the brand understands the brand story (the values deeply engrained in the core of the organization), they will effectively integrate this knowledge into their work.
  • 6. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 5 “Successful branding programs are based on the concept of singularity...to create in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no other service on the market quite like your offering.” - Al Ries and Laura Ries, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding Setting the standards Now that the brand story has been established, the advertisers, designers, signage manufacturers, packagers, copywriters, and everyone in between need to know the technical standards and specifications. This wonderful portion of the guidelines includes all the specs, such as exterior signage measurements (width = x ft), headline sizes (x = ¼ of first letter), safe zones (margin around a graphic element), minimum size, Pantone colours, along with an entire design system overview and hierarchy of communication. By this point, a copywriter will not only know which specific fonts to use and where, but also why that font has been chosen, thanks to the aforementioned brand story. In other words, a copywriter would know why a friendly sans serif font is used instead of a formal typeset, and a photographer/photo editor would understand why emotional black and white imagery is a better choice over bright and colourful stock images.
  • 7. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 6 How to ensure guidelines are followed What good is it to have an incredible set of guidelines that covers every detail about your brand if it is not put to good use? The following are some recommendations for getting everybody on your team on board. Online Portal 1. Easy access An online portal is an effective way for all individuals to access your brand identity guidelines. With a special login and password, this information can be kept safe and secure while the proper parties, including third party vendors, can gain access. 2. Many parties There are instances when so many different people doing a wide range of jobs will need the guidelines. From an advertising copywriter a few city blocks away to the signage installer who desperately needs measurement specs for an international store on the other side of the world, all parties will be able to retrieve this valuable information.
  • 8. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 7 3. Efficient updates Things are always changing. As a brand evolves, certain pieces may need adjustments along the way, such as a new standard for sizing or updated legal copy. Subsequently, these changes may not be effective immediately, as organizations need some transition time between changes (e.g., changing photography standards for ad campaigns). Here, an early notification of “things to come” can be broadcast on the host site, informing all parties of what lies ahead. Hand ’em out/meet up 1. In your face In a digital world, sometimes it’s more salient and effective to have good, old-fashioned printed handouts or a face-to-face meeting with your intended audience so that they cannot easily ignore the messaging. In package design meetings, there is usually a discussion regarding artwork and layout. Through the complexities of colour standards, sizing and materials, it is often fundamental to be able to refer to brand guidelines on the spot. Therefore, it is important that the guidelines are distributed and that all involved parties receive a copy. Something to keep in mind is the importance of proper and effective distribution. Depending on the company size and various locations, online portals or FTP sites can prove to be most beneficial.
  • 9. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 8 Final thoughts The truth is, even if you live and breathe a brand, it is very difficult for a single person to remember every intricate detail of your brand standards. Certain details simply do not come up often enough to register in your brain without reference. As there are many levels of communication within a brand, every touch point must integrate the same brand essence to achieve complete brand coherence. Once the brand story and personality are established in the brand guidelines, it is imperative that all parties develop a high-level knowledge of this information. From here, everyone on the creative and technical sides, from the advertising and social media departments to the packaging printers, will have a clear comprehension of the brand and how it should be properly communicated.
  • 10. White paper | October 2013 | Guidelines | 10 For more information, contact: Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President Shikatani Lacroix 387 Richmond Street East Toronto, Ontario M5A 1P6 Telephone: 416-367-1999 Email: jplacroix@sld.com