Your brand is your bread and butter. It’s what makes your company unique and different! Your brand is your business, so how do you organize the look and feel to share with others in your organization? Today, I’ll give you the inside scoop on branding your business and break down the inner workings of an effective style guide.
Why is it important to have a style guide?
A style guide, also called branding guidelines, describes different aspects of your brand including the look and feel, design, and mission of a business. This comprehensive guide is typically an internal set of rules a company follows in order to build a cohesive message/voice on all marketing and advertisement materials. There are so many added benefits to having a style guide, but here are some of the most useful:
- Cohesiveness and Consistency- For any company, it’s important that all team members are on the same page.
- Memorable Brand- If the guide is followed, your company can develop a successful and memorable brand for years to come. (i.e. Coca-Cola, Doritos, Adidas, etc.)
- Recognizability and Reliability- Clients can rely on your brand to maintain a consistent image and voice. (i.e. Like when you’re shopping for your favorite cereal or coffee at the grocery store, you want to be able to spot it from a mile away.) Source: HubSpot
- Small Changes, Over Time- Like every brand, you will want to make updates to modernize your branding as time goes on. With a style guide, you can successfully implement those changes but stay on track with your goals as a company.
What is in a style guide?
So now that you know the importance of brand consistency, let’s dive into the editorial portion of what’s in a style guide.
Mission Statement and Vision Statement
What is a mission statement? First and foremost, the company needs to have a clear, action-oriented statement of its purpose and how it serves the community. A mission statement is a sentence or two describing the company, its function, and its objectives. Source: Hubspot
When writing a mission statement, it’s important to keep in mind your product/service and your core values as a company. Start with two to three adjectives that describe your company. Then, combine them with how your product/service will better serve the community while abiding by those adjectives.
Here are a few examples to help:
Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet.
Honest Tea: To create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.
IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people. Source: Hubspot
Okay, you have your mission statement. Great! Let’s dive a little deeper to discover what a vision statement is and why it’s important to include one in your style guide.
What’s a vision statement? A vision statement is a broad statement describing the goals and future of the company. The vision statement can be a few sentences longer than the mission statement and can use some of the same verbiage, as long as it’s in future tense.
Let’s look at a few examples to get the creative juices flowing:
Tesla: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Nordstrom: To serve our customers better, to always be relevant in their lives, and to form lifelong relationships.
Warby Parker: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has the right to see. Source: Shopify
For more inspiration, head on over to your favorite company’s website and look for their about us page. There you should be able to find their mission and vision statement, as well as their corporate values.
Creating a Buyer Persona
So after you’ve reached a clear mission and vision for your company, now is the time to create a set of ideal (semi-fictional) buyers to represent your audience. A buyer persona is a research-based representation of your target customer. Source: Hubspot
The buyer persona should include a list of characteristics that describe your clientele. This includes demographics, wants and needs, behaviors, and challenges they may face.
In the promo industry, you might have a larger or very diverse audience. My advice would be to pick a frequent customer or two that best represent your clientele and take down their characteristics. Start with the following questions to get a good idea of what your buyer persona looks like.
- What is the typical size of their orders?
- How frequently do they purchase from your company?
- What type of products are they purchasing?
- Are they local, national, or worldwide?
With these questions, you can formulate a buyer that best represents your client base. This will not only help with your marketing efforts, but it will assist your team in being on the same page when selling.
Guidelines for Voice and Tone
When you think of a favorite or familiar brand, what is the one adjective to describe them? Are they funny, expressive, neutral, or serious?
Your company voice is how you want to be perceived by your audience. Source: Hubspot
Are your products described as fun and outgoing? Or are they innovative and cutting edge? Your company voice stays consistent over time, thus the reasoning behind its inclusion in a style guide.
The brand tone is a little bit different. Tone can change in all messaging on a day-to-day basis. A good example of this would be how a company might post on Facebook with a more conversational tone and on LinkedIn with a more professional one.
Your style guide should also include rules on how things are formatted. This includes headers, subheaders, how type is to be used when bolded, italicized, and so on. Formatting is especially important for any client-facing documents, such as articles, email newsletters, and presentations.
Here is an example from Black Watch Global.
With a defined format, your readers will be able to digest content and information easier, like this blog you are reading.
While products may be at the forefront of your business, how you communicate and convey information is key to maintaining current and future clients. Your words hold a lot of value as a business; ensure you use them wisely!
With the right tools, you can guide your team to develop a stronger message for your target audience.