Whether you’re a big believer in marketing, or you think that if you build it people will buy it, the fact is that your business is a brand. Your brand is like your business card, and it’s what people will experience long before they actually do business with you. It precedes you, and it’s something that you need to fine-tune constantly if you want to be able to stand out from the crowd.
To give you plenty of food for thought, we’ve put together a simple 5 minute read that will tell you everything you need to know about a commonly overlooked creative tool: the style guide. Have a read, sit back and reflect, and then put the hints and tips into action. Your brand will be all the better for it in no time at all.
A style guide saves you from wasting time discussing tangential ideas
The first thing to note about a style guide is that it will always save you time in the long run. People will probably think you’re indulging in a drawn out needlessly creative endeavor when you suggest creating a style guide, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It will take some time to get it right, but that’s just the cost of building a brand that actually stands for something. Commit to finishing your guide no matter what, and always remember that it will save you plenty of time later on. It’s there as reference material for the lifetime of your business, and it will prove invaluable when it inevitably comes time to rebrand, or when you’re launching a new product or service. The more you put into it now, the more it will give back when you need it.
It will ensure you stay ‘on-brand’ at every creative turn
Staying true to your brand is easier said than done. When you’re in the thick of it and faced with half a dozen mounting deadlines it can be all too easy to churn out a logo that’s okay, and a tagline that you think is ‘good enough’. The problem is that once you launch them into the market they’re now the face of your brand. If they don’t fit with what you’ve done before then they’ll just confuse people.
You could always retract them, but then you just look like you’re chopping and changing the offering based on negative feedback. And that’s a surefire to lose your voice of authority and open yourself up to further criticism. Your audience doesn’t want to believe that you’re just telling them what they want to hear. They want to believe that you’re the authority, the thought leader, and the trendsetter that they’ve been waiting to buy into.
They connect your brand to your target audience
If you want to know why style guides matter, all you need to do is think about the last bad branding exercise you saw. It could be a website, fashion label, home collection, or anything that left you speechless. With so many different creative threads to play with, you’ll probably have been confused at how they could have got it so wrong.
The issue will, more than likely, have been that there was no style guide in place. The style guide is what you use to ensure there is uniformity and a common thread running through every aspect of a marketing campaign. It’s easy to copy and paste the same old tagline, but there’s a lot more to uniformity than that. You need to tailor each offering so that it’s suitable for every new platform and setting, but in a way that’s sensitive to the core of your brand. Which leads us nicely onto the next point on our list.
You can express your brand’s core ethos in a variety of different mediums
Your brand needs to have something at the center of it if it’s going to connect with the people you want to do business with. It’s an emotion that it evokes in people, and it will be far stronger than their memory of your latest tagline, sale, or discount offer.
The problem with tackling different promotional mediums without a style guide is that most of the time a different person will have input into each platform. You may all be working for the same end goal, but unless there is central creative guide you can all refer back to then it’s unlikely you’ll end up pulling in the same direction.
Your customers will actually know what you stand for
Businesses like the The Word Point work in a very specialist niche, and so need to target a specific section of the online market. This means that they need to stand for something, and just as importantly, they need to ensure that their customers know they stand for it.
By compiling a style guide that focuses on precision, flexibility, and knowledgeable input they can build a creative framework around their brand. If you can do the same, you’ll be able to tell a potential audience of millions what your business stands for.
What should your style guide include?
The specifics will depend on the size of your brand, and what industry you work in, but there are a number of core features every style guide must have:
Static or dynamic style guides?
A style guide has to be a dynamic document, but one that is governed by a certain set of creative rules:
Getting the balance right between process and creativity
The final thing to say is that a style guide is a great way to help you find the right balance between process and creativity. If you have a deadline, it can be all too easy to submit something that does the job and be done with it.
What the style guide does in these instances is keep your output honest so that you can see whether your new content actually adds anything to your brand. Often you’ll find that referring back to the style guide points you in a subtly different direction that makes all the difference to the finished article. Ideal if you want to enhance your brand every single day.
BIO: Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.