Imagine you’re a prospective customer or client. You saw a pretty damn sexy poster for a phone company, and it just so happens you’re in need of a new phone contract. You type their URL into Safari, eagerly expecting to find out more… only to find that the colour scheme differs from the poster, the typeface is off, the logo is inconsistent, and the whole thing feels like an entirely different company. Would you still want to trust this company with your money and rely on them for service?
Too often, this inconsistency is the result of forgotten brand standards. It can be tricky to remember all the little things that make your brand what it is, and after some time, the details will start falling through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to invest in your firm’s corporate identity with a brand manual or style guide.
Style guides lay out the unique set of rules your brand should adhere to and it’s done in one document. Style guides cover pretty much everything you would need to know about presenting your corporate identity and brand: brand mission, values, colours, typefaces, logo directions, application instructions, and other unique rules that make up your brand are all outlined in this brand manual.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that consistency attracts loyal customers. If you think your company is attentive enough to maintain a consistent personality for multiple years on its own, props to you. Otherwise, invest in a style guide.
Other than ensuring consistency for the customer, the brand manual performs an important role: it keeps your employees focused on what’s important, so everybody on your team is on the same page. It’s especially useful for new employees. They won’t be confused about your corporate identity and brand culture—they’ll know exactly what your company values and expects – just from looking at the brand manual.
Graphic standards and style guides are commonplace in the graphic design world. Some of them can be quite elaborate and even beautiful, with lots of background info on brand meaning and the subtleties of messaging inherent in an identity system. These are a standard aspect of the brand identity design industry, but in our experience they are often quite short-sighted. If the brand manual exists as a printed package, what happens if it gets misplaced at the office? If a brand manual exists as a PDF, what happens when new brand standards and corporate identities are developed? Both printed manuals and manuals as PDFs are static—so when carefully-considered changes to the brand occur, the brand manual becomes abandoned as it loses its relevancy and accuracy.
That’s where Industrial Brand’s method comes in. Instead of leaving our clients with PDFs or physical packages, we provide each client with an online digital toolkit for managing their brand. “Styleguide” centralizes all of the personalized “rules for a healthy brand” in a digital brand hub to ensure that over time, all members of the organization know where to go for the last version of things relevant to the corporate identity system, marketing, communication rules, and resources. As a brand changes and evolves over time, Styleguide enables our client to modify the content to ensure the tool never loses relevancy for the company. Styleguide resides on the client’s server, too—not ours. The way we see it, clients paid us handsomely to create these materials, so why should we hold working files close to us in the hopes that they’ll always hire us to produce future work? That’s nonsense. Clients should own all aspects of their own brand systems—it’s their identity after all, not ours. Styleguide is a carefully crafted expression of the organization’s brand essence and corporate identity, so no matter what, it has a positive impact on the culture of the organization.
In the end, while we always strive to be as anticipatory as possible when designing an identity, codifying it, and institutionalizing it with controls and mechanisms such as our Styleguide system, the true responsibility for championing the brand and maintaining brand consistency ultimately resides with our clients themselves. Armed with tools like Styleguide, brand and marketing managers and their staff and vendors can create communications, marketing collateral, advertising campaigns, and other initiatives that are consistently on brand and on message.
Multiple voices online communicate the importance of the brand manual for ensuring consistency. It’s curious, then, that so many brands are throwing themselves into social media marketing. Everybody and their mom and dog are recognizing the value of putting a face to the brand by creating and sharing content online. Marketing yourself online has multiple benefits… but it threatens to dismantle the guidelines of your brand manual by forcing your company to adhere to social media platform language, layout, and conversation.
Do you have or use a styleguide? Can Social Media Marketing potentially make room for more brand and corporate identity inconsistencies? How can the brand manual be adjusted to ensure brand standards are met and followed on social media platforms?