Creating Digital Brand Guidelines - Styling, Voice & Identity
Did you know that brands who present their image in a consistent and authentic manner drive 23% more sales across all digital platforms? While each social media platform requires its unique approach when it comes to delivering a message, you can create a set of digital brand guidelines to maintain the tone, voice, and image of your business.
Digital brand guidelines provide a set of rules and best practices that aid any member of your organization to use your communication knacks in a certain manner. Think of these guidelines as your “brand bible” – it functions to cover the way your brand works and how its different elements work in tandem to form your identity.
But how do you create an identity that can remain consistent across different platforms? In this article, we answer how by introducing the concept of a brand guide, why your brand guide and brand identity are important, and how to create your own guidelines. Let’s delve in!
Why you should create digital brand guidelines
Remember, consistency is key when it comes to effective branding. By creating a clear and consistent public image, you will benefit in the following ways:
- Top-of-mind awareness and fast brand recognition
- Enhanced brand image and sense of professionalism
- Increased trust and authority in your industry
- It gives your customers a brand character to resonate and engage with
- Your employees get a brand reference point
- It educates third party promoters, marketers, and advertisers quickly
- It enhances your PR efforts among all channels
Overall, a digital brand guide gives your business a strong identity with a coherent image. By doing this, it becomes easy for both your internal team and customers to understand what your business represents.
As a result, you get (1) clients that resonate with your business and (2) employees that understand your vision, mission, and values.
- Your customers then grow to trust your business; the consistency you offer leads to customer loyalty.
- Your employees find it easier to relate with and communicate your brand image.
Moreover, with a clear set of digital brand guidelines, you can rest assured that third parties (vendors & media) will represent your brand identity without creating any discrepancies or inconsistencies in your company messaging. Due to this, your customers will notice your organization from any location or representative effortlessly.
Creating a unique brand identity
What makes a brand successful? Well, several things might factor into the reasons an organization achieves its success. Branding is one of them. But what is a brand? As defined by Jeff Bezos “your brand is what people say about your business when you are not there”.
In essence, branding is the perception of your organization in the eyes of consumers. Knowing this, what constitutes a brand identity? In short, your identity is your “personality”, or what you show outwards to the world.
This personality comprises of:
- The values of your brand
- The main message you are looking to deliver
- methods you use to communicate your values and product features
- The feeling you which to invoke when customers engage with your product.
To achieve a unique business identity you need to go beyond consistency, color patterns, graphics, and internal values. More specifically, it might be a good idea to start by doing the following:
Study your current brand
Step into your customers’ shoes and try to understand how your audience interacts and feels about your brand. You want to ensure you get to the core offer. By understanding the current state of your brand it becomes easier to identify how you can adjust your brand to align with your current business goals.
Apart from customers, try to also identify how your brand is perceived by stakeholders, and employees. You can do this in many different ways (brand audit questionnaire, interviews, surveys, feedback sessions, etc.).
Create your brand strategy
To create a strategy, you will first need to outline every goal you seek to achieve with your identity. Give this a lot of thought, as even smaller details like colour combinations can affect the desired results.
Consider your brand’s purpose, its values, personality and communication style, tagline, USPs, tone of voice, messaging, logo, font selection, and colour combinations, among others. Since we are here only aiming to introduce the concept of a brand strategy we will not go deep into each option.
- If you wish to understand each element better make sure you read Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
- Additionally, this article can offer more assistance when it comes to your strategy development.
Know your audience
Your business will engage with its customers through the guidelines of your brand’s identity. Therefore, you want to ensure you precisely communicate who you are and what you represent. But it isn’t just about you; in fact, it has nothing to do with you! Your main focus should lie on the people aim to attract.
To achieve this, you will need to embark on a research mission to discover your customer’s wants, needs, and values.
Your goal is to collect as much psychographic and demographic information as you can. Once you know what drives your customers, determine what means you can use to provide products and services that offer your audience value.
Check your competition
The goal of a unique brand identity is to set you apart from your competitors. Try to understand the motivation behind the brand identity of your competitors and where they could improve their offer. Is their perception of the target audience valid? If not, what can you do to stand out?
Study your competitor’s brand image and pay attention to things like communication trends, brand personality, visual elements, and industry-specific visual themes.
For instance, if most of your competitors use a light blue color combo and Montserrat font, you need to understand why they are doing so. Are they just copying the market leaders or is there a deeper meaning behind it? If it is the first, you’ll manage to get ahead faster; if it the second you’ll need to understand why.
Write your brief
Your brief can be seen as a template that describes everything there is to know about your brand and how the team needs to present it through different online platforms. It is the most important document that you will use when building a brand book. It is also a great introduction to SOP documents you offer to new employees. We will come back to this in the following chapters.
Determine your visuals
You should now have a better idea of your brand’s vision, mission, and personality. But how do you go from written content to visual elements? While your competitor research can be a good indicator, this stage requires quite a bit of brainstorming. For instance, if you want your brand to communicate fast service, think, “What visual elements represent speed?” The trick here is to use visual representation as a way to invoke an emotional response. A great example of this is fast food stores and the colour red.
Having decided on the basic elements of your brand image, it is now time to bring the new identity to life. Time to decide on your ideal:
- Logo(s) - Use 99Design.com or a graphic designer from Upwork, PeoplePerHour, etc.
- Color combination - Use Adobe Color palette or Coolors.
- Fonts and typography - Check your competition and MyFonts.
- Photography and stock images - Start with free options like Freepik and FlatIcon and if you wish to improve the quality go with a premium option.
Why is brand identity important?
59% of customers prefer to buy new products from familiar and recognisable brands compared to businesses they do not know. When you build a brand identity, you target that percentage of customers.
In short, your brand identity is important for the following reasons:
- It is the face of your business
- It enhances your trustworthiness and credibility
- It gives your company something to stand for
How to further strengthen your brand image
The image of your brand is even more important in saturated industries where the competition is high and the attention is low. Therefore, consider strengthening your brand in the following ways:
- Have a unique tone of voice that is unlike any of your competitors
- Identifying your brand style and match it to your customers’ expectations
- Create a brand book (very important!)
1. Tone of Voice
The only way you can stand out in today’s chaotic world of (over)information is by becoming authentic. Your tone of voice defines your brand personality which, in turn enhances your authenticity.
The tone of voice describes how way your brand “talks” to and with your audience. It forms a certain persona, something relatable, a brand that is more than just their products.
Your tone of voice includes your word choice, your level of (in)formality, and how you deliver those through your digital brand guidelines.
Why is the tone of voice important?
- It improves engagement levels (if done in a way that matches your audience’s expectations).
- It enhances the trustworthiness and word-of-mouth advertisement from customers.
- It makes your brand memorable (when building a truly authentic persona).
- It can increase your revenue by up to 23 percent.
How to “discover” your tone of voice
- Understand your audience.
- Identify your values and pain points of your audience.
- Make sure you audit your communication and content.
- Create a list of tone features and a brand voice chart.
- Test, test, and test some more (look what tone of voice offers highest engagement).
If you want more information on finding and implementing your tone of voice, make sure you read this.
2. Decide on your brand styling
While we already discussed what you need to pay attention to when it comes to the development of your visuals, there are some more components you need to pay attention to. These are:
- The logo placement and size
- The representation and psychological response of certain colours
- The readability of the fonts and typography compared to the service or product you offer
- The image style and how it reflects back to your primary offer
- The web elements and how these incorporate your brand guidelines
3. Creating a brand book
Your creative brief will eventually transform into a brand strategy book - an online document that offers important information about your brand. This includes information about your logo size (primary, secondary, watermark, etc.), spacing, complementary fonts, colors, and background usage.
You can create your brand book using several different ways. Three straightforward and common ways are:
- Logaster - Very basic and cheap solution, great for business cards.
- Using designers through platforms like the ones we discussed above.
- Graphic editors like Visme, Adobe Indesign, and Adobe Photoshop. Once again, if you are not skilled enough in graphic design you can also let others compete for the best logo development through 99designs.com.
Your digital brand guidelines are the starting point to an authentic presentation of your brand. To summarize, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to the steps we discussed above:
- Before setting out to create your guidelines, study your offer, your customers, and your competitors. From the three options, your customers are the ones you should spend the most time on.
- Create your brand strategy and visuals based on the research you conducted.
- After your visuals are developed, create a brand book to be used internally.
Remember, your business is more than your products and services, it is a relationship that leads to shared experiences. And the best way to achieve this connection is by developing your own digital brand guidelines.