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Why a style guide is one of your organisation’s most critical assets

As we discussed last week, branding is an inescapable facet of modern life; which is why it’s so important to get it right the first time. As a business, it’s important that your branding is consistent, lest it lose its effectiveness. Think about it, Coke-a-Cola wouldn’t be nearly as recognisable if it all of a sudden changed its branding to bright yellow. We know the iconic red, we know the iconic typography. Without them, it just wouldn’t be Coke. Coke-a-Cola has spent the last 130 years building up their iconic branding.

Now of course you don’t have 130 years to build your brand, and that’s fine. You don’t need that long. However, if you want to grow your business into a successful entity, then this is the level of care you need to be putting into your business’s branding. Everything has to be consistent, and a style guide guarantees that (assuming you follow it, of course).

But first, what is a style guide, and why should I care?Style Guide example indicating proper use of Risk Insights Logo

If you’re unfamiliar with what exactly a style guide is, let me break if down for you; put simply, a style guide is a manual or set of instructions which contains the core elements and rules of a brand.

Think of it as your brand’s ‘bible’. Everything from logo placement and spacing to the brand’s colour palette and typography should be included in this guide. Additionally, using a style guide will ensure that no matter who is creating material for your organisation, you’ll always remain on-brand.

This is important because humans are creatures of habit and familiarity. We typically trust what we recognise, meaning that you can’t take advantage of key marketing staples like the Mere Exposure Effect if your branding isn’t consistent. Maintaining brand consistency is critical for a successful marketing strategy; particularly if your goal is to maintain brand awareness and encourage customer loyalty in your product and / or service.

To put your new found understanding of what a style guide is to the test, have a read of the following and see if you can figure out what’s wrong;

A colleague was recently developing a PR strategy for a semi-major charity organisation in Australia. During his research he noted that there was zero consistency amongst any of their assets. For example some of their collateral used a brown version of their logo, while other pieces used a blue one. The organisation had already expressed concern over their current brand recognition but couldn’t work out what the issue was…
Any ideas?

If you guessed “inconsistent branding” then you guessed correct. Had the organisation used a style guide, staff could have easily referred to it when promoting the charity. This would have in turn  mitigated most of the issues they are currently facing.

So what do I include in my style guide?

In short, anything that relates to the the rules surrounding your business’s branding. Here’s a basic rundown of the things you need to consider including in your style guide;

Logo

One of most important and most obvious elements of the style guide are details about your logo. As the key graphic in your branding it’s critical that this remains consistent across all of your material.

Don’t want people changing the colour of your logo? Make sure you include that. Don’t want the HR department adding a drop shadow and a bevel emboss to make it look spooky for your Halloween event? Better put that in there as well.

It’s also important that your style guide includes instructions about the logo’s minimum size, and size in relationship to other assets. This includes the negative space between your logo and that of other organisations.

Colour Palette

The primary colour palette contains the core colours that should be used across all of your organisation’s communications channels. Typically your primary colours will be those included in your logo, in addition to any secondary colours that may be used in other branding collateral. Colour is an incredibly important component of your branding, and as we discussed last week, every colour conveys a different meaning to consumers.

Typefaces

All typefaces used within the logo and official communications should be a part of the style guide. In addition to this you should include their weights (refer to our typography article for more information) and a web safe alternative.

Why do I need to include a web- safe version I hear you ask? Because not every font is available for online purposes, meaning what the website shows, might not be in line with your branding.

Web Styles

In addition to your web– alternative fonts, it’s also important that you include guidelines surrounding other web elements that may be used in online branding. These guidelines will help developers keep elements such as buttons and forms consistent across multiple web-pages/ email signatures/ etc.

It doesn’t matter how good you think your branding looks, if it’s not consistent, it’s not doing it’s job the way it should be. Style guides keep everyone within your organisation informed and inline with your brand’s messaging. This allows you to better establish and grow your brand identity, and therein your standing within the community.

Getting your branding right is critical, and that’s what I do best. Why not book in a time to sit down and discuss your brand, today? 

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