Did you know that more than 75% of consumers prioritize purchasing from brands that share their values? Or that brand recognition increases the perceived value of a company’s product offering? From McDonald’s golden arches to the interlocking Cs that have defined Chanel for generations, companies with strong branding identities are iconic, memorable, and easy to define. What does this mean for new brands that want to not only survive, but thrive in 2023 and beyond?
An important step in the journey of converting a consumer from stranger to follower to purchaser to passionate advocate of your brand is cultivating a strong emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. Having a strong brand identity that authentically and consistently communicates your brand’s unique selling proposition (USP) can be a powerful asset in this process and building a strong community with your target audience is more important than ever! The first step in establishing your brand is building a brand book that establishes and defines your brand’s visual identity and lays out your company’s guiding ethos.
WHAT IS A BRAND?
Your brand is comprised of the intangibles that make up your business identity and help your customers identify your business. When crafted and used properly, your brand is your calling card, telling your current and potential customers as well as your industry and the media who you are, what you do, and where you stand. All business concepts, from product offering to marketing creatives to PR strategy, should tie back to your brand and support your company’s overall vision and mission.
[Note: For more info on branding, check out our previous post on the Importance of Branding in Fashion here.]
Whether you’re looking to reinvigorate your brand in the new year or building your brand from the ground up, here are the important elements to take into account and include when building your brand’s style guide (also referred to as a brand book).
MISSION & VALUES
What do you, and by extension your brand, stand for? Your brand’s mission and values should serve as a compass, guiding all of your brand’s activities, from your product offering to your marketing strategy. While mission and values are intertwined and should work together, they are separate entities that should be individually established and clearly defined.
Bonus points for clearly defining your brand vision as well, which should work in tandem with your mission and values to guide your brand’s forward movement.
Brand Mission: States the brand’s purpose and how they plan to serve their target audience.
Brand Values: The key principles that will guide how the company operates.
Brand Vision: This is where the brand wants to go and what they want to accomplish.
A consumer’s emotional connection to your brand is important. Color can be a tool for brand storytelling. Specific colors can evoke an emotional response, so take into account your brand’s identity when choosing a palette. When choosing colors for your brand’s color palette, try to choose hues that are not only memorable and recognizable, but also further communicate your brand’s personality.
It can be helpful to break you color palette into primary colors and secondary colors to let everyone know the primary colors of the brand’s aesthetic and which colors should only be used for color pops in marketing materials or website creatives. Make sure to specify which colors can be used when and if there are certain color combinations within the palette that should be avoided, if you have these specifications in mind [ie: the red in the primary palette and forest green in the secondary palette can not be used together, because creatives may look Christmas-y and that is not the brand’s desired aesthetic]. To ensure that your brand colors are easily accessible to all departments that may need to use them, make sure to list each color’s hex codes, as well as the RGB and/or CMYK details, as well as the Pantone swatch code and name, if applicable.
Don’t underestimate the power of typography as you’re perfecting your branding guide. Just as certain colors evoke certain emotions, different typefaces convey different tones and moods. By keeping all of your verbal communications cohesive across platforms, from the copy on your website to the email blasts you send your most loyal customers, to the lookbooks and line sheets you distribute to buyers at trade shows, you are creating brand consistency that will make your brand stand out in a crowd.
Make sure that you choose fonts that are easy to read and work well together. As you did with your color palette, specify your hierarchy of fonts and include it in your brand book, specifying which fonts to use where and when [for example, one font may be specifically for headlines, while another may for subheadings and another for paragraph copy.]
[For further assistance and inspiration in choosing your typefaces, check out Canva’s Ultimate Guide to Font Pairing.]
LOGOS & ICONOGRAPHY
Your logo should serve as the foundation of your brand’s identity. The ultimate symbol, your logo may be the first impression a consumer gets of your brand, so it should communicate who you are and what you do. The best logos are simple, straightforward, and self-explanatory. If your brand is upscale, your logo can be elegant, but make sure it is still accessible and obvious. Consumers shouldn’t struggle to understand your logo, find it distracting or overpowering, or be confused by what it is or what it means.
Are there specific symbols, doodles, or icons that you use as part of your branding? Make sure to include these in your brand book and lay out when and where to use these icons and how they should be used in relation to the logo in different media. Also in your brand book, make sure to include spacing and alignment requirements for your logos and iconography to ensure that all web and print designs using your logo are created in line with your standards.
Also, if applicable to your specific branding, remember to include the specific color combinations that can and cannot be applied, so all departments know how to properly apply your logo and iconography across the board.
USAGE STANDARDS & TONE
What is your brand’s personality and how do you speak to your consumers? Is your brand friendly? Formal? Motivational? In your brand book, make sure to include your ideal messaging tone and how representatives of your brand should speak on your behalf.
By including examples of communications that you think perfectly match your desired tone, the members of your business using your brand book will better understand your company’s communication style and have an easier time applying it actively while communicating as a representative of your brand.
PUT IT INTO ACTION
Building your brand book is only the first step. To ensure a cohesive, comprehensive look and feel to your brand over time and to build brand trust and consumer loyalty, ensure that all departments of your business are not only familiar with but actively referring to your brand book. From your media buyers and publicist to your design team and wholesale reps, any and every ambassador of your brand needs to familiarize themself with the brand book and apply it to their work. Make sure to review your branding annually or bi-annually to ensure that you are conveying your desired message and still happy with your brand’s standards.