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Do you underestimate the value of sticking to Brand Guidelines?

Does your brand follow the agreed brand guidelines? Does it even have a set of guidelines?

For many the answer to these questions is No.

What are brand guidelines?

Behind every good brand is a comprehensive set of Brand Guidelines.

Typically the guidelines developed by your designer will provide a set of rules and more general guides for how the brand will play out at each audience touch-point.

“Your identity or brand should express your character and your culture, and in turn play a leading role in establishing your reputation in the minds of our customers. Brand guidelines show you how to use the various brand elements to help achieve consistency in that message.”

Sounds great, but does anyone actually read these guidelines or in fact do the design agencies adhere to them?

Even the big guns don’t do their brand homework sometimes . . . .

I noticed a new TV advertising campaign for NatWest the other day and it looked nothing like NatWest. The design hack in me rushed to my computer and logged onto Natwest’s website expecting to see the new branding language I had just witnessed on my telly. To my amazement the two touchpoints did not add up. Sure they have the same logo, the same tagline but everything else was chalk and cheese. To my knowledge Natwest are not rebranding, which means this TV campaign has it own style which in effect is ‘off brand’ and does not follow the brand guidelines.

I have seen this countless times before. Sometimes it is total ignorance of the brand guidelines while sometimes it’s the case that the hand isn’t talking to the head and the notion of an ‘integrated’ campaign doesn’t feature in the overall marketing strategy.

But why are they so important?

Brand guidelines can be a bit anal but they do protect a brand. There are plenty of prizes for sticking to them:

  • Consistency of image in your audience’s mind
  • Stronger brand equity (value) over time
  • Accurate audience perception of your idenity/associations
  • Improved brand confidence
  • Increased brand profile
  • Improved competitive advantage

We have recently been working on a web presence for a client who wanted us to evolve their branding identity. Great, job done, it looks sweet.

However this brand identity does not marry up with the offline. So we now need to create some brand guidelines that are integral to the overall brand personality so that when a third party needs to create an offline product it integrates with the online presence we have lovingly created.

Careful not to go too far . . . .

Conversely though, there are also internal “brand Hitlers” who do not give the creative agency enough room in their interpretation of the guidelines. At the end of the day brand guidelines need to be specific enough to uphold the brand values, yet flexible enough not to compromise the creative opportunity.

If your brand has guidelines – use them. If not, then get some.

For more ideas on branding take a look at this white paper.

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