How to evolve your brand guidelines

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Most brands have brand guidelines. But, not all brands have good brand guidelines.

What do we mean by this? Well, too many guidelines just give you the top level; logo, mission, vision and a handful of example statements or social posts. But we need to equip our communications teams with more than this. We need to begin creating more situational examples which will help enrich the overarching brand experience.

Why do we have brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are created to ensure consistency across all of your messaging. Whether this is internal company comms or your Twitter support feed, there must be unity across your brand voice.

Your brand guidelines will determine the tone of voice that your brand uses across advertising and marketing materials but often won’t break this out into key emotional states or situations.

This means that the majority of the time, your brand representative teams are actually not referring to your guidelines. This needs to change.

Making brand guidelines fit for purpose

In order to ensure your guidelines are actually useful and useable, you need to invest more time and effort into their creation. It’s all well and good to have top-level messaging and key phrases, but you also need to consider emotional states.

Without brand guidelines that more closely dissect how your brand voice should adapt to different situations, you could end up with a variety of responses to the same situation, instead of consistency.

Do your employees actually use them?

One key issue you may face, in the absence of more complex brand guidelines, is a lack of adoption on the part of your internal teams. If you suspect this may be the case, a great way to rectify this issue to gather your team and obtain feedback.

Your team spend much more time deeply ingrained in your brand and will often be able to dictate the most suitable and on brand responses to certain requests. Gathering these and distilling them into key messaging, which is included in your official brand guidelines, will then support the learning of future employees entering your workforce. 

Brand guidelines may need to be regularly updated based on different and new customer interactions. This doesn’t mean you’re brand guidelines are failing, it just means you’re building more complex and tangible reference documents.

Customer states

When we talk about customer states, this is a consideration that customers don’t always feel ‘happy’. Your brand guidelines need to consider how to manage a customer who is disgruntled, angry, upset, disengaged as well as creating service messaging.

You can break this out into the content type, such as; a notification, article or blog post. The emotional state of the user; stressed, confused, interested, annoyed, etc. and finally, determining an appropriate tone of which to apply to the creation of the content.

This will ensure that none of your personality is lost in translation whilst ensuring that you, first and foremost, meet the needs of your customer’s enquiry.

Achieving balance

Even if your brand has a tendency to behave a little bit, ‘extra’, that doesn’t mean that every single message needs to be OTT. That means dialling back the exclamation marks (they lose all meaning after a while), ensuring your tone is still approachable whilst upholding the brand values. 

Sprinkle your copy with your buzzwords, instead of overloading. Otherwise, it has a tendency to look amateur and often appear unclear as to what the end goal is. 

A great example of a highly established and consistent brand tone of voice is Missguided. Aimed at young women and men who want fast and affordable fashion, with minimum time spent browsing. 

They have slogans and phrases which appear across their branding – both in store and online, they address their community with pet-names and their customer services team provides helpful advice whilst remaining conversational and youthful, on suitable platforms such as chat. The brand personality is well established, consistent and instantly recognisable and therefore; memorable.

For more information on developing your brand, why not download our free ebook? It’s packed with tonnes of advice and how-tos for amplifying your brand efforts.

Also published on Medium.


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