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Brand guidelines are an essential guide to expressing a company’s identity. Their main benefit is the consistency they afford to voice, tone, images, and much more. They also add an air of professionalism to all external and internal communications and become a blueprint for the brand’s distinct look and feel.

This article will discuss practical ways to build a unique voice along with iconography (while using prominent examples).

Creating an Authentic Brand Voice

Building a whole new brand identity and feel for your company requires assembling quite a few elements. Here are a few places to start:

  • Mission Statement

Build off of your core identity and values. From the mission statement, you can also build around your company’s story and associated metaphors. For more information on building a brand story and brand message strategy, check out this article we wrote.

  • Build Audience Knowledge

There are 2 ways to do this: either adjust your brand style around an existing audience or find the largest viable target audience that resonates with your brand voice. Either way, you will need to research your audience and formulate a buyer persona.

  • Audit Existing Content

Whatever style of content gets the most views from your catalogue must be doing something right. Follow the audience statistics.

  • Create Dos & Don’ts

You may have an idea of what your brand is, but you also need to build boundaries around what it isn’t. Create an extensive list of best practices and things to avoid. Here’s an example from Adidas’ brand guidelines for their logo presentation:

Adidas Brand Guidelines logo
  • Write a Communications Document

Now it’s time to put everything together in one document to create a coherent brand voice. You can also work with a brand voice worksheet. Here is a great way to write out your brand voice:

Brand Guidelines Brand Voice Chart

Similarly, you can also use this Venn diagram to decide on the specific elements of the voice:

Brand Voice Elements Venn diagram

Brand Archetypes Wheel

You can use the wheel to determine which archetype best suits your company. While this tool is mostly fun and creative, it can help maintain coherency in your operations as well. Using a unified personality of this sort can help you keep things in order over the course of your operations.

Another way to determine your place on the wheel is through the brand archetypes quiz. It’s a simple way to determine where your company’s image best fits in this pantheon and be useful for both external and internal branding. Aside from that, it’s sort of like a Buzzfeed personality quiz: don’t take it too seriously but do use it to be self-aware of your company characteristics.

Digital Brand Guideline Elements

Brand Photography Guidelines

Having a distinct, recognisable style of photography and cinematography aligns visual content seamlessly. It’s particularly crucial for having a running theme throughout your images and videos. Colours and framing are a language like any other and the use of that language says a lot about your brand and its voice.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on your photography brand voice:

  • Content & Subject Matter

Decide what you will and will not allow in your pictures as shown above or in the previous Adidas example.

Porsche Brand Guidelines Photography
  • Composition

This is how you compose the shot and depict the elements within. You can make things simple and centred or complex and visually noisy depending on what suits your company’s mission or how it handles external materials.

Apple Brand Photography Guidelines
  • Tone & Palette

You can attempt sharp contrasts or earthy colours or simple pallets to create a mood. Apple, as shown in the image above, uses low-colour, high-contrast backgrounds to make its products pop and seem more futuristic.

Nike Photography Guidelines
  • Human Elements

How does your brand depict people? What emotions and feelings are meant to resonate with your audience and how do you use them? Do the people in your photos look strong or vulnerable based on what your products promise them?

Photography guide
  • Values & Story-telling

Photography can also embody the story of your company. It can signify and illustrate values with a story that depicts your values. You can be futuristic or classic or powerful or humble all with the right mix of elements.

Iconography Guidelines

For your brand style guide, icons and logos are very important. These are usually displayed in the same “dos & don’ts” usage guide for clarity of implementation. For an effective example, have a look at Nike’s brand guidelines:

Nike Logo Brand Guidelines

Similarly, variations of the logo can be displayed. This helps utilize it in a variety of contexts since you may have to use it with different backgrounds and colour arrangements. They use both versions depending on what type of background there is or whether there needs to be text.

Nike Logo Variations

Sub-Brand Guidelines

Sub-brands can vary in their voice by a little bit since they have unique motives to the parent company. One way to decide this is by broadening the core values that represent the offshoot in comparison to the main company. Some are very closely linked in styles, such as HBO and HBO Max, while others can deviate a fair bit.

In terms of building guidelines and voices for subsidiaries, you can decide based on a few questions:

  • Does the target group vary?
  • Is the purpose of the product different?
  • How does it deviate from the main product line?

Here’s an example: Compare how NBC’s original logo elements were reduced for its streaming subsidiary “Peacock”.

Peacock NBC Sub-Brand

The typography is simple and similar to that of many new streaming services (simple text in a simple font like the Netflix logo text) along with a symbol that simplifies a variation on the parent company’s iconography. Since the purpose of the subsidiary is aligned but separate, it represents a partial deviation from the original brand book while building its own look.

If you’re looking for brand strategy services or brand-building services, Promoguy can help you out. Check out our services to learn more.