If you are a small business owner and spend any time on social media then you will know that having a consistent brand image is one of the things that successful and recognisable brands excel at.
You might be one of those lucky people who is naturally creative. Having created a consistent brand image almost by accident. You might have it all saved in your head. (Spoiler: these people are one in a million!)
Even if you are, there will still come a time when you need to get help with some aspect of your business. If you want a brief a designer, social manager or VA then you will need a way of communicating your brand image to other people. Brand guidelines can ensure you are creating consistency across your own work within your business.
I am going to walk you through the key elements you can use to build your own Brand Guidelines…
your logo is only the start
You might have designed or had your logo designed and thought “Voila!” here is my brand. But this really is only the start to building a consistent brand image.
There are so many opportunities to create brand recognition where the use of your logo just might not be applicable. ESPECIALLY on social media. In fact, you can still create a consistent brand image even WITHOUT a logo.
(Yep! here I am a Graphic Designer, telling you… you don’t necessarily need a logo! 🤯 )
Your logo is the starting point for choosing what follows, but you CAN use it to reverse engineer your logo design. And this will then help you when you come to briefing any designer…chicken/egg.
(You can read my blog about logo design HERE)
your colour palette
If you already have a logo then select colours the either feature in your logo or vibe with it.
As a rule, you will need:
- One or Two brand colours: Strong colour/s you can use consistently so they become integrally associated with your brand.
- A ‘POP’ colour: A bright or engaging colour used to draw the eye to important elements or call to actions. (Especially important for buttons on Websites!) In the right context a pastel can work here too.
- A dark colour for text (Black/grey/navy/brown): Sounds obvious, but if an alternative to black would appeal to your ideal customer then you need to make sure it’s selected and used consistently.
- A pale neutral or pastel colour to highlight headers/backgrounds/box outs. This is often the colour that people overlook and then start using something random when they find they suddenly need it. This leads to muddied waters!
Do some research on what colours appeal to your niche, then do more research on the powerful meaning around colours and what message they convey. You need to “like” your palette colours but it’s unwise to just go with your preference. There is a ton of marketing research around colour theory that it’s a good idea to at least touch on this when choosing a palette.
A good designer will have already done this for you but if you only have a logo to work from (or don’t have one yet) then you might need to do a bit of the leg work yourself.
A great resource for exploring colours that work well together is coolors.co Be careful. If you are remotely creative then you can lose many happy hours to this website!
TOP TIP: once you’ve selected your colours, use an online conversion app to find out what the CMYK, RGB and Hex colours are for each of them… Make a note or add them to your brand guidelines document. You can refer to them when creating content for your social media, website or print.
your font (or fonts!)
Again your logo likely already includes a font (unless you have a purely image based logo). You might already know what it is, in which case you are in luck!
The issue here might well be licensing depending on whether it’s a readily available google or free font. You may have to pay a small fee for the usage of certain fonts. This is likey to be worth the investment and it also helps support the deisign community! Yay!
If you don’t know what it is then you have 3 options:
- Try and find out. Contact the designer you used if you aren’t still in touch with them. Otherwise there are various web based resources for matching fonts (with varied levels of success!)
- Choose a similar font… the above mentioned font matching services will likely throw up various similar fonts which may work for you even if they aren’t an exact match.
- Choose a contrasting font. I can not stress this enough. Your brand font does NOT have to match your logo font. As long as they are linked by consistent use of all the other elements in this blog then it is totally fine to use a different font. My own logo and this font being a case in point!
If budget is an issue then try and stick to Google Fonts which are free to use across a lot of platforms. Or one of my favourite places to browse fonts is Dafont (again hours lost!) You can search by font name or browse by type and there is a tool to filter for 100% free fonts.
TOP TIP: You won’t be able to upload fonts to Canva unless you have a Pro account to keep that in mind when starting out.
The next thing you need to consider is how you are going to contrast your bold headers/titles etc. with copy on your marketing and website.
For example, for this site I used exactly same font throughout but by using colour, font weight and caps I have made them look completely different.
If your logo or “main” font is script, hand drawn or caps only then you will need to choose a complementary copy font that is legible, readable and ideally readily available (see above Google fonts link) for bigger blocks of copy and documents.
The next factor to consider is your imagery. If you are a product based business then this can feel like a no brainer! But there are still some things to consider to create consistency:
- Choose several shot “types”, create a layout/vibe and try to stick to them. So these might consist of a flat product only shot, an in use shot or a hand held shot.
- Consider your backgrounds. Try and incorporate one of your main brand colours. If this is not possible try and use the same background/s for all your shots. That could be your kitchen table, a wooden floor, coloured wall or just a plain piece of cardboard. You can invest in textured layout boards that are popular on Instagram right now.
- If you are already posting on social media, then your own insights can be a great way of finding out what images have worked the best. If not, go and stalk other people whose imagery fits with your brand.
- Ask an expert. If you are really struggling then get help from a photographer. There is lots of free advice out there in blogs and social media or you could consider doing a short training course on how to get the best out of your phone camera.
If you aren’t a product based business then things can get a little trickier. Depending on your niche, you might be able to find good imagery using usage free image databases such as Unsplash, Pexels or Pixabay. But overuse of stock imagery can damage your brand if they are homogenous or irrelevant.
If you are a coach or consultant then really YOU are your product so investing in a photoshoot is worth considering. It will give you a bank of images that will become invaluable in future.
Photographer Gerri Campbell has written a perfect blog on the top 5 images you need for your Personal Brand.
However you collect them, it’s a good idea to have a handful of “best practice” images to remind you.. Stick them on a pin board, a printout, a Pinterest board or wherever it’s going to be easiest to refer to. Or in your freshly minted brand guidelines document!
I don’t mean your actual voice on video (although… Reels anyone?) 🙂 This refers the tone of your copy and how you come across in your writing. Again this is something that may come naturally but it’s worth thinking about some key aspects of what makes YOU sounds like YOU. It’s something that comes with practice and, I must admit, it’s the part I find the hardest as a visual creative!
Just like photography, there are better qualified people out there than me! But here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
- Match your voice to your niche or sector. Depending on who you want to attract, do you need to be professional? Creative? Fun/jokey? Nurturing? Decide how you want to pitch it and try it out.
- Research writing that is relevant to your niche… does it sound like you? Save some pieces of writing that inspire you or follow people in your industry that inspire you. Chances are they “speak” to you for a reason.
- Decide whether you are going to talk AS yourself (first person) or ABOUT yourself (third person). This might be different for a website than it is for social media.
- Are you an individual (I) or a company/group (we)? If you have other people working in your company then you can decide to include them in your writing or not.
- Be authentic! If you try and be something you’re not… it’s bound to come across and you wont be able to maintain it.
If you are struggling then find one of those experts to help you decide what the right direction is. The blogosphere is FULL of advice on copy writing… as is social media. But I think this is the one area you don’t have to over think. Just be yourself!
now you are ready to go forth and be consistent!!
I hope this has given you have some of the tools to ensure your branding is consistent. But don’t forget these can evolve over time as long… as it’s intentional.
If you would like help with the first few steps of this process or putting together a Brand Guidlines document then drop me a message or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org