Saturday, December 17, 2011

Brand Manual (or Branding Guidelines) Overview – GEC Business Review

by Kelvin Wong

Brand guidelines reflect a company’s effort to integrate its visual, verbal and written communication across different mediums. It’s in fact crucial, therefore, the importance of creating standards for each brand in the portfolio are highlighted here.

Let’s take a closer look in the brand manual.

The very first section provides an overview of the manual, it explains the purpose of writing it and identifies its target audience. It’s normally written by the CEO or General Manager, the introductory message usually includes the story behind the brand and the benefits it brings to the customer.

Brand Hierarchy
This is a must chapter for companies that market their products under multiple brands. It provides an overview of how the brand portfolio is structured into master brands, brand extensions, co-brands and endorsed brands. Some brand manuals include a visual map that shows the different brands and how they relate to each other. If your company owns only one brand, it can be skipped then.

Brand Vision, Mission, Objectives and Values
Every company should have its clearly defined  vision, mission, and objectives and values. These elements help creating  a more profound connection with its customers, and provide inspiration and focus to the employees. The brand manual is the great place to have the vision, mission, objectives and values clearly stated. One of the most important sections of the brand manual as this section summarizes the company’s uniqueness as well as its competitive edge.

Brand Slogan
This is an integral part of the branding strategy, the brand slogan summarizes the brand positioning in a just a few words, and should be included in all the communication materials. The brand guidelines should address the do’s and don’ts of using the slogan, critical elements such as typography, colour, spelling, punctuation marks, and location on the page and vis-à-vis the logo are equally important.

Brand Personality, Tone and Manner
People often describe brands in terms of human characteristics: Apple is “cool”, FedEx is “reliable”, etc. Each brand has a unique personality that has to be nurtured and consistently reflected in the marketing collateral. The designer has to fully understand the linkage between human characteristics the brand before directing and creating the materials that facilitate an emotional connection between the brand and its audience. 

Brand Name
The brand name is the most powerful assets of a company, the brand name should be correctly communicated and used. The brand manual should describe what the name symbolizes, the correct spelling, the fonts associated with the symbol, and the inclusion of the registration mark.

A brand’s logo is the most distinctive element of its identity. It is also the symbol that’s most frequently used by the employees and external service providers. As a result it is important for brand managers to implement strict guidelines regarding its usage, such as the Pantone® colour(s), background colours, alternative colour variations, minimum size requirements, and placement. The list of elements that is not acceptable, such drop shadows, boxes, fonts and sizes etc. should be clearly written.

Brand Colours
Colours become very often associated with brands. For instance, consider the AIRASIA’s red or SAMSUNG’s blue. A typical brand colour way consists of primary colours (most frequently used) as well as secondary, and even tertiary ones (used for backgrounds, headings, subheadings, paragraph, bullet points etc). The guidelines should include a visual listing of the colours in each category (including the Pantone code) and details on the proper use of each color in the communication process.

This section includes the listing of all the fonts that are used to communicate the brand message. Effective guidelines Include many examples of how different fonts are used in headings, sub headings, main body, footer, etc, slogan and logo.

Brand Imagery
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In terms of Marketing, photography is used to convey the brand personality in a simple and direct manner. Brand imagery also help position the brand in the mind of the consumer: APPLE, for instance, uses product key shots to highlight the elegant design and leading edge technology.  LG® decided to focus on people rather than objects, as described in their brand guidelines: “People photography focuses on smiling people- a connection to the LG® logo- in real environments from around the globe. AIRSIA decided to pursue on no-frills flying service by describing the brand as “Now Everyone Can Fly” (as slogan).

In order for your marketing collateral to reflect a consistent theme, you are encouraged to take time and write the specific attributes that photography should convey. This will make your collaboration with photographers, graphic designers and advertising agencies much easier

Real Examples
It is particularly useful to show examples of how the brand elements are being used in communication materials (print, webpage, advertising) and public relation campaigns. The last pages of the document usually include screen shots of the website, catalogue covers, newspaper ads, PR announcements, signage, merchandising, and branded clothing. These real life example really help with maintaining the brand consistency.

The contents of brand guideline documents vary greatly from one brand to another. Nonetheless, no matter how simple or complex the brand manual is, a brand manual is guaranteed to save time for marketing professionals and related parties, helping them to be more precise and productive.

Brand Manual Samples
LG Brand Manual 
Apple Brand Manual  
Nike Golf Brand Manual 


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