As explained in the first post in this series, we will be covering each of your Go-Tos in more detail. We will be discussing what they are, how to use them, what they should include, and more. If you missed the first post in this series, you can read it here.
The first of your Go-Tos is a brand book and I know this is something that most small business owners have heard of before. A brand book can be defined as "a document that sets specific guidelines for perpetuating brand identity in all external and internal communications." Basically, your brand book contains the rules you must follow when doing anything as your brand. It is easy to understand why a brand book is important for bigger businesses. After all, they have multiple employees managing one brand, so having a rule book makes sense. But, why should small businesses set up a brand book? If you are the only person managing your brand, why is it important to have a set of rules?
Want to know why and how to set one up? Let's begin!
Let's Create Some Context.
Before we look at the why's, how's, and what's of a brand book, I feel it is important to create some context for the discussion first. As you know, a brand book is part of the backbone of a business' presence (whether online or offline) and as a result, needs to be quite extensive and thorough. However, in this context, we are considering a brand book from a small business' point of view. You will often find that bigger businesses include things such as brand archetypes, vision and mission statements, brand wheels, signage specifications, etc. and rightly so. Bigger businesses need more intricate brand books in order to cover all the necessary marketing and communication bases. But, smaller businesses are more than capable of managing their presence with only the basics. What's more, in this context, we are setting up a brand book with the aim of making the management of your digital presence easier; and for that, you only need to include five elements, at most.
What to Include in Your Brand Book.
Your logo is an essential part of your digital presence and is a concept that really deserves a post of its own. In this context, I'm talking about including a section in your brand book that is dedicated to your logo, it's variations, and how to use it. Whether you have a professionally designed logo, or simply use the name of your business written out in Comic Sans, how you use your logo is very important. Consistency in this regard helps to not only make your business look more professional but also makes creating your content much easier because you already know which version of your logo to use in which instances, where to place it on your content, and which colours you can choose from.
This section of your brand book should ideally include:
the different versions of your logo
the minimum and maximum size that your logo can be
the different colour variations of your logo
clear space rules
which version of your logo to use in which instance
Have a look at an example of Amazon's logo usage guidelines here to give you a better idea of what the above would look like in your brand book.
Your colour palette consists of the colours that make up your brand. Even though you may not have been aware of this when selecting your brand colours, your colour choices are actually rooted in a concept called colour psychology which aims to explain how colour affects our decisions. Basically, the colours you use affect the way people feel about your brand and how they connect with it.
Colour selection aside, in this context, the purpose of including a colour palette in your brand book is to firstly ensure uniformity and consistency when creating your content, and secondly to make finding your colours easier. With roughly 295 different shades of green, you can't simply say that your brand colour is green and try to use the same shade every time you create content or branded material. That is where your colour palette comes in. Your colour palette should display the different codes (HEX, RGB, CMYK, etc) for the different colours that you use. You can then simply enter the codes in the space provided when creating your content and other material. What's more, when you decide to start printing promotional items such as pens, t-shirts, bags, etc. you will need to supply these codes to the printing company.
Luckily, you don't need to have special design software to set up your colour palette. There are many free websites (such as https://coolors.co/) available that allow you to easily select your colours and save your palette to your computer.
Your fonts form part of a bigger element called typography. Here is a great example of what to expect from a typography section of a brand book, but in this context, you don't need to go into so much detail. As with colour, font psychology plays an important role in how people respond to and connect with your brand. However, nothing is more important when it comes to your font than legibility. A handwritten font with lots of curls might look pretty and match your brand, but if your audience cannot read it, you should reconsider. You also have the option of using a fancier font as your headline, and a more plain font in the body of your text.
This section of your brand book should ideally include:
your font for headings
your font for the body of your text
the variations of your chosen fonts and which instances to use them
Fonts generally come in variations such as bold, italic, regular, medium, thin, etc. and deciding which variation to use in which instance helps to maintain consistency and uniformity, and takes the guesswork out of what to use when you create your content.
When building your brand, the way in which you relay your message is just as important as the colours you choose, the logo you design, and the images you post. Consider the different messages you receive on a daily basis. Whether it be a text from your partner, an email from a client, or a message on a WhatsApp group; each message is as unique as its sender. How you say what you want to say depends on the kind of brand that you want to build and the kind of audience you wish to attract. Your brand voice should ideally be relatable to your target market and should use expressions and colloquialisms that resonate with your audience.
Determining your brand voice is a process that deserves its own discussion but for the purposes of this post, you can start by:
Choosing three words that describe your brand. For example, if you offer a professional service (accounting, consulting, coaching, etc.) you might want to go for words such as knowledgable, authentic, and passionate.
Once you have selected your words, write a sentence explaining what each word means to you in the context of your brand. For example, knowledgable could mean that you are able to share information about your industry with certainty and authority because of the years of experience that you have.
Once you understand your brand at this level, it is easier for you to step into that space when you create your content and help your audience to better connect with your brand.
As the saying goes: "a picture speaks a thousand words" and as with everything you do when it comes to marketing your business, what you share is a depiction of your brand. That is why determining what kind of images you use, and how you use them is so incredibly important. Images evoke emotions and often mean the difference between your audience actually internalising your message or simply scrolling past. In this section of your brand book, you ideally want to include:
examples of images that match your brand. Are you using images with bright colours? Muted tones? Do you want to include people or only products?
examples of images that you should not use.
a list of rules that you need to remember when selecting images and using images. For example, what is your policy on changing the colour of the image to black and white?
There are numerous free stock image website available online that you can use when creating your content. Websites such as Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay offer thousands upon thousands of beautiful free stock images that you can use without restriction.
Another useful free website is https://www.remove.bg/ that allows you to quickly and easily remove the background of your images and save the image as a PNG. This is especially useful when you are in the business of selling products. You can simply take a photo of your product with your phone, remove the background, and use your background-free image when creating your content.
Why is a Brand Book Necessary?
It is worth mentioning that the five elements or sections of your brand book discussed above do each deserve their own in-depth discussion (watch this space!), however, the idea behind this post is to explain the first of the five Go-Tos that make managing your digital marketing and general marketing a lot easier. As you will have noticed in our discussion above, your brand book basically encapsulates who and what your brand is. By taking the time to think about these five sections, and writing them down, you are effectively creating a rule book for yourself and for anyone who might be tasked with building your brand in the future. You don't need to reinvent the wheel each time you create a piece of content, because you have your rule book to consult. Your brand book tells you which logo to use, where to place it, which fonts, colours, and images to opt for, and even the kind of words to incorporate in your content.
Your brand book can be seen as a set of rules that should be followed when interacting or communicating as your brand. In the context of managing your digital presence, your brand book should include a section dedicated to your:
Generally, the bigger the business and the more employees tasked with managing the brand, the more in-depth your brand book needs to be. Over and above helping small business owners better understand their brand, a brand book further helps by taking the guesswork out of creating content and other marketing material. By having a set of rules and guidelines within which to create your content, you can save your much-needed energy for other areas of your business.