As marketers, we're all familiar with brand guidelines. They're usually in a PDF that lives somewhere on the company intranet—though, to be honest, most are probably not quite sure where to find it.
They may even exist in a training manual kept under someone's desk or inside a forgotten email in a full inbox.
Companies put an incredible amount of effort and time into branding, often bringing in outside agencies to develop those foundational branding materials. Though, somehow, employees largely think about brand guidelines only as they relate to what colors or fonts to use or where to place the logo on document.
It's time to re-evaluate how we create and use brand guidelines across our organizations, taking care to support other teams, such as Training, Human Resources, and Product, which rely on guidelines when creating their own content.
Here are three things to consider.
1. Ensure video is part of your brand guidelines
Most brand guidelines are still modeled for static print or digital design. As businesses begin to use more dynamic media, such as video, we need to adjust our guidelines accordingly.
Your brand's video content should be carefully aligned with all other branded materials, as well as consistent from video to video.
Think about how strange it would be if business customers saw a video from a popular vendor that went against the vendor's typical personality. The dissonance could stem from the colors used in the video, the music playing in the background, or the way the company was positioning itself to the market.
Video's high engagement rates can be a blessing to marketers—or a curse. An off-brand video that misses the mark or causes confusion can quickly go viral in a "what were they thinking" moment.
Video content that veers from the unified brand message breaks the relationship between brand and customer and can ultimately be damaging to a B2B company's carefully crafted image.
When you're building brand guidelines for video, the tone of voice in your messaging should be carried through into script writing. Moreover, sets, music, actors, and props should feel true to your brand, and your videos should work seamlessly within your marketing channel and media mix.
2. Brand guidelines have various audiences
Within a company, various departments may be creating content to be shared internally or externally, for various purposes. HR may be creating videos for employee training, Sales may be developing materials to share with prospects, and an executive may be preparing content to present at a conference.
That's why brand guidelines must be easy to understand and accessible for all audiences, especially those outside of the marketing department who may not have had a stake in their creation.
A well-executed set of brand guidelines can help each division ensure that its content speaks the same language.
As B2B marketers, we have a responsibility to our brands to align our internal and external communications, no matter which department is delivering the content. Instead of just pushing a guidelines document out on the corporate intranet and expecting it to be adhered to, marketing teams should be actively collaborating with HR, Training, Sales, Customer Success, and others to help ensure consistent messaging, look, tone, and feel across all communications.
Take such an active role, and the DNA of your brand will show through in everyone's work.
3. Create a living and breathing document
Not all brand guidelines should be set in stone. Though they provide specific guidance on how your brand is represented, all kinds of nuances potentially need to be taken into account.
Brand guidelines provide direction on messaging, look and feel, format, tone, and much more; but, at the same time, they need to leave room for creative freedom and the possibility for teams to adapt based on the channels they are using.
For example, if your social media team is launching an initiative using a new format—let's say LinkedIn Live—the brand guidelines will provide an initial direction for how to portray your brand through that live medium. But the strategy will have to be developed uniquely to fit the platform.
Once that strategy is created, it should be reflected back in the brand guidelines, especially if your use of this new format stretched the previous guidelines.
Think about something as simple as having to put your logo onto a sponsor's website or on a promotional product that only comes in certain colors. Should you bend the guidelines to get the best possible representation of your brand, even if it means making your logo black or white (or purple, for that matter)? It's up to you. Guidelines are just that—if they were rules, they'd be called rules.
* * *
Marketers, take a moment to consider whether your brand guidelines are working for your team and company. Ask yourself: Is the content shared internally and externally consistent and aligned, no matter which team it's coming from and in what format?
And if it's not, it's time to start making some changes.
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