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Today's customers expect more from the businesses they choose. A strong product or streamlined service is essential, but today's customers also need to understand the broader purpose of a brand to make a lasting connection.

So how do you get the message across? With branding.

And how do you get that message across coherently? With a brand style guide.

Maybe you think you can coast without a brand style guide because your employees implicitly understand your brand tone. Or maybe you think it's too expensive to build a set of brand guidelines.

The reality? You can't afford not to.

A recent report found that brand consistency can increase revenue 20%, thanks to a greater perceived value and customer loyalty. A brand style guide is essential in enforcing consistency in branding, across the board.

Even strong brands can go wrong without a constant appraisal of consistency. Duolingo's crass TikTok account—where engagement was created through crude jokes and insensitive references—is a clear misstep for a brand built around a friendly, cartoon owl.

The result? Duolingo's iconic owl has turned into a meme, threatening users to keep up their daily lessons.

Sure, customer retention is important, but maybe try using a brand style guide to build loyalty through consistency, rather than through intimidation.

What Is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide is a set of guidelines that specify how to use everything that makes up your brand. It should identify visual brand assets, including your logo, color palettes, imagery style, and favored typography—as well as brand identity, setting out your values, your mission, and your brand tone.

Your style guide is an essential tool for designers and marketers who work with your brand, but it's equally important as an internal document for your business.

Your customer service representatives and social media managers should understand your brand tone so that every customer interaction remains consistent and paints a coherent picture of your brand.

Four Reasons You Need a Brand Style Guide

All organizations, no matter how big or small, require branding to connect with their customers. If you have a name, a logo, and a social media account, you can benefit from a brand style guide.

1. Establishing a Unique Brand Identity

Honing your unique brand identity lets you stand out against your competitors.

Recognized and recognizable brands are perceived by consumers to deliver more value, which can be reflected in the price of your products and services.

A clear outline of the elements of your brand—from your logo and color schemes to your tone of voice—enables you to build a brand identity that's uniquely your own.

2. Building Trust Through Consistency

Consistency, both in the quality you deliver and the customer service you provide, is essential to building a winning business.

But no matter how you strive for the highest standards of quality, inconsistency in your branding will undermine customer trust in your ability to meet those standards.

Brand guidelines create consistency across your brand and reinforce a perception of reliability and quality. And when used internally, they create an experience of customer service that gives customers faith in your brand.

3. Clarity Across Communications

A brand style guide can outline your core values and help ensure they're reinforced across every channel.

Strong brand guidelines ensure there's never any doubt about what you stand for, whether in a radio ad, social media post or marketing email. That helps customers build an emotional connection to your brand, reinforcing loyalty and converting one-time purchasers into lifetime customers.

Moreover, if you intend to grow as a business (and who doesn't!), you need every new hire to be on the same page as quickly as possible. A brand style guide is by far the easiest way to get new employees' communication style—in person, online, and on the phone—in line with everyone else's, ASAP.

4. Winning on Social Media

When people scroll through their social media feeds, your organic post or paid ad might be on screen for only a second or two. Instantly recognizable branding ensures that you leave an impression on viewers, even as they scroll to the next post.

And a consistent brand tone will better engage your audience, building a community around your brand, resulting in your customers' having a deeper connection to your products and services, in turn aiding in retention.

Mailchimp: A Case Study in Consistent Branding

Mailchimp, which started out as an email marketing tool, has grown into a leading marketing platform for small businesses. Despite such growth, it has managed to maintain consistent branding, providing proof of its stated mission to "show our customers that building a successful business means staying true to yourself."

Mailchimp works hard to balance consistency and structure with playfulness and expression. It's a tightrope walk, but those competing values inspire business owners to follow their passion and not lose their creative side, even while keeping up with the day-to-day of running a business.

A style guide has been integral to that success (as you can see for yourself). For a business founded on email communications, it's no surprise that the company takes its own communications seriously. The Mailchimp guide contains detailed guidelines on how to compose everything from social media posts to legal content.

The consistency that Mailchimp models, combined with a strong dose of personality, couldn't have been balanced without a well-defined brand style guide keeping every caption, comment, and customer service interaction on track.

Final Thoughts

Whether you think your business can freestyle its branding decisions without a style guide, or you're just concerned about the costs involved, it's time to think again.

Customers hate confusion, so if your values aren't being effectively communicated (without muddying the waters regarding what you offer and how to get it), customers will be driven to your competitors who are sending a more coherent message.

Many brands, from Slack to Skype, have shared their style guides. By making use of those resources, in-house skills, and online tools like Squadhelp's AI-powered brand builder, you can affordably build a style guide for your brand.

But it doesn't stop there: Although five out of six organizations have produced a brand style guide, just one-third are actively enforcing these guidelines. Branding is an ongoing process, a collaborative and creative endeavor, so ensure all your stakeholders are on the same page.

More Resources on Brand Guidelines and Style Guides

Brand Guidelines: It's High Time to Revamp How We Create and Use Them

Four Steps to Get Your Team Writing in Your Brand's Voice

How to Create an Awesome Brand Persona: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Why You Need a Brand Style Guide (Even If you Think You Don't)

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image of Grant Polachek

Grant Polachek is head of branding at Inc 500 company Squadhelp, a top naming platform with 30,000+ customers, from early-stage startups across the globe to large corporations, including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.

LinkedIn: Grant Polacheck

Twitter: @grantpolachek