July 26, 2018

Why your small business needs brand guidelines—and how to create them

Filed under: Branding,Small Business — lidia @ 5:38 pm

Why your small business needs brand guidelines

I was recently designing packaging for a small business and when I requested their brand guidelines, she had never heard of the term. I’m guessing this is common for many small business owners. Or else, you have heard of brand guidelines, but don’t know where to start when it comes to creating them for your business.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines (also sometimes called brand standards, style or identity guidelines or graphic standards) provide a detailed overview of your business’ (or product’s) branding—from the graphic look and feel to the overall voice and tone. It assures that everyone in your organization—as well as outside partners and vendors—are expressing your brand consistently and accurately.

Since many small business owners are managing many (if not all) marketing tasks internally, having strong brand guidelines can make marketing and promotion of your business (or product) much easier as there is always a reference point. Plus, it keeps everyone inside and outside the organization on the same page (literally!)

Why your small business needs brand guidelines

  1. Consistency: It keeps your branding and marketing consistent across all print and online media.
  2. Efficiency: When you have a reference point for your marketing pieces, you can create them more quickly and efficiently.
  3. Professionalism: When all of your marketing materials are consistent and on-brand, it shows people you know what you’re doing.
  4. Convenience: When everything is in one place, it helps your partners and vendors (such as graphic designers, photographers, writers and print vendors) do their job faster and easier—which also saves you money.
  5. Accuracy: When brand details are easily accessible, it helps to avoid costly mistakes such as using the wrong color or font on a printed piece.
  6. Continuity: When everything is in one place, necessary brand assets such as logos or brand colors, can be easily accessed when needed and project delays can be avoided.
  7. Onboarding: New employees can get to know your brand quickly and easily, so they can get to work faster. It also provides them a constant reference as they get acquainted with their new job.

What should be included in brand guidelines

A good set of brand guidelines will assure everything people see and experience related to your small business is an accurate expression of your brand. So, what should be included?

Before getting started, think about how your organization will use the guidelines:

  • What types (and channels) of marketing do you use? (i.e. print, digital, social media)
  • Will your in-house team mainly use them or will you share with outside vendors?
  • If you work with outside vendors, what types of work do they produce? (i.e. brochures, flyers, advertising, email marketing)

At the very least, the following should be included in brand guidelines:

  • Mission and vision statements: including verbiage about how they relate to your overall brand.
  • Logo usage: including sizing requirements, clear space (the space around the logo that separates it from other design elements), logotypes and icons, logo lockups (i.e. if the logo should always appear with another element such as a tagline, date or URL). It’s also a good to include misuse examples, for example: the logo should not be stretched disproportionately or used smaller than ¼”.
  • Taglines: including when and how to use the tagline, and where it should be placed in relation to the logo.
  • Fonts and typography: including allowable primary and secondary fonts for both print and online usage. Optionally, include examples and/or suggested usage for headlines and body copy.
  • Color palette: including primary and secondary color palettes for print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital (RGB, HEX) usage.
  • Imagery: including suggested types of photography and illustration that should be used, as well as when images should be used. May also include recommended website for purchasing stock photography or illustration and/or image guidelines for in-house or contracted photographers.

Depending on your small businesses’ needs, you may also want to include:

  • Voice and tone: including writing guidelines for print marketing, as well as digital marketing such as blogs and social media outlets.
  • Sample layouts: including commonly-used marketing templates such as business cards, stationery, flyers, brochures or print ads
  • Social media guidelines: including an overview of how your brand will be expressed on social media (if available, include an overview of the business’ social media strategy and editorial calendar)
  • Guest author guidelines: including guidelines for writers who will contribute articles to the organization’s website, blog or social media.
  • PR reference: including organization blurbs (ranging from a 5-word blurb to several paragraphs), staff bios, headshots, and other materials that may be needed for PR opportunities. Include filenames and shared drive locations for easy access by all staff members and contractors.
  • Email signature: what should be included (logo, name, title, email, phone number, legal verbiage, other relevant links) as well as the specified format (text, HTML). Have a template handy on a shared drive to supply to new employees or contractors.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple or complex as your small business needs. And enlisting the help of a branding designer can make it much easier. Believe me, it will all pay off in the end. As a designer, I know how frustrating it can be to search for logos, color specs and other necessary design elements when working on a project.

Need inspiration or examples?

Sometimes the best way to get started developing brand guidelines is to see what others are doing. A good place to start is by Googling “brand guidelines and [your industry or business]” to see examples.

Or check out this roundup of 80+ brand and identity guidelines from various organizations and brands around the world.

Need help creating your brand guidelines? If you can’t tell, I love creating them. Let’s chat!

May 15, 2018

How smart is your social media branding?

Filed under: Branding,Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 1:15 pm

How smart is your social medai branding

Social media is a smart way to promote and increase awareness for your organization or nonprofit. In fact, social media may be the first point of entry for a prospect or supporter, so you want to make sure your branding accurately tells your story.

What is social media branding?

Social media branding is how your organization is perceived on social media. This encompasses both visual (logo, imagery) and verbal (writing, voice) but for now, we will be focusing on the visual aspect.

Keep it consistent

One of the first steps to social media success is having well-designed and consistent branding throughout. You want people to easily recognize your organization or nonprofit wherever they may find you on social media.

Design a smart social media brand

The first step is to claim your page on all the major social media channels (even if you’re not using it yet): LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest (just to make a few). Ideally, you should choose the same username for all social media channels.

Then, you need to upload the required images, which usually includes:

  • Profile
  • Header
  • Cover
  • Background

You can use the same or similar images for each social media channel, but be aware of the different sizes and specifications required by each. Whatever you do: DON’T just drop in your logo or stretch it to fit!

TIP: Sprout Social has a great “always-up-to-date” social media image size reference here.

Have some fun with it…

With many of my logo design clients, I will create a custom version of their logo specifically for social media purposes. And since you are not limited by paper size or ink colors, you can get creative with it. For example, Facebook now offers business pages the ability to upload a video profile image.

Bring more awareness to your events or programs

You can also create custom social media graphics, headers or profile images to promote special events or programs within your organization. And don’t forget to create a custom hashtag for the event too.

Your social media branding can—and should be—constantly evolving. How well are your telling your brand story?

I know it can be overwhelming keeping up with ever-changing social media specifications and the myriad required images for each channel. Let me help! Check out the social media branding we’ve designed and then give us a call.

 

 

April 25, 2018

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines—and how to create them

Filed under: Branding — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 5:13 pm
Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

I work with many nonprofits in Chicago, and one of the reasons they choose to work with me is because they need help bringing consistency to their branding and marketing materials.

For an established organization (or even a new one), branding can start to become diluted over time, with marketing materials using multiple versions of logos, colors and images that are not on-brand, and messaging that is not targeted or audience-focused. This is where brand guidelines can make a big impact.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines (also sometimes called brand standards, style guides, identity guides or graphic standards) provide a detailed overview of your organization’s branding—from the graphic look and feel to the overall voice and tone. It assures that everyone in your organization—as well as outside partners and vendors—are expressing your brand consistently and accurately.

Since many nonprofit leaders or managers handle most (if not all) marketing tasks internally, having strong brand guidelines can make marketing and promotion of your organization much easier as there is always a reference point. Plus, it keeps everyone inside and outside the organization on the same page (literally!) And most importantly, it allows you to focus on what you do best—sharing your mission and serving others.

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines

  1. Consistency: It keeps your branding and marketing consistent across all print and online media.
  2. Efficiency: When you have a reference point for your marketing pieces, you can create them more quickly and efficiently.
  3. Professionalism: When all of your marketing materials are consistent and on-brand, it helps to emphasize your experience and competency
  4. Convenience: When everything is in one place, it helps your partners and vendors (such as graphic designers, photographers, writers and print vendors) do their job faster and easier
  5. Budget: When design elements and other brand-related files are easily accessible, projects can be completed faster and more economically.
  6. Accuracy: When brand details are easily accessible, it helps to avoid costly mistakes such as using the wrong color or font on a printed piece.
  7. Timing: When everything is in one place, necessary brand assets (i.e. logos or brand colors) can be easily accessed when needed and project delays can be avoided.
  8. Onboarding: New employees (and vendors) can get to know your organization quickly and easily, so they can get to work faster. It also provides them a constant reference as they get acquainted with their new job and assures that they are sharing your message accurately.

What should be included in brand guidelines

A good set of brand guidelines will assure everything people see and experience related to your organization is an accurate expression of your brand. So, what should be included?

Before getting started, think about how your organization will use the guidelines:

  • What types (and channels) of marketing do you use? (i.e. print, digital, social media, in-person events)
  • Will your in-house team mainly use them or will you share them with outside vendors?
  • If you work with outside vendors, what types of work do they produce? (i.e. brochures, flyers, advertising, email marketing, social media, video)

At the very least, the following should be included in brand guidelines:

  • Mission statement and vision statement: including verbiage about how they relate to your overall brand.
  • Logo usage: including sizing requirements, clear space (the space around the logo that separates it from other design elements), logotypes and icons, logo lockups (i.e. if the logo should always appear with another element such as a tagline, date or URL). It’s also a good to include misuse examples, for example: the logo should not be stretched disproportionately or used smaller than ¼”.
  • Taglines: including when and how to use the tagline, and where it should be placed in relation to the logo.
  • Fonts and typography: including allowable primary and secondary fonts for both print and online usage. Optionally, include examples and/or suggested usage for headlines and body copy.
  • Color palette: including primary and secondary color palettes for print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital or presentation (RGB, HEX) usage.
  • Imagery: including suggested types of photography and illustration that should be used, as well as when images should be used. May also include recommended website for purchasing stock photography or illustration and/or image guidelines for in-house or contracted photographers.

Depending on your organization’s needs, you may also want to include:

  • Voice and tone: including writing guidelines for print marketing, as well as digital marketing such as blogs and social media outlets.
  • Sample layouts: including commonly-used marketing templates such as business cards, stationery, flyers, print ads and social media posts.
  • Social media/content marketing guidelines: including an overview of how your brand will be expressed on social media or content marketing (if available, include an overview or links to the organization’s social media/content marketing strategy and editorial calendar)
  • Guest author guidelines: including guidelines for writers who will contribute articles to the organization’s website, blog or social media.
  • PR reference: including organization blurbs (several versions ranging from a 5-word blurb to several paragraphs), staff bios, headshots, and other materials that may be needed for PR opportunities. Include filenames and shared drive locations for easy access by all staff members and contractors.
  • Email signature: what should be included (logo, name, title, email, phone number, legal verbiage, other relevant links) as well as the specified format (text, HTML). Have a template handy on a shared drive to supply to new employees or contractors.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple or complex as your organization needs.

And enlisting the help of a branding designer can make it much easier. Believe me, it will all pay off in the end. As a designer, I know how frustrating it can be to search for logos, color specs and other necessary design elements when working on a project.

Want to see examples?

Sometimes the best way to get started developing brand guidelines is to see what others are doing. A good place to start is by Googling “nonprofit brand guidelines”.

Or check out this roundup of 80+ brand and identity guidelines from various organizations and brands around the world.

If you need help developing your org’s brand guidelines, reach out to me—I would love to help!

April 11, 2018

August 28, 2017

February 25, 2017

A to Z of Branding: a guide for nonprofits and other small organizations

Filed under: Branding — lidia @ 1:42 pm

A to Z of Branding book

UPDATE: Now avaialble in the Amazon Kindle store!

A to Z of Branding is an easy-to-understand guide for nonprofits, associations, entrepreneurs and other small organizations who need to improve their branding. The book features the ABC s of branding, along with easy-but-effective activities and worksheets to make your branding more targeted and effective.

Order your copy of A to Z of Branding for $2.99

July 21, 2016

May 31, 2016

A to Z of Branding: Z is for zag

Filed under: Branding — lidia @ 5:28 pm

A to Z of Branding: Z is for zag

Z is for zag

“When everybody zigs, zag,” says Marty Neumeier in his book Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands. In today’s overly-saturated marketplace, you have to take a completely different path—or “zag”—in order for your brand to stand out.

And he’s right. Just take a peek on social media and you’ll find loads of people doing the same thing. In order to stand out, your branding must “zag” and express what truly makes you different.

I loved finding this quote because it was the perfect end to this blog series—plus I added several of Neumeier’s books to my summer business reading list. Speaking of, I discovered his book The Dictionary of Brand, a nicely-designed book which includes many of the A to Z of Branding topics I discussed plus others.

So, it may have taken me an extra month but I finished strong. Thanks for reading…see you next April for another A to Z Blog Challenge!

Follow along with the A to Z of Branding daily blog series here or on twitter at #AtoZBranding

May 18, 2016

A to Z of Branding: Y is for you

Filed under: Branding — lidia @ 10:00 am

A to Z of Branding: Y is for you

Y is for you 

Branding is not all about you. What you think your brand is saying means nothing if your audience doesn’t have the same perception. As marketing expert and author Al Ries said, “What others say about your brand is so much more powerful than what you can say about it yourself.”

In this age of social media, keeping an eye on how your brand is perceived is much easier. What are people saying about your brand? What kinds of images are they sharing? Does it resonate with your mission and vision?

Follow along with the A to Z of Branding daily blog series here or on twitter at #AtoZBranding

May 12, 2016

A to Z of Branding: X is for x factor

Filed under: Branding — lidia @ 10:00 am

A to Z of Branding: X is for x factor

X is for x factor

The x factor is the “secret sauce” of your organization—it’s the thing that only you can do, it’s what sets you apart from others. And it’s usually the reason why people choose you over another organization.

If you haven’t yet defined your x factor, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are you known for?
  • What one thing makes you different?
  • What is your top strength?
  • Why do people choose you?
  • What do you do exceptionally well?

Follow along with the A to Z of Branding daily blog series here or on twitter at #AtoZBranding

 

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