According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” Both you and your customers can easily identify the first two items listed in the definition, but the last three are where the guidance of a brand standards document can help everyone involved in the marketing of a brand.
Throughout my experience in the casino marketing world, I have noticed that many brands, both big and small, continue to operate without the use of a brand standards document, which opens you up to inconsistencies or misrepresentations of your brand. A brand standards document, if utilized properly, will combat these types of inconsistencies or misrepresentations, and should be considered the “laws” of your brand.
A brand standards document can have many categories and infinite details, but at a very minimum, it should be divided into visual and written standards sections.
The more detail you provide within each section, the better off you will be in the long run. These details will help eliminate any unnecessary guesswork or having to further amend it down the road. Just like any set of “laws,” rules will change; this should be considered a progressive document that will grow with you and your brand.
So, the question you are probably asking by now is, what should be included? We will start with the visual side of the brand standards document.
When communicating with your customers visually, you want ensure that the way they view your brand is consistent across all mediums, including print, interactive and everything in between. To achieve this, you will need to develop a set of rules and provide the proper files associated with each. As many of you know, the way color is output on print is different than the way it is output on a screen.
Aside a few exceptions, most print is output with spot colors (Pantone) or a four-color process, which includes your standard CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) color makeup. On the other hand, screens are built to display RGB (red, blue and green) color makeup, which is defined by a HEX code.
When your customer is looking at your logo, you want the colors they see on a screen to resemble the colors they would see if the logo was being viewed on a brochure or print ad. To ensure this, you need to define what your logo’s color makeup is in each source (spot colors, CMYK, and HEX code) and then provide a different version of your logo that coincides with each source for the design team to use. This way, no matter what medium the logo is being viewed on, the colors appear to be the same.
The same sort of color and file considerations should be made to describe how to best use design elements and where they are appropriate. Many brands have textured backgrounds or design elements that are unique to the brand. Make sure to provide the files for these elements and describe what the “do’s and don’ts” are when working with them. In regards to the “don’ts,” it is good practice to visually show the common mistakes that are made and denote with a big red X over top of the example that displays what not to do. Be sure to include all of the common don’ts you have seen and more. You can never be too careful.
Now that we have touched base on what is a good start to a brand standards document’s visual section, let’s move on to the often more neglected side, the written brand standards. With recent progressions in marketing channels, there is more of an emphasis than ever on channels that utilize content marketing, such as social media and blogging. Just like your logos and design elements, you want to ensure the copy you produce for content marketing is also consistent across all of your marketing channels, including outdoor, print and interactive. For example, let’s say your slogan is:
“You show up, we fill you up, and you’re on your way!TM”
If the above is the proper way your slogan should be written every time, you know with so many different elements to consider, it may end up being written like this:
“You show up, we fill you up and you are on your way.”
Can you notice the differences? In the erroneous rendition above, we are missing a comma, the “you are” should be a contraction, the period should be an exclamation point, and it is missing the trademark symbol. As most of you would agree, these could be common mistakes if your brand has a slogan with similar elements. When putting together the written portion of your brand standards, consider how the company’s name and slogans should be written, what types of adjectives appropriately describe your brand, and anything else that would help your copywriter and content marketers keep the brand’s voice intact.
With the both visual and written sections of a brand standards document working in tandem, the sets of rules you develop will help maintain a higher level of consistency when communicating with your customers. This consistency will strengthen the way your brand is viewed in the market and it will be, well, more branded!