Tuesday Tip #9: Establish Branding Guidelines

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Brand style guide:

A reference tool that helps maintain consistency by demonstrating what a brand looks, feels and sounds like.



Your brand represents the personality of your small business. In order for people to easily make the connection between your company and your marketing, there needs to be consistency. Just think about how the big brands do it. Take Starbucks for example. 


Starbucks’ mission:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”


If you’re a Starbucks fan like me, then you know they’re pros at delivering on this mission statement. No matter which Starbucks coffee shop you visit, the brand is expertly tied into the overall experience. You know what to expect. Funky music. Overpriced beverages that taste oh so good. Spots to plug in your electronic devices. Baristas who speak your lingo (Venti Iced Skinny Decaf Hazelnut Macchiato). Some may call it obnoxious. Others refer to it as pure bliss. Regardless, Starbucks has mastered the art of marrying their mission statement to their marketing and branding. 


“From the atmosphere in their stores, to their digital content, to their advertising, everything looks, sounds, and feels like Starbucks. Even the cups and tumblers you can buy in the store have a clean, modern design to them. The result? The experience you have with Starbucks always feels consistent, whether you’re reading a social post, waiting in line, watching a TV ad, or interacting with their brand in any way, anywhere.” (CoSchedule Blog)

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So now let’s bring this back to YOU. How can you translate the Starbucks branding strategy to your own small business? It all begins with branding guidelines.


“Think of your brand identity as your company’s personality. It’s how the world recognizes you and begins to trust you. If you see someone change how they look and act all the time, you won’t feel like you know who they are, and you certainly wouldn’t trust them.” (99Designs.com)


Creating a branding guidelines document is really quite simple. Like Starbucks, you’ll want to build it around your mission statement. If you’re solid on the promise you’re making to your audience, the colors, messaging, and style will all flow from there. 


There are seven key components that you’ll want to consider including in your branding guidelines:


1. Your Story

Here’s where you can put your mission statement in writing. Have a vision? Include that as well. Your brand guidelines document should begin with a short story about who you are as a small business and what you represent. 


2. Target Audience

In the world of Inbound Marketing, we like to call these personas. Who are the audience members that you’re trying to reach in your marketing? Think about it and describe them in detail. (For help with this exercise, check out this blog post by HubSpot: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business)


3. Logo

Your branding guidelines document should include a visual of your logo and every acceptable variation of it. For example, the Little Marketing Genius logo is black and pink. However, if we were printing it on a black tote bag, well, the black parts of the logo wouldn’t work so well. So in cases like this, we convert the text and pineapple leaves to white. All of this type of information needs to be outlined in the logo section of your branding guidelines document. 

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4. Colors

What colors define your brand? Going back to our Starbucks example, green is a prominent color that’s used in pretty much all of their branding.


List out the colors that are not only used in your logo, but the colors you would use in general marketing and advertising as well. The Little Marketing Genius uses soft pastels. (You can check out our website to see how the palette gets incorporated throughout.)


When creating the Colors section of your brand guidelines, include swatches of each color along with their respective codes:

  • Color match: PANTONE name and number

  • Print color: CMYK

  • Digital color: RGB and HEX codes


This will make referencing them much easier in the future. 


5. Fonts

Again, you’ll want to define the fonts used in your logo as well as the different fonts that are used in your marketing and advertising. Specify how and when fonts are to be used. For example, what’s the size and spacing standards for headlines and subheads? How about body copy? 


6. Imagery

Examples. Examples. Examples. Curate imagery in the form of a mood board! “Collect images that convey the feeling that you want people to get when they interact with your brand.” They will represent the appropriate styles of imagery that should be used in both printed and online marketing. (99Designs.com)

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7. Voice

What tone does your messaging have? Witty? Casual? Extremely serious? By deeply understanding your target audience, you’ll know exactly what tone is appropriate to use. The next step will be to describe it within the Voice section of your branding guidelines. Provide examples of different words that you might use as well as some examples of words you would never use. Establishing your voice is key to creating consistency within your messaging and branding. 


Now to unveil an awesome surprise!

HubSpot has a free kit that you can download to help you create your branding guidelines. It has everything you need to go from same-old business to must-have brand! Click here to get the kit! 

We hope you found today’s Tuesday Tip helpful! For more marketing advice like this, be sure to scroll to the bottom of this page and subscribe to our blog! 


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