Brand Standards: What Are They, and Do I Really Need Them?
As a business owner, how many times have you heard the term “brand standards”, or been told they are an important part of your marketing efforts? Is it just another term to you, jargon which goes in one ear and out the other? Why does it matter?
We’ll tell you exactly why brand standards are important and what you need to be looking for in a company when developing brand standards.
“I already have a logo, isn’t that enough? Do I really need brand standards?”
We see so many people who have a logo and think, “OK, I have a brand, I’m all done!”. However, just having a logo is not enough. Sure, you can put it on anything, but it doesn’t necessarily represent your business in a clear, recognizable way.
Think about the well-known, established brands you can recognize instantly — Nike, Starbucks, etc. Those brands have a distinctive look and feel you recognize, and it’s because of more than simply seeing their logo. They have a marketing style, ads crafted to perfectly reflect the company and brand you recognize and know. You could walk into a Starbucks, and even if there wasn’t a logo on anything anywhere, you would know you were in a Starbucks.
Take this ingenious ad, for example:
Well known, globally recognized brands take a while to establish. Doritos didn’t get started overnight. It starts with one thing: brand standards. Brand standards are the glue holding your brand identity together. It helps create a cohesive, recognizable public identity for your business which acts as more than just your logo applied to something.
The overall point of brand standards is for people to know you, your business, who you are, what you provide. For instance, when you see a Nike swoosh and you think about good shoes, it’s not because their logo, the swoosh, is literally equivalent to shoes. It’s because Nike has carefully developed their brand identity more than their logo. They’ve spent years creating a clear, consistent brand message with a guideline of exactly how they should be visually represented. And it all starts with brand standards.
Brand standards enable you to develop more recognition, so people can start remembering your business and unique brand. If it’s consistent, the more people see it, the more they remember it. There are a lot of different businesses out there and brand standards are a crucial way for you to stand out. It makes your company look more professional, more established, and provides you with the ability to compete against all the other businesses providing similar services.
“What should be included in brand standards?”
When it comes to your business, you don’t want to waste a single dollar. If you’re paying someone to develop brand standards for you, make sure the following elements are included:
- Clearly defined logo usage, lockup, spacing, and colors
- Specified colors & fonts
- Make sure the colors and fonts are outlined for use in all instances. For example, for colors, you want to be sure to have CMYK, Pantone, Hex, and RBG versions. For fonts, make sure weights and styles are specified as well as close alternatives for digital vs print.
- Style guidelines for photography & graphics
- An overall standards for how your brand’s message should be represented
Brand standards are a set of guidelines which set the parameters for usage of creative elements like your logo, colors, and fonts so your brand is represented in a recognizable way, even in completely different contexts. There are many other things which can go into brand standards, but as a basic starting point, all brand standards should at least include the above elements.
Once you’ve developed brand standards, it also makes it easier when creating and designing anything new for your business – whether it’s a website or an ad. Having brand standards gives graphic designers a clear direction on how to create what is best for you and your brand.
Having a brand already developed makes creating new ideas more efficient and effective – since the base is already outlined, the creator can focus on enhancing rather than creating anew. Brand standards help to reign in the creative possibilities and focus the artist’s vision.
“When is the right time to be thinking about developing brand standards?”
It’s best practice to develop brand standards right from the start. Of course, having brand standards from the start doesn’t always happen, but it’s difficult to build something out of nothing.
Ultimately, brand standards are especially important for growth. Whether you are just starting out or your company is growing, brand standards are crucial for developing your business and presenting it to new people.
Even if you already have brand standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are set in stone and will never change. As your company grows, your brand standards will develop based on the industry, trends, and your target market. Take for example once more large brands like Nike and Starbucks. You can see over the years how they have changed and grown – it’s still their brand, but it’s developed and evolved over the decades.
How do you know if it’s time to revisit your brand standards?
If you’re working with a new designer and they have new ideas. If they try something you haven’t tried before or didn’t fit with your brand standards but is really good, maybe it’s time to consider adjusting. Or, if your company has grown into a different target market.
For example, we have a client we have worked with for years. He started as a handy-man Mr. Fix-It and had a brand that reflected that. From there we wanted a more professional appearance to start handling larger projects like home renovations and remodels. Over time, his business has grown and developed; when he began his business, he was serving residential clients and handling smaller-scale projects.
Eventually, his business evolved and he decided he was in a spot where he wanted to pursue larger-scale commercial projects. He realized he would need to modify his brand and message again to attract his new target market, so helped take everything to the next level. We created new a new logo and brand standards, capable of relating and appealing to his current business as well as attracting the new perspective market of commercial construction.
Is your company growing? Do you want to start developing a clear consistent marketing message? Do you need to create brand standards? Contact us today and we can help you get started.