Your brand is like a person that you’ve created. It’s out in the world, meeting people and working without you. Every single interaction a person has with your brand will shape how they view it and ultimately, if they’ll become a customer.
So, if you don’t understand exactly who you are (and how to act that way), how will anyone else?
A brand manual is a set of guidelines for how your business will interact with the world.
Your brand doesn’t have the luxury of a childhood, awkward adolescence or even making mistakes. The internet is full of bullies waiting to give you a virtual wedgie when you screw up or seem unsure of yourself. So you need to fake all of those years it takes to develop a mature personality. It’s done by forging your brand’s personality through careful thought. What does this brand stand for and believe in? How will it look? How will it sound? How will it interact with the world?
The resulting answers are contained within a brand manual.
If you don’t figure them out before you start mingling online, your brand will be sitting all alone in the school cafeteria, talking to itself. Or worse, the social media equivalent of getting stuffed into a locker.
Learn To Walk And Talk With A Brand Manual
Babies don’t come with manuals, but good brands sure as hell should. Even small businesses benefit from creating one in order to:
- Save precious time by providing a resource that answers internal questions about company communications.
- Save cash money by preventing mistakes and wasting marketing efforts.
- Be authentic by developing a unique tone of voice for your company.
- Be consistent by defining your brand tone of voice and visual style.
- Stay true to core values by defining them.
- Steer all of your marketing and creative efforts with guidelines for graphics, writing and communicating.
What’s In A Brand Manual? Your Whole Personality.
It doesn’t matter what you call it (brand book, brand guide, brand style guide, brand standards, brand bible, etc.), these should all accomplish the same thing. A complete brand manual is the sum of your brand personality in theory and in practice. It’s your developed, adult personality.
Many times, “Brand Manual” or “Brand Guide” only refers to your graphic design rules and guidelines, such as how designers should and shouldn’t use your logo or what font is used on your website. Or, they’re referring to the core of a company’s identity such as a brand story, brand promise, brand house and values. Those are only tiny pieces of what a complete brand manual needs.
After all, what good is learning how to dress yourself and having morals if you can’t put two sentences together without sounding crazy?
The main elements should include:
This is the “why” of your brand and it goes by many terms: your mission and values, brand promise, brand house and brand story. This is the meat of who you are and where you come from.
A Graphic Standards Guide
The visual “how” of your brand: An owner’s manual of your visual assets, website, fonts and logos. You have to look good, or no one will want to look at you.
An Editorial Style Guide
The written “how” of your brand: an operator’s manual for tone of voice, writing content, editorial assets, industry terms and grammar guidelines. Talk the talk and sound good doing it.
This is the strategic “how” of your brand: details on your buyer personas, marketing methodology, SMART goals, etc. This is where you define your social status, what you want and who your peers are.
This is the creation and distribution “how” of your brand: blogging guidelines, new media and video guidelines, processes for content approval, an operator’s manual for brand social media channels and more. This is the fine print of how you’re going to go out and get your hustle on.
If a person had a brand manual instead of a personality, it would look like this:
Simple Personality/Brand Manual
History and mission:
- This is where Brandy McBrandface reminds herself of her core beliefs, her roots, what makes her special and all of those things she lives for.
Graphic Standards Guide:
- Graphic specs for the logo, website fonts and blog fonts. Brandy McBrandface consults this every time she appears in public to make sure her style is on point and she’s always recognized.
- Visual examples of correct and incorrect ways of using the logo: Make it VERY easy for anyone in charge of dressing Brandy to do it properly. She’s fickle.
Editorial Style Guide:
- Brand TOV guide and examples of language: People love listening to Brandy’s cool way of talking because she’s really thought it out. It includes a list of fun words and phrases that appeal to her friends while building her character.
- Link to a stylebook for grammar: Brandy has to know how to spell and sound intelligent or no one will give her money for anything. People trust her because she sounds like an adult.
- Industry term usage explanations: Brandy’s business uses special words at special times. This is a cheat sheet for her.
- Buyer persona profiles and marketing strategy: This section is all about Brandy’s friends, where they hang out and how to interact with them.
- Guide to company social media posting: Brandy has a huge online following because she’s thought long and hard about what to say and show them, as well as where to do it and when.
Mazel Tov and Welcome To Brand Adulthood
Once you have your brand manual in an electronic document and your team knows how to find and use it, your brand is essentially mature and coasting. It’s like a license to drive.
Every time you post a blog, outsource an ad or run a social media campaign, your brand guide is directing the flow from behind the scenes. Your brand voice will be mature and authentic. Your graphics will create more brand awareness by staying clean and consistent anywhere they appear. Marketing efforts will even take less time and money by streamlining directional decisions and approval processes. Most importantly, you’ll attract the right people to your brand and decrease your chances of losing business by straying away from what makes you special.
Now get out there and teach your business to adult with confidence. Maybe you’ll even grow up to be one of the cool kids.