7 Steps to Create Your Brand Guidelines and Brand Strategy

brand guidelines template

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What are your brand guidelines and why would someone buy from you? If you can’t answer those questions, you can’t connect and communicate with your ideal client. Defining your brand identity and brand story helps you answer those questions. Communicating your message, the right way, to the right audience is the key to improving your marketing ROI and increasing your sales.

Defining your brand guidelines is a key step in developing your overarching marketing strategy that will direct your marketing plan.

What are brand guidelines?

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, defining your brand story gives you, and your whole creative team, the direction in creating the basic elements of your brand identity and finally, your overall brand guidelines.

It is the handbook for brand elements like your:

  • Logo
  • Brand positioning
  • Messaging
  • Brand name
  • Tagline

Having brand guidelines ensures a correct and consistent brand. This is key in the important connection with your ideal audience.

What is a brand story?

Your brand story is not what you want your brand to be, but rather what your buyer personas will identify and relate to. Brand storytelling, just as the word implies, is the act of telling a story through various mediums. You use things like your videos, posts, social media, etc. to capture the attention of your target audience. Using brand storytelling successfully can open new doors, establish new relationships, and grow your audience.

Think of your brand story as the defined strategy that provides creative direction in developing your brand identity, and overall brand guidelines.

How do you define your brand story and guidelines?

(IMPORTANT: Make sure your buyer personas are defined before you begin defining your brand story. You can get a FREE buyer persona worksheet here.)

Here are the 7 steps to define your brand guidelines:

  1. Brand Story:
    • Brand’s Purpose: What’s the problem you’ve set out to solve? What’s your mission?
    • Brand’s Vision: How will the world look to your audience once you’ve solved the problem? Will they have happiness, success, pleasure?
    • Brand’s Promise: What promise do you make to your customers? Is it quality, service, convenience?
  2. Brand Values: What are your ideal customer’s values? You define these when you identify your brand’s buyer personas. Once you know your buyer persona’s values, your brand values need to align (e.g., loyal, consistent, honest, creative).
  3. Brand Personality: What personality characteristics does your ideal customer have (also defined during the buyer persona research phase)? Your brand personality needs to mirror that (e.g., rugged, sophisticated, excited, cheerful, wholesome).
  4. Positioning: How will you position your product in the market? Are you premium, budget, or something in between? This is all about making your impression on your audience and convincing them to perceive your product or brand in a certain way. Your positioning strategy helps you map out your goals and directs you to the best way to stand out from your competition.

    Common types of market positioning strategies include:

    • Product price
    • Product application and use
    • Customer needs
    • Product quality
  5. Voice: What tone will communicate to your ideal customer best and align with your brand story? Based on what you know about your target audience, what tone will best be received? Your communications need to be delivered in that same, consistent tone (e.g., neutral, direct, confident, inspirational).
  6. Messaging: How will you communicate, and which mediums will you use to best connect with your ideal customer? What words and phrases do your ideal customers use or identify with? Your brand messaging will also help lay the foundation for creating a solid content marketing strategy.

    Think about and list out words and phrases that, based on your buyer persona, you’d like your company messaging to align with, or be described as. (e.g., bold, modern, fun, whimsical).

  7. Brand Identity: Choosing your visual elements based on what will resonate with your ideal client is crucial. It’s not what you are attracted to that’s important—it’s all about what will catch the eye of your buyer persona.
    • Colors: What colors do you envision would best represent your brand and your ideal customer’s personality? Expert tip, use Adobe Color Wheel’s free tool to explore trends and create your brand’s color palette!
    • Typography: What fonts will you use and in what format?
    • Imagery/Graphics: Create cohesiveness and connect with your audience by using imagery and graphics that align with your brand strategy.
    • Shapes/Patterns: Defining specific shapes and patterns that will be used in creating graphics, marketing materials, and designing your website is important to ensure brand consistency across all mediums.
    • Name/tagline: Did you have a slogan or tagline in mind that clearly describes what you offer in terms of benefits or features? Think in terms of it being a preview of your brand promise along with your purpose.
    • Logo: Once completed, apply your brand guidelines when designing a new or redesigning your current logo. Define the variations in logo formats and proper usage rules (e.g. grayscale logo format vs. color logo).

A quick review:

Your Brand Strategy is made up of your: Brand Story, Brand Voice, Brand Messaging, Brand Positioning, Buyer Personas (buyer personas are defined before this). It defines what the promise is that you need to communicate and the tactics for how it can be expressed throughout your business operations.

Your Brand Identity is made up of your: Logo, favicon, color palette, brand name, tagline, typography, shapes/imagery/graphics style.

Your Brand Guidelines encompasses all the above elements and becomes your handbook that defines how to properly express your brand: where and how to use the logo, colors, fonts, and just as importantly, how NOT to use them, to consistently communicate your message. Your brand guidelines are vital in providing the creative direction necessary to design your website and marketing materials.

Defining your brand, with your story and guidelines, is more than just looking at what you want your brand to be. To be successful, you need to understand what your ideal client wants you to be—and become that. What your brand looks like, how it acts, and which channels it uses to communicate, all must speak directly to the needs of your audience.

You put a lot of your hard-earned money into your marketing

To make sure you are hitting your ROI and reaching all your potential customers, your brand and buyer personae need to be aligned.

We can help you do that. Get in touch if you’d like to partner with us to develop your brand guidelines.

Download our FREE brand story worksheet, along with our FREE buyer persona worksheet.

And while you’re at it, take your branding tactics a step further and implement an SEO branding strategy too.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase the product or service. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy.

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