September 29, 2020 Why your brand needs a style guide

By Jacinta Koelewyn

big monitor displaying brand photos

A well-developed style guide is essential for establishing brand identity. In other words, it’s a tool to help your business stand out from the pack. Think about the most iconic brands in the world, such as Apple or Airbnb – companies that have a distinct look, feel and personality. Style guides are what these businesses use to build, establish, maintain and evolve their branding.

Maintaining consistent branding helps build familiarity and loyalty with customers. When done well, a style guide helps you tell your story and evoke feelings of empathy and trust with customers. But good branding is not just for the corporate conglomerates or multinational companies. Businesses of all sizes benefit from style guides.

Let’s explore why your brand needs a style guide.

What is a style guide?

Style guides are a resource that help you communicate consistently with your customers. Some businesses have separate communications and branding style guides. Others have an all-inclusive style guide that covers branding and communication guidelines. In this article, we’ll talk about style guides from an all-encompassing perspective.

As a brand, you’re more than your products or services. Clear branding – backed by a style guide – helps differentiate your brand and connect you with customers.

This becomes particularly important as your business grows, since more people will need to convey your brand’s essence (i.e. the heart and soul of your brand).

A style guide can include guidelines for:

  • Language, voice and tone
  • Voice in action (i.e. examples of how to write in the correct tone of voice)
  • Grammar and punctuation
  • Capitalisation
  • Numbers
  • Dates
  • Best practice for digital accessibility, SEO and user experience
  • Design elements – including colour palette, logo, imagery, typography.

It can also include a brand overview, goals, vision and values.

Your style guide should be a living and breathing personification of your brand. As an evolving document, your style guide should be updated to remain relevant and accurately reflect your brand over time.

The benefits of a style guide

A style guide can put your brand’s DNA on paper. They help you provide a continuous brand experience. A style guide is rulebook to make clear branding requirements so they can be consistently produced across different platforms and teams. Discover how your business can benefit from a style guide.

Clear and consistent communications

What you say as a business, matters. How you sound to customers can’t chop and change – it needs to stay consistent. Otherwise, your content could seem sloppy, confusing or out of place – which can hinder concentration and connection.

Since branding gives your business an identity, it’s important you stay true to it. Your brand identity should capture your business’ values, personality and promise to your clients. It will include your target audience, some brand do’s and don’ts, guidelines for photography, language and other stylistic preferences.

If everyone in your business has a crystal-clear image of your branding – they can all share well-defined messaging with your audience.

For example, let’s say you want to do a video advertising campaign. Even if you’re working with different teams or external agencies, you can rest assured that all your digital mediums will be consistent.

Stronger brand identity

As a brand, you have to win your customer’s trust. PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey ranked brand trust among the top three factors influencing purchase decisions.

Good branding works as a signal to the consumer. It helps them quickly recognise your products or services with familiarity. It can help trigger their positive past experiences, perceptions and associations with your brand.

Having a defined set of guidelines helps ensure all communication is on-brand. Determining all aspects of your brand, such as language conventions and design, can help your customers recognise and connect with you.

A clear brand identity is crucial to showing your audience what you’re about. It can give your business an identity, make you memorable, give your employees a sense of pride and belonging, and make consumers actively choose you.

Multiple teams can develop content

A style guide ensures anyone can develop high-impact, on-brand content. Whether you have in-house content writers or are working with an external copywriting team, having a style guide ensures everyone is on the same page.

Since the rules are clearly defined in one go-to asset, you won’t have to worry about any squabbles over things like sentence case or how you do bullet points. Removing guesswork can save your business valuable time and resources.

It also makes it easier for agencies to assist with copywriting or copyediting projects. At Avion Communications, we’ve both created content strategy guidelines and followed them to a T – as we did with national heart health charity, the Heart Foundation.

Your style guide is an asset that enables anyone to develop content in your brand’s voice.

Employees know what they’re part of

Having a clear vision and guidelines about what makes your business unique, doesn’t just benefit your customers and your bottom line. It also helps your employees feel a sense of belonging.

Strong branding can help your employees feel engaged, motivated and productive. Your team will see how they fit into the brand’s mission and company culture, and may even become brand ambassadors in the process.

Since your employees are who make your brand come alive, nurturing this connection is crucial. When your employees truly believe in and care about your brand, they’ll be more motivated to work harder and be inspired by a common purpose and identity. As a result, customers who interact with your team are more likely to experience your brand’s promise.

Example: BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed’s success is underpinned by a strong brand identity that’s felt externally and internally.

BuzzFeed maintains a strong work culture by:

  • Conducting regular surveys – and taking onboard how employees are feeling
  • Gathering in-person feedback
  • Creating development programs for managers
  • Using technology to improve the employee experience (e.g. Buzz Bud is an onboarding HR bot that helps employees ask questions and helps people connect)
  • Promoting mental health support and discussion
  • Building diversity
  • Running inclusive initiatives.

BuzzFeed understands that people are at the heart of what they do. Having a clear public-facing identity also helps attract the best and most suitable new talent.

You can read many of these core values and brand identity in BuzzFeed’s style guide. This two-way branding builds credibility from the inside-out.

Make dry content engaging

You can make dry content fun and engaging, no matter what industry you work in. Speaking like a person – guided by the personality and values in your style guide – helps you engage readers.

Developing the right tone of voice for your business can be tricky. Telling a story and evoking an emotional connection or response can help you make an impact with your reader.

With your style guide in-hand, you can transform any content into something that’s relevant and meaningful to your audience.

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone! We can help you find your voice and speak in a way that connects with your audience. From creating a new style guide and strategy to finessing on-brand content, our talented copywriters can help your business soar. Get in touch with us today.