How To Create Your Own Brand Guidelines
Whether consciously or unconsciously, you associate some characteristics to everyone in your life. Whether we’re talking about your friends, acquaintances, family members, or coworkers, you have a “box” in your head where you save information about them.
And it’s the same for the businesses you interact with.
Your audience will attribute an identity to your company.
And you can influence how that identity is perceived.
In the end, that’s what branding is – being intentional about the “box” people have in their head about your business.
What Is Branding?
There are a lot of definitions out there for branding, or brand. Our favorite goes like this: “Branding is the process of creating a strong, positive perception of your company, and it’s products in your customer’s mind”.
All of this is accomplished by differentiating your company through design, positioning, messaging, service, and a ton of other things.
The brand guidelines is a document that makes a note of all of these differentiating characteristics. It will usually include guidelines on, and examples of:
● Tone of voice
● Audience (buyer persona)
● Competition research
But these are not exclusive, nor should they all be present all the time.
Bootstrapping vs Outsourcing Branding
Before we get into practical tips on how to do your company’s branding, it’s important to first settle on who’s taking care of it. We recommend a professional agency or freelancer, at least to take care of parts of the branding.
That’s because a good guideline will require skills and knowledge in marketing, design, copywriting, and even psychology. The best way to pull it off right is to collaborate with people that complement your skills and knowledge.
For example, if you’re well-versed in copywriting, you’d be happy to take the lead on defining your messaging, communication channel, and company voice.
As the store owner, you might also be willing and able to define your values, story, and mission. But if you’re not as capable at designing beautiful logos or choosing a color palette for your company, working with an agency can help you a lot.
But that can be expensive. A good brand guideline can cost as much as a few thousand dollars.
So if you can’t afford professional help, you could either look to develop the skills for yourself, or hire cheaper freelancers to pick up the load in the beginning.
If you trust your product, and you have a good online store, don’t worry about having a perfect logo from the get-go. If your company succeeds, you can always improve this later.
Your Company’s Identity
The first step in branding for ecommerce is to create your company’s identity. For a business to be successful, decent products aren’t enough. Whether you want it or not, people will attribute an identity to your store. So it’s better to be mindful of what your identity is from the get go.
To do that, you should formulate:
● Your company’s story. How was it founded, and what does it represent? Every store has a story behind it, and if you can highlight that, you can connect more to your customers.
● Your company’s values. If you can stand for something that your audience appreciates, you have a higher chance of converting them.
● Your company’s mission. What do you dream of achieving with your store in the next 10, 20, 30 years?
And any other characteristic that differentiates you from the norm.
The Visual Style Of Your Store
The next important aspect to any ecommerce branding is to create your own visual style. The best way to do that is to first think of the colors that represent your company. In our culture, people associate certain things with individual colors. For example, green is usually seen as “natural” or “healthy”. Blue has a professional connotation, and red is usually associated with passion.
This is not an exact science, but it’s a good starting point to sketch your store’s visual identity.
With a color palette in mind, it’s time to create your logo (and other branding elements). It’s not really worthwhile to get into the specifics of creating a logo – it’s a complex process that other people more talented than us talk about.
But what we do want to outline is the importance of versatility. Your logo will never exist in a vacuum. It’ll be plastered on your site, Facebook page, and even products. That’s why it’s important to either create (or outsource) branding materials like:
● Your logo on different backgrounds
● A black and white version of your logo
● Your logo on web pages
● Your site’s layout or design
While deciding on these factors, always draw it back to the initial things you analyzed, like your mission and values. This will help you decide between design varians or visual options.
What Is Your Messaging Like?
The last step for branding guidelines is a strong communications strategy. The things you need to create here depend on what content you’re producing. For example, if you also write blog posts besides posting on social media, you’ll need a writing style guide.
But in general, you need to settle on your style of communication. Like everything we mentioned before, this needs to tie back into your identity and values. If you’re selling B2B consumables, you’ll probably opt for a professional writing style.
If you’re selling handmade products, you can add more flair to your content. If you sell kid’s toys and products, you can even have a lighthearted approach to your content.
What’s important is that you define this.
Remember, a brand’s purpose is to create an identity for your company in the mind of your customers. If they read your social media posts, and they’re all filled with jokes, but then visit your site and everything is serious… your image will be disjointed. It’ll be hard for people to settle on an identity.
And that’s what branding can help you avoid.
And One Last Thing
Branding is a complicated process. So don’t be afraid to get inspired by people that have been doing it for decades. Don’t copy someone else’s style, sure, but feel free to look at successful stores and how they’re branding themselves.
It’s a good way to get inspired and create a brand you’re actually proud of.