How to Build a Brand Book

Challenges: Growth, Read

Posted by Jessica Peterson-Rangel

Estimated Reading Time : 8 min.

Let me preface this with, I know that when you started this week, creating a brand book probably wasn’t on the top of your priority list. Heck, I’d say it didn’t even make the monthly cut. This quarter, I’m urging you to put it on your checklist—and don’t let it fall off.

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This incredibly introspective process allows you to evaluate the decisions you’re making and help define what it truly means to be uniquely you as a business. It promotes consistency, value, and ensures your brand is recognizable within  your space. 

Brand books are often referred to as “Brand Bibles.” This document is created to set distinct guidelines for marketing your brand identity across all aspects of your business. It should be as helpful for a designer as it would be for a potential partner or internal employee. This “at-a glance” summary of who or what your business is also gives a personification of your business. 

 

The differences between a Brand Book, Style Guide, and Media Kit

You may have heard these terms thrown around at you once or twice before. You may even have an existing style guide that you refer to as your “brand book” or a collection of media assets that you keep on hand when people need to grab your logo for an upcoming event—but they are not the same.

 

Your Style Guide

Your style guide is a collection of standards and rules that your brand follows when it comes to the visual space. This includes your colors, fonts, logos, and imagery that your brand uses to stand out from the crowd. While it can be included in your Brand Book—it’s not quite a brand book itself. It leaves way too many unanswered questions and provides the insight without the reason behind these choices. This can still cause a blip of misunderstanding between your designer and yourself.

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Your style guide should include

  • Your logo and guidelines for usage
  • Typography guidelines
  • Your color palette
  • Your brand “motif”
  • Imagery that represents your brand
  • Your social media guidelines

 

Your Media Kit

A media kit is a collection of assets and information about your business, product, or event used for events or launches to help partners and new sources accurately portray your brand. 

Some of you might remember when media kits were provided as cardboard folders, but now traditionally they’re provided in a PDF format available for download on your website or attached to an email when a project is up and running. 

Your media kit should contain your primary marketing contact information, an overview of your business (think of this as your “bio”), a media release (something you’re wanting to share, similar to a press release), and images that journalists, partners, and events can use for promotional purposes.

 

Ok, so what’s in the Brand Book?

When creating your brand book, you should look to find the answers to some questions that help define you.

 

The Founder’s Vision

As the old saying goes, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.

When your business was just a seedling, what were it’s hopes and dreams? What parts of those are still in line with what they are today? Maybe your business is 30 years down the road and the product that you originally had in mind ended up leading you to a larger discovery of a gap in the market. You might be a start-up yourself and have nothing but big ideas to fill the page. Tell this story so that others can understand your backstory that helped lead you to find the space in which you shine.

 

Your Mission Statement

When it comes to MakingChips—our mission statement couldn’t be easier. We want to equip and inspire our audience. It is in the front of our minds when creating podcasts, blogs, collections, and marketing materials for our clients. 

When your mission statement is unclear, it provides ambiguity for both your customers and your team. Without it, you risk your team moving towards different objectives and you’re unable to create brand values that truly support your mission.

One of our favorite speakers and business leaders, Donald Miller, focuses on the importance of a strong mission statement in his online course Mission Statement Made Simple and his one day workshop Mission Statement and Guiding Principles to help others create compelling mission statements that inspire teams and customers alike.  

We’ve included some of our favorite mission statements for you to view:

LinkedIn To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

Forbes To deliver information on the people, ideas and technologies changing the world to our community of affluent business decision makers.

Intuit To improve its customers’ financial lives so profoundly, they couldn’t imagine going back to the old way.

 

Your Target Audience

By developing a clear understanding of who you’re targeting and why, you’re able to build your “target audience.” This can be a brief explanation, with a couple of paragraphs outlining the types of people that would engage with your business and what values you have that they can relate to the most.

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Some companies prefer to take it one step further and create buyer personas. This helps carve out this niche even more. For instance, if you’re selling shop solutions, you might map out the decision makers and their common interests, mind frames, and purchasing power within this section.

Warning: If at any point you say well, EVERYONE could buy what I’m selling…. You’ve strayed too far. Who is your IDEAL client? What makes them tick? What makes them choose YOU to work with?

 

Your Brand Values

Tying hand-in-hand with your mission statement, your brand values are what separates you from the herd. Your brand values are the beliefs and values that you as a company stand for and represent. They should reflect who you as a company are and what your company strives to become. Think of these as less “idealistic” and more as differentiating factors between your team and others.

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Having core values that remind you of what’s important to your business, the people you serve, and the team members that encompass your brand can help with making the right decisions in tough situations easier than ever.

 

They help your customers and team understand you better than ever, and ensure you’re all moving towards the same goals with the same thought process in mind.

 

Your Brand Characteristics

While your brand values encompass who you are as a business, your characteristics can be thought of as your company’s “personality.” Who is your company? Who represents your company?

In our template, we provide this as a sliding scale to help determine your tone of voice with your audience.

Are you more mature or youthful? Playful or sophisticated? Is your service a commodity or premium? Are you more literal or abstract? Traditional or contemporary?

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This helps every part of your team, including marketing, sales, and customer service, to communicate as effectively as possible while representing your brand in the most accurate way.

 

Common Mistakes

It’s easy to get a bit lost when creating your Brand Book. We’ve outlined common problems you might encounter.

I don’t know how to establish clear brand values

Are you able to establish the values and mission but aren’t able to articulate it in a way that makes sense for your brand book? Work with an established writer to help tell your story. Your mission and values will come out during this interview process and your copy editor can help transform it into a compelling statement.

 

If you’re unable to figure out your “uniques,” we highly recommend taking a look at the Donald Miller courses mentioned above. His course walks you through these steps.

 

Remember - this is an incredibly introspective process. You might come away with more questions than answers at first…. and that’s okay! Remember, it’s your job as a leader to ensure that you iron this out because the kinks in the fabric will always come from the top of the roll.

 

My design choices aren’t matching the brand I’ve created

I’m a big advocate for designing with a reason. Your colors, typography, and imagery should all tell and show who you are. If you’re finding that there’s a gap between this grassroots company you’ve created and the super modern logo you’ve commissioned, it is time to start asking more questions. 

What made you choose the logo you did? Do you love the roots but have moved into a new stage in your business where an additional level of professionalism is needed? Is your typography whatever happens to be the standard Microsoft fonts are when you create a new doc? 

Remember that your visual choices are just that—choices. Work with professional, established designers to help tell your specific story for your brand.

Lofty goals with less enthusiastic follow through

There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you purchased the wrong product. Even worse, joining a company where the culture is nothing like what was described. Your values and mission statement should be factual, not too idealistic. Make sure that you’re accurately defining what it means to be YOU…. not who you WANT to be years down the road.

 

How should I get started?

Ok, so you’ve made it all the way through the article and you’re ready to start taking names and making a brand book for yourself. What’s next?

Start by answering the questions above. While design is totally fun… coming from someone who went to school  for graphic design… finding the right answers matters so much more. Your designer can make intelligent design choices based on the information you lie out in front of them. They’ll make sure the reason is there behind your design.

Work with Professional Designers

Now, I know he’s not your cousin Kevin with photoshop, but I promise you he’ll get the job done the way it was meant to be done. Invest in a design team that understands who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want a brand book that will knock the socks off of anyone you encounter, a professional designer or design team is a must.

Want to Try and DIY?

I’m the first girl to stop in at Home Depot and buy all the supplies I’d ever need for $100 to build that $45 shelf. You are my people! By answering the questions first, you’re in a great space to build your own. I would recommend having at least some design know-how… but in the meantime this is a great way to get it knocked off your plate for the quarter.

Download Our Free Brand Book Template

By the end of the week, we’ll be adding in our own design templates (Powerpoint and InDesign) and emailing it out to our Boring Bar subscribers. There are also plenty of paid templates on sites like Envato Market, Creative Market, and Adobe Stock. Most of these will require the Adobe Creative Suite, so ensure you’re reading the software requirements before you purchase.