Today’s smartest companies are led by their brand values and beliefs. A strong brand identity leads and reflects the company’s values and reinforces these qualities through brand guidelines. But guidelines do more than mark out rules and regulations, they tell a brand’s story, focusing everyone together in the same direction.
Brands are becoming more open and expressive. This means guidelines also are becoming more emotional, less rigid and more flexible, enabling brands to adapt their tone and to address multiple audiences. Good guidelines strike a balance between emotional engagement and continuity and avoid drawing the brand too far from its focus.
Old brands, new tricks
In the past guidelines tended to stamp their brand onto the marketplace, believing that presenting a consistent image would eventually lead to becoming a trusted partner of choice. This worked at the time, because consistency became familiarity, familiarity became trust and from trust came acceptance and allegiance. Today consumers and businesses are more brand savvy and need to see the brand living, breathing, and becoming a part of their lives. Engaging staff and customers becomes an invitation to join in and interact, rather than directives on what to and what not to do. A good example of this new flexibility is Coca Cola. In the ‘70s and ‘80s Coca Cola stamped its red and white branding all over the globe; now, as official sponsor of The Championship Football League, Coca Cola has allowed changes to its brand colours to match that of home teams across the country. Perhaps none stranger than those of Norwich City FC!
Flexible brands are enduring brands
Brand content and message can also become more important than overall look and feel. For example, Vodafone’s ‘Make the most of now’ message is held in a clear red panel, but behind this can go all manner of illustration, photography or moving images. The brand message is consistent but the visual brand is alive, responsive and adaptive to the audience being addressed. Consequently, the visual elements of the brand work that extra bit harder in all forms of media; extending the brand’s longevity and saving on expensive brand overhauls. Flexibility is the key to successful brand guidelines, and companies need to have the confidence to allow the brand to grow and build relationships with different audiences across multiple platforms.
However, one bad apple, especially high up the tree, is all that is required to spoil the brand. This is why it is vital that everyone in your company understands, buys into, and is able to articulate the brand in a consistent way. This is no small task, but it will give you a huge advantage to enjoy over more fragmented competitors. Remember: flexibility, the balance between emotional engagement and consistency, will keep your brand vibrant now and into the future.
See how Saatchi & Saatchi Design have worked with our clients to design effective brand guidelines.