You know that everybody within your organization is responsible for representing your company’s brand at various opportunities — whether it’s meetings, lunches, conferences, or presentations. Yep, it’s important that everybody is part of showcasing your brand identity.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not cringeworthy every now and then.
You see PowerPoint presentations that use random colors and fonts. You see your logo stretched and pixelated on a variety of one-sheets. You see messaging that isn’t at all aligned with the voice and tone you worked so hard to cultivate.
This total disrespect for your branding guidelines keeps you up at night. Yet you’re stumped as to how you can encourage everyone within your company to stick with the rules and really do your brand identity justice.
You aren’t alone. Pretty much every marketer across the globe can relate to this struggle. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can put into play to increase adoption of your corporate branding guidelines so you can rest assured that your company is presented in the best way possible — regardless of the who, what, and where.
What should be included in your branding guidelines?
Maybe that above scenario made you think, “Oh, shoot. We should probably start by actually creating some brand identity guidelines for people to reference.”
If you don’t already have those down on paper, that’s where you need to begin. What are brand guidelines? Think of this as your chance to document all of those rules and best practices for representing your business the way you intended.
While we won’t dive into the nitty-gritty details here, there are a few things that your branding guidelines should absolutely include:
- Brand history (what led to the creation of this brand?)
- Brand personality (for example, is your brand more like a thought leader or a close friend?)
- Brand message or mission statement (why does your brand exist?)
- Brand key values (what things are important to your brand?)
- Logo usage (including sizes, placements, etc.)
- Color palette (what colors are acceptable?)
- Typestyle (what fonts are acceptable?)
You can even go into more detail with things like letterhead design, accepted photography and images, and more. But the above basics are the things you absolutely need to cover to start with.
7 tips to encourage people to use your branding guidelines
You have your branding guidelines mapped out. But that’s only half the battle. Now you need to encourage people in your organization to actually abide by them.
How do you make that happen? Here are seven different tips to put into play — starting now.
1. Provide the necessary context.
You’ll notice that the brief branding guidelines template above mentions things like brand history and a mission statement. Those elements may seem like a formality, but they’re actually an important piece of the puzzle.
That’s because those pieces give everyone across your organization the context they need to better understand those guidelines, which already puts you a step ahead of everybody else.
According to research from Gallup, only 41% of surveyed employees agreed with the statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.”
So rather than just handing out a list of arbitrary rules, empower people to understand the “why” behind those guidelines. Why does the color palette really matter? Does the placement of your logo really carry that much importance?
Spell this out. After all, to someone not in marketing, directions like those are going to seem like really inconsequential details. But tying them to a greater objective or purpose serves as extra motivation to actually stick with them.
2. Use layman’s terms.
You can’t expect anybody to use your branding guidelines if they can’t actually understand them. That means that if you anticipate everyone across the organization following these directions, they can’t be heavy with jargon and marketing lingo that requires an advanced degree to understand.
For example, that person in the finance department might not know what to do with that color code (it looks like a jumble of letters and numbers to them). That other employee in human resources might not immediately know what a logo is and what isn’t — which explains why they keep using that promotional graphic instead.
This is why it’s important to have people from a few outside departments proofread your branding guidelines and highlight any areas that are unclear or confusing. This way you can make sure you’ve pulled together guidelines that are easily understood — and not just within your own department.
3. Keep your guidelines accessible.
People not only need to be able to understand these guidelines — they need to be able to find them. You need to keep this list of rules and expectations somewhere that’s centralized and easily accessible so people don’t have to go digging for them when they need them.
Research from McKinsey states that the average employee spends 19% of their work week searching for and gathering information. That’s a lot of time (and probably more than people will spend voluntarily tracking down your branding guidelines — they’ll more than likely just give up altogether).
So keep them somewhere easy and immediately obvious for everyone. Also, don’t neglect your other assets, such as logos, image files, and templates, that people might need to access when referencing those guidelines.
Our suggestion? Set up a Space in Wrike where you can easily drop and organize your guidelines and all of those other supporting files.
4. Create various templates.
We just mentioned templates in the above tip, and they’re a great way to ensure your brand guidelines are being followed on a repeated basis. Yes, it will involve a little upfront work from you, but it will make things so much easier in the long run.
Create simple templates for resources that are commonly created across your organization — things like PDF sheets, slide decks, social media posts, and more. By doing this, you’re giving people more than just branding inspiration. You’re actually offering them the skeleton of what they need to create.
Of course, those templates can be customized by different employees for their specific needs. However, the important elements like colors, fonts, spacing, and more will be pre-set — meaning people don’t even need to worry about them the way they would if they were starting completely from scratch.
Just remember that you’ll need to update these templates if and when any of your guidelines change (more on that in a moment!).
5. Provide a friendly nudge.
Here’s a question: When’s the last time you looked at your employee handbook?
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You probably haven’t so much as glanced at it since your first week on the job.
Well, most people probably think of your branding guidelines in the same way. They take a quick skim through them once out of a sense of obligation, and then promptly forget about them in favor of more pressing things.
It’s your job to keep those guidelines top of mind for everyone. So, whenever you see something being used incorrectly or know that the end of the quarter is coming up and the sales team will be pulling together a lot of sales sheets and other assets, drop in with a friendly reminder.
This can be as simple as a polite message in your company Slack channel or a brief email with a link to your guidelines. Here’s what this could look like:
I know many of you are hustling to create slide decks, sales sheets, reports, and other assets for your own department. So I wanted to stop by with a friendly reminder to reference and abide by our branding guidelines, which you can quickly access [right here](link to guidelines).
Following these rules (it’s easy. I promise!) ensures that we’re presenting our brand in the best possible way.
If you have any questions about the guidelines, please reach out to me or someone else on the marketing team. We’re more than happy to help!
Easy enough, right? Basically, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can share the guidelines once and watch as everything falls into place. It’s going to require some pretty consistent reminders on your part.
6. Announce when updates are made.
Your branding guidelines aren’t set in stone, which means you’re bound to make some changes every now and then.
Whether it’s something small like a tweak to your logo placement or something major like an entire rebrand, don’t assume that people are keeping a watchful eye on your guidelines and will see those updates on their own.
You need to proactively announce when changes are made by sharing what changed and why. Again, this can be done in a quick email or instant message that looks something like this:
I wanted to let you know that we’ve made a couple of updates to the [branding guidelines](link to branding guidelines) to reflect our new company color palette.
For reference, the changes are on page 8 and are highlighted in yellow so you can easily spot them. All templates and supporting resources have been updated as well.
See that line about how the templates have also been changed to reflect those updates? That’s important! Make sure you include those as part of the process so that everything stored with your branding guidelines is current.
7. Set up a review and approval process.
One surefire way to make sure that everything that leaves your company adheres to your branding guidelines? Require that you put your stamp of approval on it before it heads out the door.
Create an approval workflow (you can easily set this up in Wrike!) that requires that your department signs off any assets like slide decks, flyers, letterhead, and more before they’re marked as finalized and ready to go.
Sound like a lot of extra work on your plate? Rest assured that this doesn’t need to be anything overly complex. Even just a simple glance can help you catch any glaring issues that might undermine your brand identity.
Make this even easier by using Wrike Proof, which centralizes your comments, allows you to leave visual feedback (even on images!), and helps shorten and streamline the entire process.
Your branding guidelines aren’t suggestions — they’re rules
Designing a brand is hard work, and when people within your company don’t represent it the right way, it’s more than enough to haunt your dreams.
The good news is there are several strategies you can rely on to encourage people to follow the rules and present your brand identity the way it was originally intended. To recap, these tactics include:
- Providing the necessary context
- Skipping the jargon and using layman’s terms
- Keeping your branding guidelines readily accessible
- Creating templates that people can use
- Providing friendly nudges and reminders that your guidelines exist
- Announcing when updates or changes are made
- Setting up a review and approval process
Do those things, and you can rest easy knowing that your brand is being presented in a cohesive and positive way. Goodbye, pixelated logos and wonky fonts, and hello brand consistency.
Need a centralized and accessible place to keep your branding guidelines and supporting assets? Start your free trial of Wrike today.