Entrepreneurs are infamous for being rule breakers. In fact, Yvon Chouinard the founder of Patagonia said, "If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent because they're saying 'this sucks I want to do it my own way.' That's what the entrepreneur does. They want to do it a better way. I love breaking the rules." By nature, I’m a rule breaker too. However, when it comes to brand representation I’m a stickler for the rules. A style guide is an essential document that lays out branding rules to keep your message and look consistent, leading to better brand awareness and higher engagement.
Let’s define growth as revenue, reach or employee hires. Think about it. As you’re starting out with 1 or 2 employees there is only slight variance in output by nature of your close proximity, but as you grow that control decreases. Suddenly, there are multiple perspectives, interpretations and communication styles. As your reach and those interactions multiply, so increases the space for error.
Most people would agree that in order to run a successful business the customer experience needs to be consistent. For example, if I hired someone to mow the lawn I’d expect that they’d show up at the agreed upon service date, in a branded truck, with a friendly employee and quality service. If at any point someone showed up on a day unplanned in an unbranded truck, I’m immediately off-put. Delivery of a product or services is about meeting and exceeding expectation. Adhering to a style guide is a direct reflection of your commitment to that consistent customer experience.
Think: Introduction to the world. Mission and vision statements, etc.
Think: Words we like and don’t like. What message are you sending with your words?
Think: Do’s and Don’ts. Sizing and spacing rules.
Think: Exact color specifications for print, digital, and color match.
Think: Alignment, spacing and use cases.
Think: Image tonality and future-proof decisions by referring back to a mood board.
While the list above simplifies branding substantially, documenting the “rules” to each of these bullet points fulfills the branding requirements necessary for most small to midsize businesses. When you’re in doubt, you’ll have your style guide as a point of reference. This branding foundation empowers decision-making and engagement, it doesn’t dampen it.