Without a powerful set of brand guidelines, creative direction and messaging can be left up to the interpretation of anyone who has their hands in your company – vendors, interns, wholesalers, agencies, the list goes on, putting your marketing dollars at risk.Has this ever happened to you? You create a stunning website and write some crazy good content. Everything is on point from your logo, your fonts, colors, and ideas. You feel a little chuffed with yourself, cause who wouldn't want to engage with your brand? It just looks so damn good! So you decide to create a few Facebook ads to gain more traction. You add a picture of your product, add some sales copy, then hit publish. You're super stoked because these ads will bring you the traffic you've been waiting for! What happens? Crickets. Snores. Silence. You're frustrated because you might as well have set your marketing dollars on fire. You think to yourself, "Marketing is a waste."We know losing money doesn't feel good. You need to pinch all your pennies and spend smart to ensure your business scales. And if you've already lost tons of money in failed marketing efforts, then why bother with more? Too often we hear horror stories of people draining marketing budgets to see no return. The experience is traumatizing! After helping many brands get back on a path towards marketing ROI, we've noticed this: Brands without a clear set of brand guidelines — and we don't mean only colors, fonts, or logos — don't have a clear message or voice. As a result, they miss their target market and lose money, momentum, and ROI. Everybody deserves their message to be heard. So we're going to show you our tried-and-true process for nailing brand guidelines, so your marketing dollars never go to waste.
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines are the "rules" of your brand. Though colors, fonts, and imagery are important, brand guidelines are much more than visual aesthetics. They also define your brand's:
- Voice & Tone
Brand guidelines ensure consistency while guiding creativity across your platforms. Thorough brand guidelines help you land your message. That way people connect, click, and convert — all the things you dream of happening. Related: How Branding Works
The BrandBeat Process: How Flow Creates Brand Guidelines
Flow's signature branding process, BrandBeat, is a five-part process that dives into depths of the brand's identity. The process is collaborative, so we act as your brand coach to teach you everything you need to know.
Step 1: Goals and Core Values
The foundation of BrandBeat is getting clear on your brand's ethos and direction. We outline your 10-year goals first, then work backwards to pinpoint one and three-year goals that create real traction.During this phase, we also assess your brand’s current core values or create a set if you don't have some.Core values are essential because they're the foundation, the framework that supports every facet of your company. Marketing, employee performance, hiring and firing, client acquisition, you name it – they’re central to your brand identity.From your customer's perspective, core values establish trust. When they know their core values align with yours, then they feel profound brand loyalty.
Step 2: Customer Personas
After we lay the foundation with values, we move onto your current and target markets. We help you define who is currently buying and who you want to buy. In this section, we use the 80/20 principle to develop customer personas that help you understand who makes up your customer base in volume and who makes up your customer base in influence.When outlining customer personas, we’re using real data to create customer profile summaries that help us understand the behavioral patterns of each group and narrow down our marketing and product development efforts.Get the nitty-gritty on how to create your customer personas, then let’s move on.
Step 3: Muse Creation
Your “muse” is your brand’s creative north star and point of inspiration. But let's be clear — your muse is not your target market. Read that twice. If you're going, "Huh?" hear us out. Your muse is fictional. It allows your brand to think outside the constraints of reality to innovate. Your customers aspire to be like your muse. Thus, your muse inspires your brand.When you come to the point of, "What's next?" your muse will push your boundaries to keep creating for your customers. Of course you want to solve your customer's needs, but sometimes they don't know what they need. Your fictional character allows you to think outside of the box and develop the next best thing. When we help clients create their muse, it's an in-depth questioning process. We delve into the muse’s upbringing, job, social behavior, skills, and personality. We define every detail of your muse so you can walk away with an entire biography to guide you.
Step 4: StoryFlow
The entire process builds up to this moment — the StoryFlow.StoryFlow is the process of clarifying your brand's message. We reframe the marketing paradigm to shift the focus from your brand to your customer.Look at it like this: You're out on a date, and your date is rambling on about themselves, not taking a single interest in you. You wish you stayed home to cuddle your pillows and watch Netflix alone. We all know ignoring your hot date is a surefire way to never go on another. Yet this is the exact mistake many brands make! Serious problems happen when companies position themselves as the hero in the story, always discussing their brand's narrative and hard selling in every piece of content. No wonder their audience's eyes glaze over. The StoryFlow process changes all that. StoryFlow helps you map your customer journey with your brand. This does two things:
- Defines their problems and what they need
- Positions yourself as the guide with a plan
In the end, you showcase how you'll help your customers win the day — without talking about yourself. At the end of the exercise, you have a brand script that will direct all your marketing copy to face your consumer. When you start talking to your customers, not at them, what do you think happens?Conversion. Without the marketing waste.
Step 5: Make It Contagious
The last portion of BrandBeat is all about getting clarity on what makes your brand memorable. We use Jonah Berger's Contagious: Why Things Catch On to put everything together in strategies to help you gain popularity: Social CurrencyHone in on how you'll make people look and feel when they talk about your brand. Will you make them look cool? In the know? Cutting edge? Together we'll define the status you give your consumers. TriggersFigure out how to trigger people to think of your brand through things they encounter everyday. For example, when people see white headphones, they think of Apple. Triggers help keep your brand top of mind (whether consciously or subconsciously, and both are valuable).EmotionBelieve it or not, emotional extremes play a significant role within your brand's messaging. Does your product or service inspire awe or make people extremely happy? We'll tap into whether it's excitement, or humor (and sometimes even anger) that makes your content tick with your readers. PublicDetermine how you will make the private into public. The ALS ice bucket challenge is a great example. The organization took donating to charity (something private) and made it viral. Lululemon shopping bags are another example.Practical ValueThis one’s easy - what practical value does your brand offer? Does it save time or money? Make your customer’s life easier or better? Geico is the master of practical value offering, marketing on one sole principle – to save you money.StoriesEvery brand and entrepreneur has a few epic stories in their back pocket. Sharing your epic story with your following connects your audience to your brand in a whole new way. Like when our CEO, Andy Seth, dropped an album. These stories drive conversation and shares.
The Big Takeaway
After the BrandBeat process (which usually takes between 5-8 weeks), you'll come out with an extensive set of brand guidelines. It'll describe your company’s heart, its creative direction, stories, and strategies to help you go big. You'll have a crystalized path towards:
- Who you'll speak to
- What you'll say
- How you'll say it
- How you'll present yourself
Once you have your guidelines in hand, you can start marketing with confidence. You'll concentrate your budget like a laser instead of blowing it out like a confetti cannon, hoping to hit the mark. You'll save tons of money to spend on important things like scaling and leading your industry. Look, we know you're smart and savvy. If you're thinking to yourself, "I can crush this on my own," then more power to you! But we'll say from experience — there's nothing like having an expert on your team, working with you to create a brand like nothing else out there. If you feel like you'd benefit from an experienced guide, then look no further and schedule a consult. We'll 100% guaranteed nail down your brand guidelines so you can put your brand on a measurable path to ROI with confidence.
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