October 14, 2016


FedEx is known for the “hidden arrow” in its logo. Starbucks has a whimsical long-haired mermaid, crowned with a star. But make no mistake: A brand isn’t just a logo. A brand is communication, design and identity wrapped into one perfectly sealed package.

In short, a brand is what your organization says and does, and how it stands out among competitors. When you use your brand consistently, over time your customers know what to expect from you. As a result, your credibility grows stronger.

Encouraging employees to use the same decree to guide communication, photography and design can be a struggle. This is where a brand guide holds all the power. The City of Fife, Tacoma Public Schools and Courage360 all got a taste for how a style guide can shape communications.

Here are four reasons why a brand guide is vital to implementing a successful brand:

  1. Find a common voice. 
    Key messages serve as a helpful framework to guide conversation. When you’re asked about your organization, knowing the framework that guides formal and informal communication is crucial. Sharing a common voice as a group creates cohesive communications (both visual and verbal), and leaves no questions about how you should represent your organization.

  2. Design in unison.
    Color palettes and fonts make a world of difference when you’re on a deadline trying to create a flier or PowerPoint presentation. A brand guide is a cheat sheet to all things visual. Providing your employees (and vendors) with this tool helps keep your overall look-and-feel consistent—after all, there is a huge difference between a neon blue poster and a turquoise one. Before Courage360 rebranded they were using multiple shades of green and purple and were lacking a brand font. Each color and font is now identified to keep design work on-brand. 

  3. Break in a new logo.
    New brands often mean new logos, or at least a redesign of the original one, like in the case of the City of Fife. Establishing rules for how to use a logo—no flipping it on its side, stretching it, changing the colors or adding additional words underneath it—means your brand stays recognizable across all platforms. Letterhead, business cards, stamps and social media logos should all be easily identifiable as one unified brand.

  4. Choose the right photographer. 
    Photographs capture attention and draw people in, but oftentimes organizations forget that their photographs represent their brand. Each photo should visually communicate the core values of your brand and portray your organization’s sense of style.If your website has light and airy candid shots, but your annual report has moody and high-contrast, staged photos, your brand looks inconsistent. Tacoma Public Schools needed images that reflected the rich diversity of their students, and captured candid color photos in and out of the classroom. Consider including in your brand guide your organization’s photo style, and a list of preferred photographers.

What useful tips does your organization include in its brand guide? Tweet us at @JayRayAdsPR.