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Small Business, Big Impact: How A Brand Book Can Elevate Your Local Business

A brand book or style guide is a living document that contains all of the rules, standards, and resources teams need to bring a brand to life. It helps to create a consistent brand image from the ground up.


What does that mean exactly?


A brand book or style guide is a comprehensive, living document that contains the brand's visual and written identity. It's a branding blueprint that ensures recognizability and consistency across all possible platforms and mediums on which your brand has a presence.


In simple terms, it's a reference rulebook that provides clear instructions on how to represent your brand. It includes everything from your brand's mission, values, vision, and unique value proposition to visual standards such as logos (primary, secondary, submarks, etc), colour palette, typography, imagery, and voice and tone.



Visual style guide from Chobani containing brand colours, logos, and fonts
Visual Style Guide from Chobani


Style guides and brand guidelines aren't the same thing, but they can be in the same document.


Though these two terms are often used interchangeably, they do refer to different parts of your marketing brand book.


Your brand guidelines contain your brand personality, tone of voice, principles, and messaging (including mission, values, and UVP). They communicate who the brand is at its core.


Your style guide is for creatives, including web developers, marketers, and influencers. It has all the rules they need to understand to make style choices. This means what colour palette to use on social media, which fonts to use in magazine adverts, and what kind of language is ok to use in a TikTok.


For smaller brands or local businesses, these two things are functionally the same and can easily be included in the same document.


That sounds like a lot of work. Why is it so important?


A brand book takes all of the information you have in your head as a business owner and turns it into an actionable tool with concrete guidelines. If and when you work with creatives, it will make it so much easier for them to do the job you hired them for, even if they've never heard of your brand before. Rather than having to answer an extensive list of questions about your branding, you can send them this instruction manual.


Let's say you hire a web developer and a social media manager to enhance your digital presence. Because you've sent them the same guide, what they produce will be automatically aligned with your brand vision. It'll be cohesive.


You've heard it over and over again: consistency is key. The more consistent your brand is, the easier it will be to recognize, which is a huge contributor to long-term success.


In a local market, trust is the currency of success. A well-defined brand, as outlined in your brand book, builds a bridge of trust between your business and the community. It becomes the visual and emotional anchor that customers remember when they need a product or service you offer. Consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds trust.


For small businesses, time and resources are often limited. A brand book streamlines your marketing efforts by providing a clear roadmap. With predefined colours, fonts, and messaging guidelines, creating marketing materials becomes more efficient. This not only saves time but also ensures a cohesive and professional look across all channels and gives you the tools to set yourself apart in the minds of your audience.


Visual identity for Doc Martens

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make one:


Step #1: Touch base with your team

This might be a group of individuals, or it might just be you wearing many different hats. Either way, you'll want:


  • An executive, CEO, or owner who understands the company's mission and goals and who can ensure they are correctly communicated.

  • Marketing personnel who know the ins and outs of your existing branding (including what goes into newsletters, how the brand partners with influencers, social media standards, etc)

  • A graphic designer who understands asset creation, such as web layouts and logo design

  • A sales team member who can represent your customer's perspective

  • A legal representative who can answer any questions about copyright and trademarks.


Step #2: Document the rules

Have an in-depth talk with your team or a major brainstorming session with yourself, and write down the instructions and rules that would help an outsider authentically represent your brand.


For example, your graphic designer might help you outline rules for how to use colours, logos, and fonts. They'll keep in mind things like what brand colour pairings have enough contrast to be used as text/background pairings. Your marketing team can explain how to communicate in your brand voice, including word choice, emojis, tone, and rules for punctuation. Your sales team can make it clear how to talk about products. They know how to position the benefits of your product or service so that customers will care about the features.


Step #3: Putting your style guide together

If you want to invest in your style guide, a platform like Frontify can be a great idea. If you're not there yet, Canva is a great option. You'll be able to manage it as a living document and have the capability of downloading it as a PDF or providing a link when it needs to be shared.


Step #4: Expanding your resources

It's almost a guarantee that when you spend so much time thinking about your branding and how to represent your company, you'll realize your brand book is missing something. This is a great opportunity to fill in those blanks and really flesh it out.


Step #5: Updates and maintenance

This is a living document! Don't hesitate to update it as needed. If you're adding a seasonal colour palette, add it to the brand book. The contents of your book will evolve with your brand. If you're strategic and intentional, it can be a valuable resource.



Product colours for Jones Soda
Jones Soda product colours


What should go in your brand book?

The goal of your brand book is to document every element of your brand, including basic assets like logos and visual guides like mood boards, right on down to communication standards. This is a general make up of what your brand book should include.


Table of Contents:

This should be a well-organized directory of your brand book, including sections and page numbers. It may seem unnecessary at first if your brand book is only three or four pages, but as your brand grows, so will your need for a table of contents.


Brand Overview

This should contain your brand story, mission and values. It should be a comprehensive overview of who your brand is, what it's about, its goals, and its why.


Brand Story

Your brand story is a summary of your company's history, mission, purpose, and values, with a narrative structure that brings it to life and engages the reader. If you've never written it down before, start off by telling your story like you're telling it to a friend and refine it from there. Storytelling is huge when it comes to branding, so don't be afraid of sharing your emotional tie to your business.


Mission Statement

This is an action-oriented statement declaring your organization's purpose. It is the compass of your brand style guide and ensures that your content is working toward the same goal and connecting with your audience. It can guide your blog and paid content, ad copy, visual media, and slogan.


You might not have one yet, and that's ok. Developing your brand book can be a great opportunity to seek clarity and really hone down on your purpose. Ask yourself why you started your business. What impact do you want to have on your customers? On your community? On the world?





Brand Values

Brand values are the fundamental beliefs that the company is structured around. It's what the leadership and team stand for in their operations, community, and industry, and express the meaning you want your brand's work to have in the world. An example could be diversity, sustainability, passion, and trust.


Brand Voice of Urban Outfitters

Brand Values from Asana










Brand Voice and Tone

The importance of developing and clearly communicating your brand voice can't be overstated! Whether you want your company's personality to be friendly and casual or sophisticated and formal, you want to make it as clear and easy as possible for content creators, marketers, salespeople, and web designers to know how to represent your brand. Include keywords and examples - both of what to do and what not to do.


As your brand grows, you may want to flesh this area out into an editorial style guide that demonstrates how to phrase specific products, lists topics the brand can and cannot write about, and other brands and companies it is and is not ok to mention. You can also include guides for social media and blog content, email marketing, video scripts, website/landing page copy, learning resources, and even PR talking points.


Slogans and Taglines

Detail your slogan and tagline. Slogans are advertising-focused, and taglines are public relations-focused - meaning slogans are used to sell a product or service, and taglines raise awareness about the overall brand. Be clear about which is which and in what context they should be used.


Buyer Overview

This section should have an explanation of your target demographics, as well as a buyer persona. This will help you to keep your ideal audience at the top of your mind, and if you're giving your brand book to a marketing professional, it will help them immensely.


Target Demographics - Generally broken down into Demographic, Psychographic, Geographic, and Behavioural, target demographics represent the measurable characteristics of a group of people or population. Some of these are gender, age, income level, race, education level, religion, marital status, and geographic location. Consumers with the same demographics tend to value the same products and services, which is why narrowing down the segments is one of the most important factors in determining target markets.


Buyer Persona - is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It includes details on your customer's job title, age, gender, and professional challenges and informs who your brand is creating content for. Your blogs, ad copy, and social media presence should attract this person, so flesh this persona out as much as possible. How does she spend her downtime? How busy is he on weekends? What hobbies do they have? What other brands do they like?


Visual Identity and Guidelines

This section should cover the ins and outs of your brand's visual identity, from logos to colour palettes, and how to use them.


Colour Palette

The colour palette is the most distinctive and recognizable part of your company's branding guidelines. This is the group of colours your company uses to design its brand assets. It guides every single piece of visual content you create, including your logo, web design, social media, event collateral, printed ads, and social media presence.


Your brand colour palette should include your primary colours, as well as a wide variety of secondary, tertiary, and neutral colours. This allows for more dynamic design decisions when it comes to content creation while still retaining a cohesive brand identity. Include colour swatches as well as HEX and RGB colour codes.


Dribble brand colours
Dribble brand colours

Logos and Logo Guide

Your logos might seem like the most obvious thing to include, but it's actually a complex and important piece. In your guide, you should include the visuals of your logo(s), explain the design details, and detail how they can be used. For example, you would want to explain where to use your full logo and where to use your submark. Including a link to logo downloads is also a great idea.



Scrimshaw Coffee Logos

Imagery and Iconography Guide

This is optional but consider including approved imagery, pre-designed icons, and symbols in your brand book. Do you use icons on your website? Add examples of icons with preferred line weights and colours. Do you have a preferred photography style? Add examples of brand photography or photos pulled from a stock website such as Unsplash.


Mood boards

Add mood boards to your brand book! This type of collaging style can help to demonstrate your brand's vibe really clearly. As much as written guidelines can provide clarity, visuals also pack a punch. Language like "Bright and fun" can mean different things to different people, as can "Classy and sophisticated." By providing a mood board, you'll make your meaning 100% clear.



Doc Marten's mood board


Typography Guide

Typography is a visual element of your brand book that goes beyond the font you used in your company logo. It supports your brand design in every possible way. We recommend using a primary and secondary font, with a mix of serifs and font weights for different uses. Typography plays a major role in creating your brand's vibe, as well as the user experience on your website. Make sure your typography is visually appealing and easy to read.



Typography guide for Virgin America

Templates and Examples

Including a section that has links to various templates and/or visual examples of brand collaterals is always a fantastic idea. Templates can include things like social media graphics, newsletter formats, and blog posts. Make sure to detail how you want each template used and how much wiggle room the person using it has to make changes.


If you don't have templates or don't want to use them, don't hesitate to include visual examples of posts, newsletters, and blogs instead of or in addition to them.


Closing Notes

Some of these things may not apply to your business right now, and that's ok. Your brand book is meant to be a living document that grows with your brand. It should be what you need it it be. Even if you're a small business, it can be helpful to create one, even if only to clarify your mission and standards for yourself. Begin with the basics—define your mission, vision, and core values. Identify key visual elements and messaging pillars. As your business evolves, so can your brand book.


As you scale and your business grows, having this piece in position can help to keep you on track and focused - and when you're ready to start working with web designers or social media marketers, it'll be really nice to have a single document to send them when they ask for your branding instead of having to assemble something on the fly.


In the world of local business, where every customer interaction matters, a brand book isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. It's the secret weapon that transforms small businesses into lasting, impactful local brands. Craft your story, define your identity, and watch as your small business leaves a big impression on the local stage.


PS.

If creating a brand book sounds intimidating or overwhelming, or you just don't want to have to spend the time putting it together yourself, let us help! Get in contact here and let us know you're looking for a Brand Book Brainstorm.



Visual brand identity for Airbnb








































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