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How To Follow A Brand Guide

Your institution has decided to rebrand. Yee Hawwww! You know what that means: new culture, new look and an all new mindset. Whether you have merged with another institution, or are just looking to give yourself a facelift, there are dozens of choices to make. You’ve likely spent hours researching firms and collecting RFPs (request for proposals) to help you through the arduous process of coming up with a new name, a new logo; ultimately, a new YOU! Not to mention the thousands of dollars invested into this project. While each of those steps in the process are vital to a successful rebrand, I’m not going to talk about the process of building the brand. Instead, I’m going to talk more about what happens after the process wraps up.

Virtually all reputable marketing firms will finish your branding project by presenting your organization with a “Brand Guide” to follow. You may ask yourself: “what do I do with this slickly designed (and slightly overwhelming) piece?” Well, first of all, it is recommended that you assign someone — or a team of someones — to fully understand what they are holding. Countless hours and dozens of conversations have gone into developing just the right message, visuals, brand voice and feel to help you reach your target audience. The guide is the culmination of all that work; don’t let it be for nought. The concept of a brand guide in and of itself though is quite simple. Brand guidelines are a set of rules that dictate how all elements of a brand should be applied. Designers will present you with a detailed outline of your brand’s preferred colors, fonts, logos, photo styles, layouts and so on, and how each are to be used. They will also provide several different electronic versions and file formats of your logo and any brand graphics used. A representative from the firm or agency that did your rebrand should work with you to explain the implementation and importance of adhering to each of these elements. Make sure you distribute copies of your guide internally with your institution. Also, provide a PDF version of your brand guide to any outside firm or vendor you choose to hire before they start work on a project and be sure that they have a clear understanding of the look and feel of the existing brand.

As designers and marketers, we understand that all of your collateral work may not come through our agency. Just sit back and think about the true scale of a rebrand. You’re potentially going to need large amounts of print work, branch merchandising, in-branch and out-of-home signage in addition to a strong online presence, just to name a few elements. It’s normal for you to use an assortment of different vendors to create all the items and complete all the tasks you have on your list. Some of the work may even be completed in house, and that’s okay! Sticking true to your brand guide and holding those who take part in creating your collateral accountable allows for any pieces created by vendors to look the same visually as well as have a cohesive message.

As a designer who has worked in the Credit Union industry for over 15 years, it blows my mind when I walk into my local credit union — which is quite large with multiple branches, might I add– and see a sea of car loan promotion posters plastered all over the branch using six different fonts, with starbursts and neon colors. The pieces are prominent but were clearly not well thought out and don’t represent the brand. Eeeeeek. This is a perfect example of why you need an in-house representative to oversee and train anyone who will be responsible for putting any messaging in front of your public.
A Brand Guide can be created even if you aren’t going through a rebrand. If you have a strong existing brand but worry that different teams or vendors are making their own special “tweaks” to fonts or colors, develop and distribute your guide to clearly and cohesively provide approved standards. Now as the name implies, these are just “guidelines” these are not immutable rules. Each designer will have his or her own interpretation of how to follow it and the guide will not have every conceivable layout. Also, when special promotions and campaigns need to be developed, keep in mind this is a tool. We don’t want this guide to stifle creativity, we just want the brand to be recognizable and consistent across all channels and mediums.
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Written By
Bryan Rimbey
Published
June 17, 2019
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