5 Things to Include in Your Small Business’s Branding Guide

The Branding Guide How-To by the Experts of Digital Marketing Pittsburgh

June 26, 2019

Picture this. You’re in a grocery store shopping for a box of pasta. On the shelf are two boxes of penne that cost the same amount, appear to be of the same quality, and include all of the same nutritional components. These two boxes of pasta are effectively the same, yet you choose one box over the other.

If you think about it, the reasons we make an initial purchase - especially in a situation like this - are extremely arbitrary. The masterminds behind sales and merchandising know this, which is why they work hard to develop strong, consistent branding that not only leads to an initial sale, but taps into the aspects of our brains that develop brand loyalty.

As a small business, creating your branding can feel like a mountain to climb, especially when you’re just figuring out who you are as a business. That’s why the experts of digital marketing Pittsburgh have created a guide to building your small business’s brand guide. Here we’ll break down:

  • Why a brand guide is so important
  • What you need to consider before making a brand guide
  • What to include in your brand guide

Why Does Your Business Need a Brand Guide?

Building an identity is your first step to growth

Brandless
Image Source: WWD

No matter how big or small you are, your business needs to take the time to focus on and define your branding strategy. Branding is the reason we are able to recognize some of the most iconic brands in the world from simple visual or written clues. Need the proof, see if you can name these brands based solely off the branding of their logo.

This recognizability allows customers to bond with the brand and develop loyalty. Humans are creatures of habit and efficiency, which encourages us to use mental shortcuts in everyday life to fulfill tasks. If we already know and recognize a brand, we’re more likely to continue purchasing from that brand -- which is exactly why top brands can drive a higher price for the same quality of a product as an underdog.

Yes -- there are companies that are trying to break through this cycle. Brandless, for example, sells grocery items with no brand label at what they claim to be lower prices. But, as seen above, the company ‘Brandless’ still has some level of consistent branding across its products, inspiring consistent purchasing from their audience of people who think they’ve cracked the code to being a slave to corporate entities. But we digress.

Things to Consider Before Building Your Brand Guide

Ideas to keep in mind from the experts of digital marketing Pittsburgh

Planning your brand guide men laptops whiteboard meeting

The thing about branding is that it cannot be done off of blind decision-making. You don’t need a masters degree in marketing to make thought-out, intentional decisions with your branding, but it certainly helps to plan your branding with some degree of existing knowledge about your company, objectives, and competitors. Here are the four things to keep in mind before kicking off your branding strategy:

  • Consider your audience. Your branding should appeal to the people most likely to use your services or buy your products. For example, if your company makes spikey leather jackets for biker gangs, your logo probably shouldn’t be bright pink. 
  • Define a realistic working budget. As yourself what your budget is for creating, implementing, and maintaining your marketing efforts after building your brand guide. Low budget marketing can be super effective with excellent branding, but keeping realistic goals in mind before going crazy with development. If you don’t think your business can afford its online strategy, get in touch with Responsival: the experts of digital marketing Pittsburgh who work hard within the confines of your budget.
  • Think about your marketing mediums. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” Consider the placement of your branding - online, on packaging, or in print - to decide what branding projects need to be tackled first.
  • Check out your competitors. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Decide what you like, what you don’t, and how you can make your branding stronger.

Five Things to Include in Your Small Business’s Branding Guide

Men planning laptop

Brand Statement

The point of creating a brand statement is to make a bold, confident statement about who you are as a brand. You may already have an idea of this in your head, but it’s extremely important to get this down on paper. Your brand statement not only guides your own thoughts while functioning but sets the tone for the way others interact with and understand your brand. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep your brand statement in mind during the design process to ensure internal consistency in your visual messaging.

Your brand statement should answer the following questions quickly and clearly:

  • Who do you serve?
  • What do you provide?
  • What makes you different?
  • Why do you care?

Another good way to think of your brand statement is like a value proposition. What sets your business apart? What do you want people to understand about your brand? For us, it goes a little like this:

Responsival is a digital marketing agency for small businesses and startups in Pittsburgh that creates and executes custom digital marketing strategies to help small businesses grow.

Logo

Surf Coffee Logo

Even if you’re not Starbucks, Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s, it’s vital to have a logo as iconic as the unique products or services you offer. When designing a logo, you have a variety of options. While there are pros and cons to each type of logo, one of the most important aspects of designing your logo is building something you love and that you feel represents your brand well.

If you want help with a logo design that feels authentic to your brand and its objectives, get in touch with Responsival. Our team of expert designers will work with you to mock out stellar designs that you’re sure to love.

Colors

coolrs color palette

After your logo design is complete, it’s time to brand your digital and print materials. One of the first things you want to decide is the color scheme you want to stick with. In the majority of cases, you’ll want to stick with complementary colors to your logo itself. 

A general rule of thumb is that you want to choose 1 primary color, 2 complementary colors, and two neutral colors. These will be the colors that carry through your materials and online presence. Of course, you can add some fun colors in and mix it up for special campaigns, but these will be a great starting point for making some really sharp marketing materials. Need some inspiration? Check out this awesome site for testing out color schemes.

Fonts

Fonts
Image Source: creativemarket

We cannot stress how important it is to stay consistent with your fonts. Though seemingly insignificant, the human brain recognizes fonts and can relate them to a specific brand -- and we do it all the time!

Much like before, you want to be sure that you’re choosing fonts that appeal to your audience and reflect your services well. Pro Tip: don’t feel like you need to overdo it. Clean, classic fonts are often the best for a variety of marketing materials.

Templates 

Templates planning

The final thing to include in your branding guide is the templates you’ll need to get started! These templates should include but are not limited to the following:

  • Business cards
  • Letterheads
  • Email signatures
  • Website wireframes
  • Press Statements
  • Social media headers
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Newsletters (print and email)
  • Mailers

If you are looking for help for kicking off your company’s branding strategy or with any aspect of your digital marketing strategy, get in touch with Responsival. We work with clients of all sizes to create custom solutions for long-term growth.