Creating a Brand Book: The Essential Elements


Published: April 12, 2021 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
Creating a Brand Book

Whether your business is a large, multi-national corporation or a small mom-n-pop shop, creating your brand is an integral part of a successful marketing strategy. A consistent, recognizable brand is the most important way you will stand out from competitors in the marketplace and build strong emotional bonds with your customers. 

What is a Brand Book?

A brand audit is an activity meant to solidify your company’s core values, voice, and overall look, including logo, colors, and other elements. For very small companies, compiling this information into a single document is sufficient for keeping everyone in the organization on the same page.

For bigger companies with a more complex branding strategy, a brand book serves as a comprehensive brand style guide. It can be used to inform and guide the marketing, branding, and communication efforts of your entire team.

Your Brand Book Should Include Your Company's Core Values, Voice, And Overall Look, Including Logo, Colors, And Other Elements.

One part of the book should be dedicated to defining your brand’s purpose and its value to current and potential customers. The second part should contain guidelines for visual and written content.

Part One: Your Brand’s Purpose & Value

This part of your brand book should serve to define and communicate your brand’s core purpose and values. Each of these components should be used to help employees, customers, and the public understand why they should align themselves with your brand.

Start With Your Brand’s Story

Your brand story will serve as a complete picture of who you are. It will explain why your company or products came to be, and what value people will find when working with your company.

Brand stories establish your company’s origin. They humanize the people behind the corporate veneer and build connections with people. They also stick: people will remember your story long after they’ve forgotten a compelling statistic or major award. People will identify with the solo entrepreneur who persisted until her business made it big.

The language of your brand story must be the language of your customers. It is not boardroom goals and “thinking outside the box,” and it’s not marketing objectives like “growing traffic.” Ideas like that are meaningless to regular people, and they have no place in your brand story.

To Build A Brand Book, You Must First Start With Your Brand's Story.

As you start putting your story together, continue to return to your customers throughout the process. With each point you bring up or anecdote you include, ask yourself what you think your clients would say about that bit. Make sure it’s interesting, relevant, and unique to your company to keep the reader interested.

More Ways to Define Your Brand’s Purpose

  1. Mission Statement:

    Some experts say that your mission statement should be one sentence, while others suggest a longer format to include more details. Each company should choose the size that best fits its goals with one thing in mind: the shorter, the better.

    Your mission statement should tell people what you do and how you do it. It should communicate who you are serving and what value you bring to your entire community of employees, customers, and neighbors. Everything else you define in your brand book must serve this mission.

  2. Core Values:

    Your clients want to know that they are doing business with a company aligned with their values. Your employees want more than just a paycheck; they want to feel like they are part of a larger organization that is making a difference. Defining your core values will build trust and establish genuine relationships with people, leading to a stronger company.

    Because your core values will inform decisions made throughout your organization, it is vital to get plenty of input while you’re defining them. Look to key stakeholders, top performers, and long-term clients to share what they think you stand for. Compare that list to what your company founders or leaders create and work from there.

    Common words that show up in a value statement include accountability, diversity, integrity, safety, and balance. However, only you can decide what is most important for your business.

  3. Brand Promise:

    You want customers to have an expectation of service from your company, and then you must deliver an experience that meets that expectation. If people have no assumptions or anticipations about your service, then they are not motivated enough to forge a real relationship with you. A brand promise defines for the customer what the expectation should be, and this will drive confidence in your brand.
  4. Tagline:

    Your tagline should be a simple statement that defines the emotional benefits of your brand. It tells the customer how they should feel about your brand and inspires support to help your customers feel more connected to your brand. Ideally, your tagline will be just a phrase or two that highlights your brand’s mission, vision, values, and promise.

Your Value Proposition

Where your brand promise is a single statement that sets expectations for clients, the value proposition is an expansion of this idea. It provides the additional details that people need when choosing where to spend their money. Your value proposition will show how your products and services solve the problems that your consumers are facing and give specific benefits that your customers will enjoy.

The Essential Elements To Create A Brand Book

When creating your value proposition, make sure you’re speaking directly to your target customer and keep these tips in mind:

  • Use Everyday Language.

    Marketers use words like synergy and collaboration, but most people do not in everyday conversation. Because this is something that people will read, keep the language simple and concise.
  • Be Specific.

    Outline key features that your customers will appreciate and specific benefits they should look forward to enjoying.
  • Be Emotional.

    Along with rational, specific benefits, dig into the emotional aspects of the solutions you provide.
  • No Slogans.

    Do not try to create short, catchy sentences and phrases—save that for a different phase of the brand book. Instead, focus on creating a complete narrative.
  • Use Visual Aids.

    People respond to visual elements, so show a video or an image to help make your point.

Differentiators are nothing but a fancy way to describe what sets you apart from the competition. Identifying your market strengths will help consumers choose you over everyone else without having to figure it out for themselves. The procedures you have in place to ensure that your team will meet and maintain these strengths help build confidence both internally and externally.

Here are some examples of market strengths that may apply to your business:

  • Better Products or Services.

    Do you set the industry standards for quality?
  • Efficiency.

    Can you deliver products or results faster and better than everyone else?
  • People.

    Are you known for having a service or sales team that makes real connections with customers?
  • Market Position.

    Are you #1 in your industry or in a sub-category of your industry?
  • Technology.

    Are you an innovator in your industry who is consistently at the forefront of technology?
  • Target Market.

    Do you specialize in a niche market that is typically underrepresented?
  • Brand Heritage.

    Have you been a member of the community for a recognizable amount of time?
  • Awards.

    What recognition has the industry or the community given to your company?
  • Methods.

    Do you prepare, sell, or deliver products and services in a way that is unique to your industry? For example, are you environmentally friendly, or do you cut out intermediaries to cut costs?

This list is not comprehensive. It only serves as an inspiration to get you thinking about all the different ways that you can stand out from the crowd. Having a plan in place to maintain these strengths is also an important differentiator.

Think about how you ensure--or would like to ensure--that these differences are met, and make sure they are included.

Defining these components will lead to a bit of overlap as each piece digs into who you are as a company and how you want to be perceived by others. However, the subtle differences between each element will push you to crystallize and solidify your branding, so the perceptions become unmistakable.

Part Two: Visual and Written Content Guidelines

Consistency is critical for successfully establishing your brand as it’s difficult for people to make connections with an idea that is continually changing. When considering the consistency of your communications, you’ll need to think about both the words and the visuals.

Written Elements

Creating consistency in writing can be challenging when shifting between different mediums such as blogs, social media, and advertisements. It becomes even more difficult when you have more than one person doing the creating. By defining these elements in your brand book, all the creators on your team will know what to work towards.

Written Elements Of A Brand Book
  • Tone of Voice.

    A consistent, recognizable voice will define you as a company and support your mission, core values, and promise. It will serve as a guideline of how your brand should speak through every form of communication. Your brand’s voice may be friendly, helpful, authoritative, casual, professional, informal, or anything in between. Think about your target audience and how your brand will best resonate with them.
  • Personality.

    What are the characteristics of your brand; what would it look like if it were summarized as a person? The brand personality is based on who you already are and who you want to become, and all content should reflect this personality.
  • Vocabulary.

    The words you choose will have a big impact on your readers’ perceptions. If you use a lot of jargon and lingo, you might alienate outsiders. On the other hand, you might also build credibility with those in the industry.

    If you are trying to communicate with a highly educated group, simplistic language might get boring. If you need to reach a broad swath of the population, fancy words and terminology will be a major turnoff. Know who you need to reach, and choose your words correctly.

  • Mood.

    While human moods change frequently, you want your brand’s mood to stay fairly consistent across your content. From quiet professionalism to deep contemplation to upbeat and cheery, a steady mood will help people feel like your content unites your brand.

Visual Elements

This section may be at the bottom of the list, but it’s probably what most people think of when they’re thinking of branding. What your brand looks like on packaging, social media profiles, advertising, and other materials will serve as a shortcut for your customers that points to all the rest of your branding. The visuals are the pictures that will represent a thousand words.

Visual Elements Of A Brand Book

The visual brand elements will contain things like your company logo and should define which variations of your logo are acceptable for use. For example, many companies have versions of their logo both with and without a tagline. Or, you may want one logo for use on a light background and one for dark backgrounds. Are there any rules or restrictions for your logo usage?

Then you’ll want to define everything else about the look of your brand. What are your brand’s colors and color combinations? What are the rules for typography and graphics? What are the standards for photography use?

It may seem tedious to list out each of these details. However, doing so will make it easier to create content for a variety of situations in the future. Plus, you’ll know that each piece is working hard to serve your branding goals.

A Systematic Approach

Working through each of these elements in your brand book provides an opportunity to both define and refine your brand. This systematic approach will result in a clear path for your entire organization to take when it’s time to represent your company both internally and publicly. That way, you can stand out as a great brand to your customers and a meaningful place to work for your team.

Categories: Branding
About the Author

Creative Director Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
We use cookies on our website to give you the best experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies. Learn more by viewing our Privacy Policy