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brand book and guidelines in branding: key differences and how to use them

Imagine that your company has opened a branch in another city. The marketer at the new location will need to order printed materials for office decoration, signage, launch an advertising campaign, prepare new employees by explaining the principles and values of the company. How do you avoid turning this process into a real test with endless approvals and clarifications?

To do this, we need a brand book and a guideline. However, they will be needed not only to open a new branch. As we know, a brand is a combination of a large number of elements: values, design, standards, images, words, processes. Sometimes in the process of developing a brand, we lose these values. To avoid this, we need guides that describe the created systems: a brand book and a guideline.

Where does the confusion come from?

Metaphorically speaking, a brand book is a big matryoshka doll, and a guideline is a smaller, but full-fledged, doll inside it. As a result, a guideline is part of a brand book.

A guideline is a document in which we describe only the stylistic components of the brand, that is, the graphic part and the design of carriers.

A brand book is a document that reflects the ideological and stylistic components of a brand: mission, values, Tone of Voice + guidelines, rules for using logos, photos, and brand techniques. The brand book can be called a kind of "passport" of the company.

So why are they confused? Both guideline and brand book are documents with a lot of text and graphics. Both are necessary for companies with branches or dealers.

When do you need a guideline?

Guidelines are a set of ready-made design solutions and will be useful to us:

  • - for unity in the design of carriers: often in the process of brand development, the design is distorted. Guidelines will help us systematize all aspects and check them against the rules.
  • - to hand over design work to outsourcing: sometimes one company creates the style, and other performers design the carriers. Here it is important for us to convey the rules of use to maintain the design.
  • - for standardizing the production of regular carriers: weekly reports, monthly publications, employee uniforms, and other carriers released periodically.

In short, guidelines will help your logo on the signboard of the main office in orange color not to differ from the logo of the branch in pumpkin color. Designers will choose identical shades, corporate fonts, and maintain a consistent style throughout the company—from carriers to advertising campaigns.

When do you need a brand book?

A guideline is a part of a brand book, which means that a brand book solves the same tasks as a guideline, but it also has its own separate functions. We use a brand book:

  • — when expanding the team is planned: to communicate the company's ideology to new employees and standardize processes
  • — when launching a franchise: the image of the entire franchise will depend on each partner, so a unified system for all participants is important
  • — when organizing order within the company from different departments: employees will know which values to adhere to in their work
  • — when launching image advertising campaigns with large budgets: the brand's unified message must be reflected in all materials.

In short, a brand book aligns all working processes in the company into one line.

What are the components of a brand book and guideline?

So, the big nesting doll or brand book consists of a marketing part and a guideline. The marketing part includes:


  • — product, UTP
  • — target audience,
  • — values
  • — mission
  • — reasons to believe (RTB)

Communication strategy:

  • — tone of voice
  • — brand's key message
  • — examples of communication in different channels (online, offline)

The third block, the brand identity, is the second nesting doll, the guideline. We include in it:

  • — logo
  • — corporate element
  • — photo style
  • — typography
  • — layout of corporate materials
  • — layout of advertising materials
  • — layout of web materials

Can a guideline exist without a brand book?

Often, when companies order a brand book, they actually only need a guideline. A guideline is a comprehensive informational product.

However, if your company has many employees, branches, and is actively developing, it is important that all elements of the company act in a coordinated manner. And then you cannot do without a brand book.

How to create an ideal brand book and guideline?

Never create both of these documents just for the sake of having them, like "everyone has it, so let's have it too." These are documents that your company and each employee should orient themselves to in their work.

For example, the brand book of Aeroflot pays special attention to the brand pyramid, with the emphasis not on "globality in transportation," but on the individuality of the person and the passenger. The values of the brand are described - reliability, safety, and efficiency.

The Bolshoi Theatre has a very wide range of needs, and the logo is used on a variety of media, from posters to wardrobe tags. The theatre's guideline presents adaptive versions of the logo for any medium.

You need to know exactly how and for what purpose each item in the brand book will be used, so that they are not written down aimlessly; on which media and formats the logo or corporate colors and fonts will be displayed, so that you know how it will look in reality.

In the end, both documents will help us systematize business processes. But the difference in scale: the brand book even orders the brand's thinking, and the guideline only shows how it looks. Not all brands always need both guidelines. Evaluate your company's internal needs and choose the document that is right for you.

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