Feeling the pressure to do ALL.THE.THINGS when it comes to marketing your business? Yeah, I thought so because I’ve been there too. I’m a corporate marketer-turned entrepreneur, and I’ve spent over a decade creating and executing marketing strategies for businesses big and small.
The good news is that creating systems will help you get more done in less time. By spending less time on each detail, you’ll be amazed at how fast you can rock more out!
Today I want to share with you a system I’ve used that works for businesses of any size for managing brand identity. This system, often referred to as a brand guide, puts producing creative assets on autopilot and is sure to help increase your ability to get things done.
Not only will these tips save you time and allow you to focus your brain power on what you’re creating, but it will create expert-level consistency. You’ll train your audience on how to read your content. And, more importantly, how to take action.
Alright, let’s talk action. I want you to read through this overview and get an understanding of the overall elements of a brand guide. And to keep it simple, as I don’t want to overwhelm you, these tips focus on design production elements. I’m not going to get into brand voice and any copy writing elements today. My goal today is to help you put a system in place that helps you speed through the content production or design process faster.
I’ll admit, it was many years into my marketing career before I put this type of system in place. And once I did, it was a game changer. It was unbelievable how helpful it was to write these things down. It made it easier to keep a team all on the same page, and it definitely made it easier when outsourcing any design work.
Because I really want you to have this same level of ease in your business, I’ve put together a workbook to help you really put these tips into action for yourself. So read this, and then go grab my free brand guide workbook www.kristin-miller.com/branding. This workbook will go into more detail on each tip and walk you through exactly what to do, including worksheets. Because I love a good worksheet.
Tip #1: Stop thinking about what colors to use where.
We all spend time thinking about our color schemes for our brand. From our logo, to our website, to our social channels, we agonize over what the perfect color combination might be. Then, with every post, content upgrade and email we think about it again. And again. And again.
Stop wasting your brain power and energy thinking about what color to use where, and get right to creating. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to use whatever default color pops up or random color selection. Color selection is important. Very important. Which is why it should be done intentionally, and not just what you’re feeling in the moment.
Dedicate some time to making decisions on how to use each color in your brand, and use your decisions every time. I like to think of it as a “set it and forget it” strategy. It doesn’t have to one-color-all-the-time kind of boring. Just a consistent and deliberate use of color all the time.
Remember, the workbook will walk you through all the steps so be sure to grab that.
Tip #2: Forget about fonts and styles.
Just like colors, we spend time thinking about what fonts we love. If you’ve ever spent so much time scrolling through sans serifs that words no longer look like words, you know what I mean. (If there’s a support group for recovering font addicts, please send it my way!)
I like to determine both the font and the styling for a header, sub-header, and paragraph copy. Be sure to make note on not just the font to use for each, but other stylistic details such as: use of all caps for headers, where you use bold and italics styles, and (of course) which colors are appropriate for each.
Dedicate some time to make intentional font and styling selections, and you’ll be ready to run when you’re making your next piece of content. Don’t worry – fonts tend to be easier to work through than colors.
I always approach projects that feel big like this by tackling the biggest things first. It always seems easier when I have the most motivation. Then, I can cross it off my list and everything else feels so much easier. I’ve taken that approach and put these in a specific order. So, rest assured, friends that it only gets easier from here out for these tips!
Alright, let’s keep moving through our list.
Tip #3: Give your logo room to breathe.
Ensure your logo always stands out by giving it a little breathing room, otherwise known as white space. White space is that empty space that allows your eyes to focus on the content and often I find it so much easier to read when there’s more white space.
In the design space it’s often referred to as “padding” and big name brands always have a rule for how much space has to go around the logo. If you don’t remember to add padding around your logo every time you use it simply add some white space around it in your logo file. You’ll be amazed at what a big difference a little white space can make!
Tip #4: Style your graphics.
Have you ever seen a brand that use a photo of a person one minute and a cartoon graphic the next? Feels a little inconsistent, doesn’t it?
On the flip-side, have you ever seen a photo or graphic and realized you knew what brand it was before they told you? We’re aiming for brand consistency that gives you that level of immediate brand recognition.
Be sure to be mindful in your graphic selection by creating some boundaries for yourself. This will help you choose the right images faster and up-level your brand consistency.
This applies to all graphics. Don’t forget to check and set a strategy for any iconography and patterns too!
Tip #5: Template, template, template!
For content that you’re creating on a consistent basis, like social media posts and downloadable content, give your brain a break by creating some templates. If you already have a library of images, start with your most popular and pick 3-5 for templates. By using color and images to differentiate them, you can create consistency without rethinking the image every.single.time.
I use Canva, a freemium resource, for all of my graphics and love their ability to not only select predesign templates I can edit, but how easy it is to save my brand colors, fonts and logos in one place. Saving my brand elements in Canva makes it super simple to transform their templates into my own.
In Canva, I’ve got a project for each of the type of graphics I create on a regular basis, like social posts and website graphics. That way when I go to create my Instagram graphics, I can open my Instagram project and all four templates that I use are right there.
I love Canva and have the Pro version. It’s so cheap for a year’s access and unlocks so many useful features, like the ability to put photos into folders, automatically resize graphics, and more free photos, templates and elements.
Tip #6: Guide yourself.
Don’t keep track of this in your head! Be sure to get it on paper (or your hard drive). Not only will it help you stay on top of the choices you made in your brand, it will make it easier to share your branding with designers, virtual assistants, or anyone else who may be touching elements of your business.
It doesn’t matter how you layout your guide, as long as you are tracking what you’re using in your brand. Track your choices in whatever way makes sense to you. We all think about things differently, and it’s not worth your time to create a fancy brand guide. Stay focused on the content of what you’re trying to capture in this process, and don’t worry about formatting. This isn’t a document you publish on your website so it doesn’t need to be perfect – just useful.
Alright, that’s my best tips on making it super easy to develop branded pieces that are consistent. Remember that if you need help putting these tips into action – I’ve got you. Grab the workbook and dig in. You’re not in this alone. I’m here to help guide you along the way.