Brand guidelines. I learnt most of the important stuff about Brand and Brand guideline development from my time at JCB, for me they remain a benchmark company; full of fresh ideas, demonstrating how magnetic an accurate brand driven organisation can be. When I was a graphic designer in the creative department, many moons ago, before I needed to address my ear hair on a monthly basis, I was an integral team member when they were creating, merging or introducing new services and products. I was “in the cutting room” for many of the decisions effecting the company globally. Many upper level executives perhaps didn’t have this privilege, so I paid attention.

With each new sub-brand, the most critical implementation component was the brand style guide. It’s a document that provides each and every employee and all service providers with the proper use of the brand’s logo, colour scheme, brand relationship and a key messaging communication benchmark. Without guidelines, your brand quickly appears unsure and incongruent in the marketplace. I’ve seen many companies waste vast amounts of marketing budget by not putting time into this very important asset. It is a staple business tool.

Brand guidelines

JCB was driven by its defined brand, integral guidelines and close agency relationship, a model very similar I feel to Volkwagen’s long term relationship with Doyle Dane Bernbach who revolutionised brand driven advertising in the 1960‘s; the teams being utterly committed to each other. Such was JCB’s alignment with their agency Brookes and Vernons, they purchased a substantial stake.

Brand proposition
Brand guidelines. Articulating your organisation is a key driver. Pinpointing your business proposition is the bedrock for developing effective brand communications, creative strategies and successful marketing campaigns.

Brand story
Brand guidelines. The best brand stories are irresistible, compelling and provocative. Story is how we connect with one another, it’s a hidden instinctive communication. Wonder why the emerging social networking sites are so popular? The answer is because people crave the emotional and powerful connection that comes through telling a story.

Brand essence
Brand guidelines. Your brand essence is a way of articulating the emotional connection and lasting impression – usually summed up with one simple statement or phrase – that defines the qualities, personality and uniqueness of a brand. Said another way, the brand essence characterises what a brand stands for. It embodies the brand’s core competencies, advantages, culture and values.

Brand values
Brand guidelines. Brand values are what you believe in and how you behave. In developing your true brand values you differentiate yourself from competitors in the minds of your clients and employees alike. Values set the tone for who and how you serve, why they choose you and why they retain you.

Brand identity
Logotype, byline and how your brand is visualised across core pieces of marketing collateral.

Onto the tactical brand elements which need to be created, drawn, driven and measured from the above but made reassuring, credible and reliable through consistency of application.

1. Colour Palette and Usage.
Your colours are a form of non-verbal communication with symbolism and meanings that go beyond ink and screen. You’ll want to include the colour definitions for each colour you choose: RGB, CMYK, Pantone and Hex. This allows you to have your materials look consistent no matter the medium.

2. Typography and Layout.
Typography can be a very powerful component, but again the basics are often overlooked. This is a compelling brand communication component if you invest in good structure and form. It might only be a price list but it can be interesting and exude brand personality. This may be represented in two ways – your logo and/or the text of your documents. If you choose a font which is not a common library item, you can’t control how that font will be displayed on the web (you can a little with good CSS templates and static graphics) but you can control how your font is displayed in most print and electronic documents. Having one consistent typographic treatment to your documents provides a cohesive experience.

There are few brands which you could take away all the other design components – being left just with typography – and still recognise who they are. In my view anything that enhances visual recognition for a brand is no bad thing.

3. Logo.
Most people think the logo is the brand, but it’s only one of the components. You need extensive usage guidelines for your logo, such as how it should be used in a joint venture or co-branded document or presentation, how it should be displayed when photos are used, how to adjust it with a coloured background, and the white space around it, to name a few. As your brand grows, the definitions become more and more important for communicating consistently.

JCB were involved in many great and interesting projects other than making diggers, including archeological digs to fashion events and charities; how the identity appeared and applied was always well considered. The JCB logo actually dates from 1953; from 1960 the company typewriters were given an extra key to render it accurately!

4. Unapproved Formats.
As important as it is to define how the logo should be used, this section is critical to outline how the logo should NOT be used. You may elect to put treatments such as drop shadows, rotations, scale and tracking in this section. The JCB logo is off-set at 18 degrees from the horizontal and 22 degrees from the vertical because that is the angle which Sir Anthony Bamford liked it.

5. Brand Review Process.
Make it easy for your staff to execute your brand by putting in place a process for all outgoing materials. Any use of your brand components needs to be reviewed and approved by yourself or a designated brand manager. Any requests for exceptions to the brand rules should be considered on a case by case basis by this person. As your brand grows, your guidelines will expand. Over time your guidelines may come to include signage usage, trademark and service mark details, tag line principles, PowerPoint usage and more. As you develop new materials over time, be sure to outline the process in your guidelines so that the next project runs smoothly, not having to reinvent the wheel every time.

6. Creative Direction.
Your agency should proactively be involved in the brand direction as part of your team, if not you perhaps have the wrong agency?

There has to a be an aspect of flexibility with room for fresh creativity in any guidelines. It’s a balancing act, I have seen guidelines that stifle and kill brand personality, being too policed and one dimensional, and I have also seen guidelines that are too ambiguous. There needs to a be human decision and a few break out areas within the guidelines to accommodate new ideas that can still relate to the core. JCB were very good at letting creativity flow within guidelines and occasionally breaking out with new initiatives, but fundamentally it had to belong to and be JCB.

Once you have your brand defined and aligned with some considered rules, it’s easier to get your business and marketing activities pulling effectively and efficiently in the same direction to realise business ambition, resonate with your audience, get and importantly maintain desirable magnetism. Much of my philosophy on client relationships, brand, brand guidelines and the creation of AlignandPull come from my early career experiences at JCB, which demonstrates how fruitful good agency client relations can be – when totally aligned.

 

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