As I've gotten further into my business this year, one of the greatest gifts I've received is a deeper understanding of myself, my "why," and my true business goals. One thing that I've learned is that my favorite clients are those entrepreneurs and new small business owners that are really just starting out. Or perhaps have been in business for a little while but are ready to tackle their marketing holistically. That, honestly, is where I thrive, and I love the challenge and thrill of coming in and partnering with them to develop their passion and blooming business into something even greater.
My first meetings with these clients are usually the same. They have a lot of great ideas, or I have a lot of great ideas. There's SO MANY great ideas, they're just flying around the room. And in order to reign everyone in and try to get us all on the same page, in a place where we can start working cohesively towards marketing greatness, I always ask the same thing:
Do you have a brand bible?
Now, responses to this question are also pretty standard. 20% of the time someone came from a corporate world or hired someone early on, and they have this stuff that they're more than happy to pass over. Fantastic.
The other 80% of the time they look at me like I have three heads. "What is this bible you speak of and why do I need it?" Explaining WHAT it is doesn't usually resolve too much of this confusion, if I'm being honest. "We can worry about colors and making things pretty later. Right now I just need you to make me an awesome website and help me post stuff on Instagram."
Explaining WHAT a brand bible is only solves half the problem. It's the WHY that really matters.
So WHAT is a Brand Bible?? A brand bible, sometimes referred to as a brand guide, a style guide, identity guidelines or a brand book, creates and establishes consistency for your brand. Your brand's vision, voice, goals and messaging should all be reflected within it. Typically this would include some or all of the following:
Business Overview & Mission
Logo specifications and examples of usage
Typography and color palettes
Image style and use
Writing style and voice
Website style and guidelines
Social media guidelines
Ok so now that we're all on the same page of WHAT it is, you might be thinking, "But Jess, that sounds pretty serious. Why do I need that for my small business and WHY do I need to do it right off the bat??"
I'm so glad you asked!! The truth of the matter is, that no matter the size of your business, a brand guide helps to establish consistency.
It's also an amazing starting point, not just visually, but also for providing a cohesive identity for your brand. Sure, it's great to make sure you're using the same shade of green on your website and Instagram posts now, before all the work is done and the posts are up. But it's even better to have a clear understanding of what your brand identity is beyond the preferred fonts and templates.
Be authentic to yourself, your brand, and your WHY.
Take some time upfront, sit down and put into writing what your business overview and mission are. Why are you doing this? What is your motto? What type of clients are you hoping to attract with your marketing? What should the tone of your messaging on all forums be? Do your visual aspects match the tone you want to purvey to your clients? Put all of this down in writing or into a document on your computer where you can easily reference back to it.
Bonus for those who use Canva, as the program allows you to put most of your style guide (logos, images, typography and color palettes) right into your profile for easy use!
Be authentic to yourself, your brand and your WHY. As things start to pick up and you ideally become more successful, it can become all too easy to get off course. Your brand bible can ground you, providing you with something to refer back to you if you ever lose sight of your vision, mission or voice. And trust me, this happens to most businesses.
That being said, revisit it in a year or so and see if you feel differently. Even popular brands go through major rebranding. Starbucks, for instance, has rebranded four times. Apple has gone through three rebranding cycles. If you feel like your brand identity has shifted, having an established brand bible already written out will make it that much easier to identify areas you feel need to change and make appropriate updates that much smoother.
Looking for some examples of how some larger brands use style guides? Here are some great examples:
Don't get overwhelmed! You don't need to publish a glossy hardcover book that will gather dust on your desk while you work from your couch. A simple Word document, Powerpoint, Canva or Adobe presentation will do. This is also a great time to consider outsourcing and bringing in a marketer to help with strategy. Putting the work in on your brand guide upfront will help ensure your overall brand identity, position, voice and marketing are consistent, setting you up for success both in the short and long-term!