How to Create an Effective Brand Style Guide

Crafting a brand voice that evokes a positive connection to your brand is no easy feat, especially in a world in which we encounter 5,000 ads per day. But every brand success story starts with a comprehensive brand style guide as a foundation. 

Think of how brands like T-Mobile, Reebok, and even Tinder have recently used their brand voice to make people feel supported during the global pandemic. Or how Ben & Jerry’s used their brand voice to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The world in which brands inhabit is changing all the time, and for Wrike, our market was also evolving, creating a pressing need for a new brand style guide. “Wrike’s growth had been so rapid that the brand became a bit diluted and unstructured,” explains Kevin Lynch, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Wrike. “The time was right to regroup, refine, and relaunch.”

The truth is that creating a successful brand voice can take a lot of planning. The final product – Wrike Reimagined, was an ambitious brand refresh that included a new redesign, along with a brand style guide that amounted to 109 pages (just like in our software, we really value clarity).

So, why was the creation of a new brand style guide such an important move for Wrike’s future? First, let’s fully get to grips with the different elements that establish an organization’s brand voice.

What is a brand style guide, and why is it so important?

According to marketing software brand Hubspot, "A brand style guide governs the composition, design, and general look-and-feel of a company's branding. Brand guidelines can dictate the content of a logo, blog, website, advertisement, and similar marketing collateral."

It might be the world-famous yellow arches within McDonald’s logo, the synonymous white font on blue associated with Facebook’s branding, or even the way that fast-food chain Wendy’s responds on Twitter

For Wrike, the new brand style guide was all centered around an equation. Kevin explains: “What makes the direction of the brand style guide unique is its application of an ‘equation’: Standardization + Configurability = Versatility.”

But what makes it so important? Two words: brand consistency, says Nicky Daly, Content Editor at Wrike: “Maintaining consistency across channels allows us to speak with one voice and helps customers relate to us.” 

William Arruda of Forbes agrees: “Successful brands are based on authenticity, drawn from real achievements, real strengths, and real emotions that are alive and well at all levels in the organization.”

3 rules for building a successful brand style guide

Rule 1: Settle on three central concepts for your brand

As Kevin explains above, Wrike’s new brand style guide revolved around two key concepts leading to one overall goal — standardization, configurability, and versatility. Each of these echoes what the teams at Wrike hope to bring to people’s working lives. 

Standardization points to the advantages of incorporating SaaS into your working processes. Kevin explains: “With Wrike, businesses can employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to scale and power their business.”

The second important element of Wrike’s brand voice? Configurability: “Configurability is woven very deeply in our platform and relates to customizability, ease of use, and the human side of work management,” Kevin shares. Wrike’s design uses shapes to depict standardization and hand-drawn patterns to denote configurability. 

Brand style guide, brand voice
A snapshot of the three chosen key concepts in Wrike’s brand style guide.

Rule 2: Keep your customers front of mind, even when you grow

No matter what your organization’s size, your brand style guide needs to reflect the fact that ultimately you are a team of humans speaking to potential and existing customers, not just a brand. “Including ‘human’ as a key attribute of the brand voice was a must, mainly because the term encapsulates Wrike as an organization,” says Kevin.

Unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of organizations might forget is important as they grow, Kevin explains: “Usually when a company moves upmarket, they check their humanity at the door. They start sounding less like a person and more like a corporation speaking to a world full of corporations.”

This element of our brand voice was absolutely essential in proving our value to customers, agrees Nicky: “Communicating our mission in friendly, accessible terms means that customers understand exactly how Wrike brings balance and value to their work life.”

Wrike brand style guide, brand voice
Some of the elements of our brand voice within Wrike’s new brand style guide.

Rule 3: Your brand style guide should reflect your industry

If you’re crafting a brand style guide for a SaaS company, for example, you have a unique opportunity, says Kevin: “Products like Wrike operate on two planes.” 

The first, he explains, tackles what Wrike does, and why you need it. “The other plane is more aspirational and conceptual”. In this case, it’s “with Wrike, you’re more productive. Wrike makes collaboration easier, it provides transparency.”

The takeaway point? Use your brand style guide to drive home how using your product or service will change your customer’s lifestyle and how it will improve their day-to-day frustrations. And most importantly of all? Let it continue to evolve as your organization does. 

“Think of your brand style guide as a living document,” says Mailchimp’s Art Director Jane Song. “You want to give your brand expression room to keep expanding over time. Be flexible — you can always revisit the guide and make adjustments.”

How can Wrike help you build your brand style guide?

This year has been a huge shift for businesses around the world, but it’s also an opportunity to reconsider your brand style guide in order to get clarity. What do you want your brand voice to say? To do that, you’ll need remote-friendly, cloud-based tools that can weather any storm.

Wrike has ready-built solutions designed especially for creative teams, along with powerful integrations with Adobe Creative Cloud, so that you can visually proof new assets in minutes. For remote workers, Wrike also creates a single source of truth where all decisions are clear and on-record, and files and task details are always at your fingertips. 

Start a free trial to see how Wrike could help you build a new brand style guide and create a brand voice that connects better with your customers.

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