Why digital guidelines put you in control of your brand

By Sara MacGregor

A mish mash of fonts in different sizes. Pixelated logos cut and pasted from defunct web pages. More colours than Joseph’s dreamcoat…

Every Brand or Marketing Manager will have experienced that sinking feeling when a colleague goes rogue with a PowerPoint presentation, and rides roughshod over their carefully researched brand positioning and visual identity. But usually, digital brand mutiny is simply a case of well-meaning but mis-guided creative initiative. Creating robust digital brand guidelines is the best way to help your teams stay away from comic sans font horrors and maintain your brand and company values.

First things first. No one deliberately sabotages their company's brand. Colleagues do their best to make an impact with the resources they have to hand. Digital platforms give enormous flexibility but are rife with potential for ad-hoc designs, and as every communications professional knows, policing brand-flouting comms is a depressing, thankless and time-consuming task. The holy grail of real world digital branding is to match the enthusiasm of staff for sharing their stories with easy to use digital assets that make them shine.

“All too often existing brand guidelines don’t extend to digital platforms and we, the designers, are left to fill in the gaps with our own interpretations and guess work. Digital guidelines are essential in ensuring your brand is communicated consistently across all channels, whether being used by in house design teams or external agencies. For some reason these get overlooked and they really shouldn't.” – Julian Dye, Digital Designer, LEAP

Make it easy

The key to keeping brand consistency across a fluid digital landscape is to keep things simple, focussed and responsive. The SulNOx Group came to us ahead of a Stock Exchange flotation with a complicated business model and a need to communicate to diverse stakeholders, from investors and potential business partners to journalists and the media. You can see how a clean and impactful logo, strong brandlines and market messaging helped keep a consistent presence across their digital platforms. And on this foundation we were able to build them successful social and blog campaigns.

SulNOx Group Plc

Make it immediate

Great design and messaging is no good if it doesn't get out there and take a public twirl. Successful digital brand guidelines should be a democratising force, allowing teams to express themselves without worrying that they will be arrested by the brand police. It also means Brand and Marketing Managers can sleep a little easier and concentrate on creating great content rather than worrying about wayward presentations.

Our work with Thames Water involved a complete overhaul of their digital communications, auditing their platforms, applications and content generation processes and creating a new information architecture. But the key to making this work stick was our Digital Visual Standards Guide – an implementation bible for the Thames Water brand in a responsive digital landscape.

Thames Water

The Guide worked in tandem with a range of bespoke icons, illustrations and interfaces, easily accessible for prototyping new pages, templates and communications assets. By bringing these components together and running in-house workshops to ensure confidence in where, when and how to deploy them, the consistency of the Thames Water digital brand was effectively ring-fenced.

Make it happen

From social media to reports and presentations, the struggle to extend brand guidelines across digital communications can lead to a great deal of tail chasing. But there's no reason why brand consistency and creative freedom need be enemies. Well researched digital brand guidelines give your teams the tools to share their ideas and the values of your business more effectively.

So, if opening internal reports feels like playing Russian roulette with branding disaster, and colleagues' client presentations give you the fear, we feel your pain. Why not get in touch – we can help you take a step back and make a start on shaping a digital future without branding stress points. Or Comic Sans.

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