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Brand Framework 101: What Should Be In Your Brand Guide?

Published on Friday, March 12, 2021

Moment of truth: as a marketer, have you ever been confused about what a brand framework really is and how you would go about creating one for your company? If so, you’re not alone!

Even seasoned marketers struggle to know what all should go into a brand framework. And since this it’s not something most brands do in frequent repetition, it can be intimidating or time consuming to know how to approach it.

When it comes to developing out your brand and every aspect that goes along with it, things get complicated. What’s the difference between brand guidelines, brand standards, brand books, and brand frameworks?

We work with companies to help them define and articulate their brand story using a process that removes the confusion and facilitates a deliverable. We call it the Brand Guide.

Brand Guide Process

The process we follow to build a Brand Guide provides a balance of structure and flexibility. Structure to remove the confusion and ensure that the end result is a valuable and usable tool and flexibility to allow for the unique aspect of each brand.

We’re sharing the elements most commonly incorporated into the Brand Guides we create with our clients. If you’re going to be doing this on your own, our process may help you. If you are looking for a partner to work with, this post can give you some insight into what you can expect in working with us.

Let’s breakdown the Brand Guide into three parts and go into more detail on each. The three parts we will explore are:

Your Brand Framework Should Define Why You Exist

Brands exist for a greater purpose than making money. There are a billion ways to make money, but your company chose to be who you are and do what you do for a specific purpose. This purpose is greater than the product or service you provide and it generally evolved from a desire to add value or offer help to your clients, customers, partners or community.

So, why does your company exist?

The answer to this question is found in your Core Purpose. Other common names for this are Mission Statements or Company Visions.

Core Purpose

At your Core Purpose, you find the things that motivate your team to come to work everyday. The thing that drives passion for your company and motivates team members to give their best every day.

Here’s an example of a Core Purpose:

DH Pace provides doors and door related products to homes and business owners. Yet they’ve defined their reason for existence in their mission statement which is: “To enhance the lives of people by improving the safety, security, convenience, and aesthetics of the buildings where they live, work, and play.”

See how there’s a bigger purpose than just making money or selling doors? DH Pace employees come to work to improve their local communities. An idea much easier to get behind than selling doors.

Core Values

Core Values define your culture and who you truly are as people. This is the standard that you and your employees hold for yourselves. Your core values will guide the decisions you make and the relationships you forge.

At LimeLight, our Core Values are:

  • Passion
    • Have a borderline obsession
  • Excellence
    • Innate desire to continuously improve and exceed expectations
  • Transparency
    • Openness, communication and accountability
  • Collaboration
    • Work as a team to reach common goals
  • Professional Development
    • Passion and drive for continuous learning
  • Dependability
    • Say what you’ll do and do what you say

Both Core Purpose and Core Values should be identified and documented as the first step of creating your Brand Guide.

If your company already has these, then you have a first step or a foundation for your plan.

Elements Of Brand Messaging

With a clear and documented reason for existence, we work together to build out your brand message – the words you will use to connect with your target audience and convey how you bring them value.

There are seven common elements we incorporate into brand messaging.

1. Audience Empathy

These are your audience’s needs and pain points that are stated from the target buyer’s perspective. What are the problems, needs, or wants that your target audience has that you can solve?

Audience Empathy statements are important in ensuring that your brand message is written and designed for real people, with real problems, who don’t work inside your company. It’s a common mistake for companies to write content that is from an internal viewpoint. By writing real Audience Empathy statements upfront, we make sure the brand message speaks directly to your buyer’s needs.

2. Differentiators

What makes your brand stand apart from your competitors? Differentiators are the things that make you unique and give you an edge. Think about why your customers choose your business instead of your competitor.

Oftentimes companies feel desperate to come up with something – anything, that is different from their competitors, and this can be really hard. Especially when most companies say they have great customer service, quality products and the best people. In his book Traction, Wickman suggests that your Differentiators don’t have to be individually unique, but that when combined as a set, they are unique to your competition.

3. Value Pillars

Value Pillars are the top high-level messages that directly connect with your target audience’s needs. They are always written from the customer’s perspective and in words that convey value to them. They are not about you (the company), but about the value clients/customers realize in working with you. We’ve found that three Value Pillars tend to work best.

4. Benefit Statements

Your Value Pillars are single, strong statements that convey value, but can be reinforced with supporting messaging. We call these the Benefit Statements and we write statements that support each Value Pillar.

5. Message Building Blocks

We help companies coin a brand language and create audience mind-share by owning these relevant phrases. Message Building Blocks provide the much needed consistency in your brand message. These words and phrases are woven throughout your brand message.

6. The Hook

Your “Hook” is a single sentence response to the question “what do you do?”

It might seem overly simplistic to write a single sentence, but we find that most companies lack consistency in how they answer this question. The result is confusion for the sales, marketing and customer service teams, in addition to customers.

With a well defined Hook, your message gains focus.

7. Brand Narrative

To pull all of the above elements together, we include a brand narrative in our brand framework. This 200 – 300 word creative narrative serves as the copy writing guidepost for core brand communications. This narrative is great for website copy – specifically the homepage and about us section.

Visual Brand Assets

The above elements of your Brand Guide provide your purpose, your tone of voice and the words you use to convey your brand story in a way that is aligned to the value you provide customers.

Another important element of your Brand Guide is your visual brand. This includes your logo, fonts, color palette and logo variations. It may also include the style of images that you use in your brand materials.

You probably have a logo, but you may lack a comprehensive font and color family to support your brand beyond just your logo. Or your logo may be out of date and need an update.

All of these aspects should be chosen based on the personality and characteristics already established for your brand. These shouldn’t just be colors that you like or fonts that look cool. Think about the overall vibe of your brand and how it resonates with your target audience. Reflect that into your creative elements.

Building Your Brand Guide Is A Process

There are different processes for creating a Brand Guide. We’ve created one through repetition, practice and practical application that provides structure, flexibility and usability.

If you are working on your brand framework alone, you may feel a bit intimidated, but don’t be. This process should take time and a lot of thought, so give it what it deserves. If you’d like help in guiding this process and helping you tell a truly compelling brand story, we’d love to visit with you to see if we’re a good fit for one another.

LimeLight Marketing - James Mulvenon
James Mulvenon
Associate Creative Director