How to create a great brand guide for early stage companies

How to create a great brand guide for early stage companies

Creating a great brand playbook for early stage B2B companies

Creating a great brand playbook for early stage B2B companies

Last edited on:

Oct 12, 2023

Author:

Jordy Oost

How to create a kick-ass brand guide for early stage companies
How to create a kick-ass brand guide for early stage companies
How to create a kick-ass brand guide for early stage companies

A brand guide creates a foundation for your brand, and protects your brands' consistency over time. It ensures that your brand is represented consistently and brand value grows over time during interactions with clients, stakeholders and partners.


A brand guide creates a foundation for your brand, and protects your brands' consistency over time. It ensures that your brand is represented consistently and brand value grows over time during interactions with clients, stakeholders and partners.


This article is written for early-stage B2B companies but the principles that are discussed are also valid for B2C-, mid-market- or enterprise companies.


This article is written for early-stage B2B companies but the principles that are discussed are also valid for B2C-, mid-market- or enterprise companies.


Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - 5 steps.png
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - 5 steps.png
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - 5 steps.png

1. When to create a brand guide?

It makes sense to create a brand guide when the amount of people that are working on sales- and marketing content grows beyond two, or one of the following circumstances occurs:

  • You are outsourcing (marketing) projects

  • There is high staff turnover

  • You have multiple teams working on multiple campaigns

  • Employees start to disagree over website and content changes

Maybe one of these circumstances occurred. Maybe you want to update your current brand guide in a smart way. Or you want to buff up your “brand guide knowledge”.

This guide is written to help you with that. 


1. When to create a brand guide?

It makes sense to create a brand guide when the amount of people that are working on sales- and marketing content grows beyond two, or one of the following circumstances occurs:

  • You are outsourcing (marketing) projects

  • There is high staff turnover

  • You have multiple teams working on multiple campaigns

  • Employees start to disagree over website and content changes

Maybe one of these circumstances occurred. Maybe you want to update your current brand guide in a smart way. Or you want to buff up your “brand guide knowledge”.

This guide is written to help you with that. 


2. Benefits - Why write a brand guide in the first place?

A brand guide might feel like creating restrictions for your sales and marketing team. Instead, it shouldn't be a barrier to testing and experimenting with content and propositions. It should empower the people in your organization to do so.

2.1 - Clarity

Creation of a brand guide forces you to think long and hard about your (desired) brand. Putting this on paper provides clarity to your team about how to represent it. This includes guidelines on logo usage, typography, colour schemes, and tone of voice. Clarity in branding ensures that everyone in the organisation is on the same page.

2.2 - Consistency

A brand guide ensures that your brand's visual and messaging elements are consistent across all communication channels. Consistency helps build trust and recognition among your target audience.

2.3 - Adaptability

In a dynamic business environment, your brand needs to evolve and your marketing team needs to be able to test and experiment. A brand guide includes provisions for how to adapt the brand without losing its core identity.

2.4 - Scalability

​​A brand guide serves as a reference point for maintaining brand integrity, making it easier to scale your business while preserving your brand identity.


2. Benefits - Why write a brand guide in the first place?

A brand guide might feel like creating restrictions for your sales and marketing team. Instead, it shouldn't be a barrier to testing and experimenting with content and propositions. It should empower the people in your organization to do so.

2.1 - Clarity

Creation of a brand guide forces you to think long and hard about your (desired) brand. Putting this on paper provides clarity to your team about how to represent it. This includes guidelines on logo usage, typography, colour schemes, and tone of voice. Clarity in branding ensures that everyone in the organisation is on the same page.

2.2 - Consistency

A brand guide ensures that your brand's visual and messaging elements are consistent across all communication channels. Consistency helps build trust and recognition among your target audience.

2.3 - Adaptability

In a dynamic business environment, your brand needs to evolve and your marketing team needs to be able to test and experiment. A brand guide includes provisions for how to adapt the brand without losing its core identity.

2.4 - Scalability

​​A brand guide serves as a reference point for maintaining brand integrity, making it easier to scale your business while preserving your brand identity.


3. What to include in your brand guide

A brand guide should be a living document that can evolve as your B2B startup grows and adapts to changing market conditions. It should be easily accessible to all relevant team members and partners to ensure consistent brand representation.

3. What to include in your brand guide

A brand guide should be a living document that can evolve as your B2B startup grows and adapts to changing market conditions. It should be easily accessible to all relevant team members and partners to ensure consistent brand representation.

Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - content
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - content
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - content

Content to include in your brand guide

1. Brand foundation
1.1 Mission and vision
1.2 Core values
1.3 Proposition (Target audience / USP)
1.4 Brand story

2. Brand identity
2.1 Tone-of-voice
2.2 Guidelines
2.3 Taglines, slogans and key messages
2.4 Writing guidelines
2.5 AI Writing guidelines

3. Visual brand identity 
3.1 Logo usage
3.2 Colors
3.3 Typography
3.4 Assets

Equally important - What not to include in your brand guide

A brand guide should be a foundation to build on, not a book used to govern your business operations. There is not a one-size-fits-all. Every organisation will have their own requirements. However, to make sure that the guide empowers your departments and doesn’t restrict them we suggest to leave the following out:

Leave this at marketing

  • Content calendar and publishing schedule

  • Blog and content marketing standards

  • SEO guidelines (keyword usage, metadata)

Leave this within the design team

  • Website design and layout principles

  • Templates for presentations, documents, and other collateral

  • Advertising and promotional materials rules

Leave this at HR

  • Stationery design (letterheads, business cards, envelopes)

  • Email signature guidelines

  • Employee social media guidelines

Content to include in your brand guide

1. Brand foundation
1.1 Mission and vision
1.2 Core values
1.3 Proposition (Target audience / USP)
1.4 Brand story

2. Brand identity
2.1 Tone-of-voice
2.2 Guidelines
2.3 Taglines, slogans and key messages
2.4 Writing guidelines
2.5 AI Writing guidelines

3. Visual brand identity 
3.1 Logo usage
3.2 Colors
3.3 Typography
3.4 Assets

Equally important - What not to include in your brand guide

A brand guide should be a foundation to build on, not a book used to govern your business operations. There is not a one-size-fits-all. Every organisation will have their own requirements. However, to make sure that the guide empowers your departments and doesn’t restrict them we suggest to leave the following out:

Leave this at marketing

  • Content calendar and publishing schedule

  • Blog and content marketing standards

  • SEO guidelines (keyword usage, metadata)

Leave this within the design team

  • Website design and layout principles

  • Templates for presentations, documents, and other collateral

  • Advertising and promotional materials rules

Leave this at HR

  • Stationery design (letterheads, business cards, envelopes)

  • Email signature guidelines

  • Employee social media guidelines

Characteristics of a great brand guide

Before you start conducting research, interviewing team members and writing the actual guide, it is good to take the elements of a great brand guide into account.

Characteristics of a great brand guide

Before you start conducting research, interviewing team members and writing the actual guide, it is good to take the elements of a great brand guide into account.

Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - agile elements
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - agile elements
Brand guide - how to create a brand guide - agile elements
  1. Concise and user-friendly

Brand guides should be designed with practicality in mind. It is essential to ensure that users can swiftly and effortlessly locate the information they seek. Simplify the content and provide straightforward navigation.

  1. Effortless to access

It is essential to ensure that every member of the company consistently accesses the same, and most up-to-date, version of the brand guide. If individuals struggle to locate the brand guide, your efforts may prove in vain.

  1. Easy to maintain

Brand guides should remain dynamic documents that adapt to the evolving nature of your brand. As your brand continues to evolve, it is important to keep the entire company informed about the latest guidelines. Use a format that is convenient to update by any member of the brand team.

  1. Concise and user-friendly

Brand guides should be designed with practicality in mind. It is essential to ensure that users can swiftly and effortlessly locate the information they seek. Simplify the content and provide straightforward navigation.

  1. Effortless to access

It is essential to ensure that every member of the company consistently accesses the same, and most up-to-date, version of the brand guide. If individuals struggle to locate the brand guide, your efforts may prove in vain.

  1. Easy to maintain

Brand guides should remain dynamic documents that adapt to the evolving nature of your brand. As your brand continues to evolve, it is important to keep the entire company informed about the latest guidelines. Use a format that is convenient to update by any member of the brand team.

4. Where to store a brand guide (software to use)

Let’s take a look at ways to store and share your brand guide.

Online document sharing platforms -recommended-

Our recommended method. Using a platform such as Notion or Google Slides allows you to easily edit and share your brand guide. It allows version control, making it easier to track changes and revert to previous versions if needed. 

Intranet, website- or company portal

If your organisation has an intranet or company portal, suitable for document creation and storage, you can consider uploading the brand guide there. This way it is accessible to employees and team members at any time.

PDF format

A standard method is saving your brand guide as a PDF file. This format is easy to share via email and can be easily viewed and printed by anyone with a PDF reader. 

However, managing updates and ensuring that everyone accesses the latest version can be challenging. Not recommended as your main way of storing and editing the guide.

4. Where to store a brand guide (software to use)

Let’s take a look at ways to store and share your brand guide.

Online document sharing platforms -recommended-

Our recommended method. Using a platform such as Notion or Google Slides allows you to easily edit and share your brand guide. It allows version control, making it easier to track changes and revert to previous versions if needed. 

Intranet, website- or company portal

If your organisation has an intranet or company portal, suitable for document creation and storage, you can consider uploading the brand guide there. This way it is accessible to employees and team members at any time.

PDF format

A standard method is saving your brand guide as a PDF file. This format is easy to share via email and can be easily viewed and printed by anyone with a PDF reader. 

However, managing updates and ensuring that everyone accesses the latest version can be challenging. Not recommended as your main way of storing and editing the guide.

5. Brand books and brand guide examples

In need of some inspiration? Here are three brand guides from some of our very own favorite brands.

Firefox

📙 Mozilla's brand guide

Patagonia

📗 Patagonia's brand book

Asana

📘 Asana's brand guide


Last words

We hope this guide will enable you to create or improve your own brand guide. Feel free to reach out to us for additional feedback or advice on your brand guide. Now, let's build that kick-ass brand playbook and grow yourself a sustainable brand 🚀

Blog

Latest articles

Growth marketing framework - Implement a process in 6 steps

Feb 7, 2024

Grow your marketing outcomes with this 6-step Growth Marketing process.

Jan 9, 2024

Beyond Growth | Startup series | How to choose the right marketing channels

Growth Marketing - The ultimate guide

Jan 11, 2024

How to grow your business with modern tooling and strategies

Blog

Latest articles

Growth marketing framework - Implement a process in 6 steps

Feb 7, 2024

Grow your marketing outcomes with this 6-step Growth Marketing process.

Jan 9, 2024

Beyond Growth | Startup series | How to choose the right marketing channels

Growth Marketing - The ultimate guide

Jan 11, 2024

How to grow your business with modern tooling and strategies

Blog

Latest articles

Growth marketing framework - Implement a process in 6 steps

Feb 7, 2024

Grow your marketing outcomes with this 6-step Growth Marketing process.

Jan 9, 2024

Beyond Growth | Startup series | How to choose the right marketing channels

Growth Marketing - The ultimate guide

Jan 11, 2024

How to grow your business with modern tooling and strategies

Stay up to date

Receive our latest articles

The Beyond Growth Blog publishes weekly content about driving growth in early stage companies, entrepreneurship and accelerating efficiency in B2B marketing operations.