What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

At a minimum, a Brand Style Guide should include three sections.

This series revisits the basics of branding and marketing by answering questions marketers, entrepreneurs and small business owners face when growing their business. I hope this series provides you with knowledge to think smarter and a nudge to make stuff happen.

What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

As I mentioned earlier, the size of your business will determine the level of detail needed in a Brand Style Guide. In most situations, small businesses need less detailed style guides while big businesses need more detailed style guides. That said, for any business, big or small, I recommend creating a Brand Style Guide that includes three sections:

1. Identity
2. Personality
3. Authenticity

1. Identity
It’s important for a brand’s identity (it’s exact look) to be visually consistent everywhere people see it. In this section, clearly show examples of how your company’s logo should look in all types of situations from color to black & white to print ads to menus to business cards to t-shirts to anything where the company’s logo can appear.

Also show examples of incorrect uses of the logo, like an obviously stretched logo and a logo with mismatched colors. Sometimes it’s easier for people to understand how to correctly display a logo when seeing bad examples.

2. Personality
Every brand has both a look and a feel. The look is its visual identity. The feel is its emotional identity. Every brand has both. To help ensure you are consistent in showcasing your brand’s emotional identity, I recommend creating a list of personality traits you want the brand to always convey. (Learn more here.)

In your Brand Style Guide, list out and detail five personality traits you want your brand to always convey.

For example, some personality traits we attached to the Starbucks brand back in the day included: Delightful, Quick-Witted, Encouraging, and Welcoming. By outlining these personality traits, it served as guardrails to help us design and deliver marketing activities that were true to the emotional identity of the Starbucks brand.

3. Authenticity
Being authentic and true the brand is easier said than done. Compromises always happen as a brand grows and evolves. To help ensure a brand stays authentic, a Brand Style Guide should include a DO NOT COMPROMISE list of activities. This list should be revisited every time your business is making a major (and minor) marketing decision.

Back in my Starbucks marketing days, we had a DO NOT COMPROMISE list we referred to often. This list included the following pointers:

  • ALWAYS elevate the theatrical, drama, ritual and human nature of our business
  • ALWAYS say who your are, never who you are not
  • NEVER communicate like we are a fast food company
  • NEVER communicate a new and improved mindset

We used this DO NOT COMPROMISE list to help guide us in designing and delivering better marketing programs that stayed true to brand while also driving sales and increasing the emotional connection people had with the brand.

Of course, there is much more to consider when crafting a Brand Style Guide. Let’s talk. I’d love to consult with you on how best to craft a Brand Style Guide for your business.


#01 | How Should a Brand be Defined?
#02 | What’s the Difference between Branding and Marketing?
#03 | Is there a Difference between a Company Name and a Brand Name?
#04 | Does every Brand need a Unique Selling Position?
#05 | Do Consumers Really Feel Emotional about Brands?
#06 | How should “Brand Personality” be Described?
#07 | Are Taglines Important? Why or Why Not?
#08 | Are Logos Important? Why or Why Not?
#09 | Can a Brand be Built without a Large Budget?
#10 | Why is a Brand Style Guide important?
#11 | What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?


Richard Hodges

Richard Hodges

Another critical area (and arguably the whole point of the style guide) is to consider how the elements will work in various media. I had a Client who produced a product label in 11 special colours – beautiful, but branded letterhead would cost $10k for minimum run.
The cheat is to ask your SP Agency to do the work first. They will know the scenarios to consider – 4-col litho? 1- or 2-col? How critical are special colours? What about typefaces at different sizes? Low-res options? How about different layouts – A4, or extreme portrait and landscape Point Of Sale?
Do test prints if necessary (we did one that showed 5% Yellow gave a fine replica of the label’s ‘aged paper’.
Then review it with your design house, and have your other Agencies (Ad, Web, PR) comment and extend into multi-media: logo gifs, animations (“Mmmm, Danone!”) and audio. These can be source material (a DVD of samples and source files), and guidelines (“preferred voiceover accent is … as example”).

Third parties desperately need some prescriptive guidance, to go with the more conceptual stuff you have correctly opened with. Lead with the principles, then back it up with the real life executions.

Finally, and most importantly, find a sexy binding system, always get an expensive glossy cover printed, and impress your Marketing Director as you flourish the first copy. Sorted!


john moore

john moore

Nice adds Richard. Great tip to put your agency, if you have one, to work on it.

Leave A Comment

Comments support plain text only.

Your email address will not be published.