How Rigid Should a Brand Style Guide Be?

The answer depends on the culture of the company.

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.

How Rigid Should a Brand Style Guide Be?

A Brand Style Guide is essentially an internal communication compass. It provides guidance on how a business should communicate the Identity, Personality, and Authenticity of a brand.

The rigidness to which a business should follow its communication compass depends upon the culture of the company.

Some company cultures are very rigid with specific do’s and don’ts on communicating the brand. When I was at Starbucks Coffee, the company culture was VERY rigid in this manner.

Other company cultures are less rigid.

Whole Foods Market gives tremendous autonomy to its regions to design and deliver marketing programs. Which means, inconsistencies exist in how the Whole Foods brand looks and feels in the Mid-Atlantic region versus the Southwest region.

My marketing advice is to be 100% rigid with the visual Identity of the brand. No matter where the brand’s logo and tagline appear, it should be 100% consistent with the direction provided in the style guide.

I think the rules are less rigid and more up to interpretation as it relates to the Personality of a brand. The emotional identity of brand should be understood by all marketers but ultimately, a company’s CEO, CMO or Marketing VP should be the arbiter of what’s on-brand and off-brand.

Every business must strive not to compromise the Authenticity of its brand. This should be 100% rigid. Businesses should create and follow a DO NOT COMPROMISE list of activities never to do and strictly follow that list. (Learn more here.)

A brand’s visual identity should be 100% consistent. Its personality should be very consistent. And a brand’s authenticity should never be compromised.


#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?
#12 | How Rigid Should a Brand Style Guide Be?