What is a corporate identity manual and why do you need one?

A Corporate Identity (CI) Manual is a set of guidelines on how to portray and describe your business effectively. It is created to ensure the consistent use of all the design elements (particularly your logo) on all the different media including your website, business cards, email signatures and social media platforms. Each media platform is different and serves a specific function and so each come with a different set of guidelines. A CI manual is important as it generates the physical look of your brand. A CI manual helps you effectively communicate the “tone of voice” of your business and helps influence your customer experience.

How to establish your brand identity

When establishing your brand identity, it is important to comprehensively understand what your company is about, your service offerings and the ethos behind it all. Ask yourself questions like: who is your target audience? Is your brand personality going to be sophisticated, exciting, playful, sincere? What makes your business stand out compared to that of your competition? Essentially you need to determine your standing in the market place and who your customer is. Follow these four steps to establish your brand identity:

  1. Understanding your brand
    To begin you need to understand your business and what exactly you would like to achieve, both in the short- and long-term. Write down your business mission, values and vision statement; these are the basics of your brand identity document that will help you understand what your business is all about and future business goals.
  2. Get to know your Target Audience
    Ask yourself what type of person would purchase your product? Identify demographics like age, marital status, income, gender, race etc. Ask yourself why they buy your service or product, and what their main “pain points” are and how you can make it more user-friendly. When evaluating your audience, it is important to understand that your audience is diverse and will interact differently depending on the platform. So, you want to establish what segments of your target audience are interacting with your business through your social media, email, AdWords or blogging.
  3. Outline the Buyers Journey
    The Buyers Journey is the process consumers go through when deciding whether or not to purchase a product. You need to gain an intimate understanding of your potential customers in order to effectively sell your products. The buyer will become aware of your product and from there they will try and evaluate the product to decide whether they are happy with it. From your target audience, you will be able to assess the potential Buyers Journey of your customer. Consider what your customers “pain-point” is and how your business offerings provide a solution to this.
  4. Write your brand ethos
    A successful brand does not sell products, rather they sell ethos. This is the underlying sentiment that informs the belief around your product. It is essentially your brand’s character. After you have completed the first three steps and gained a greater understanding you will be able to succinctly and clearly write what your business is about, what you want to achieve, your brand promise, values, mission and attributes. This will serve as the base to build your brand identity on and is the underlying motivation of your business.

Image credit: https://blog.hubspot.com/

How to generate a strong brand identity

Consistency
Your CI Manual allows you to identify brand guidelines across all media and channels. It is important to be consistent with everything including fonts, layouts, colours, and graphic element positioning. The more consistent your brand is, the more consistent and effective the message you are trying to communicate is. Consistency also adds a level of dependability to your brand.

Visual Impact
Your branding should be visually interesting, aesthetically appealing and it should capture your target markets attention. You need to consider that all graphic design elements like layout, colour and font usage all come together to create a cohesive whole. You want your brand to stand out and leave a lasting impression on consumers but there is a fine balance to be found as ‘loud’ or ‘shouty’ branding may be seen as too crowded, this could lead to potential clients losing interest or being overwhelmed.

Scalability

Your branding guidelines should be flexible enough to accommodate all media platforms. You will be using it everywhere from social media to print to outdoor advertising. You will have to make sure that your brand guidelines are scalable and that they can grow with your brand in future.

Be Clear
Your brand guidelines should be clear and simple to grasp. It should immediately show who you are, what your brand voice is, and what you stand for. It should communicate a clear message to people who see it, and entice them to explore your offerings further. Clarity in design and messaging ensures you are not confusing the message and voice of your branding.

You can check out these strong examples of Corporate Identity:
Animal Planet: https://logoblink.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/animal_planet1.pdf

Audi: https://www.audi.com/ci/en/renewed-brand.html

Source: https://www.logodesignlove.com/brand-identity-style-guides

What to include in your CI manual

Logo
Your logo should be as flexible and unique as your brand. Make sure you show its correct usage, colours, fonts and layouts. You can also include its limitations – how it should not be used on certain backgrounds and textures.

Colour Palette
Colour goes a long way in a CI Manual, it also plays a big part in its consistency. Make sure that your colours compliment and flow with your logo design.

Typography
The font used is just as important as the above mentioned as it also plays a big role in communicating the company tone and style. It is also very important that you choose the right font to go with your brand as it could communicate a different message.

Photography & graphics
There are a variety of ways you can use pictures and graphics to support your brand and stay on message. There are also a variety of ways in which graphics can distract from your brand, so you have to have a practical approach. Try to be as specific as possible in your guideline to avoid errors. Consider how you would like the graphics displayed – do you have graphics overlapping pictures, or any wording/watermarks.

Final thoughts

The main purpose of a Corporate Identity (CI) manual is to show the public how to effectively use your brand. As mentioned, it is very important to be consistent in all your branding elements, fonts, styles and colours to keep a strong brand. If you are ready for brand guidelines you might want to look into a marketing company that can assist build guidelines helping you maintain a strong, cohesive and distinguishable brand.

 

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