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Brand guidelines: restrain and restrict or rock ‘n’ roll? 

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Brand guidelines: restrain and restrict or rock ‘n’ roll? 

Every great brand goes back to a courageous individual who dared to say no to the status quo.’*

This inspiring quote is a call to action. It’s one that drives us to defy convention, break the rules and ask, ‘is there a better way?’

It dares us to ask ‘What if?’

Challenging the status quo is essential. Imagine how much more rock ‘n’ roll we could be if we had the elbowroom to be a little more creative…

Acting on the level

Your brand is a promise to your people that you’ll live by defined values. Those values must be shared in inspiring and imaginative ways so that your people can connect with them and have pride in them.

  • So how do we help our brands to thrive internally?
  • What stops us from having fun fun fun with our brand?
  • How can we unlock exciting opportunities to shape how it feels for our people?

Brand guidelines are a necessity

Brands are governed by guidelines to create consistency and familiarity and to help maintain the set standards. They should help to tell people how communications should sound, look and feel and should be designed for anyone to pick up and use including employees, partners and external agencies.

Guidelines should be guidelines and not the rule book. They should be a set of principles for all to follow.

Companies create brand guidelines with the best of intentions, but they tend to be disregarded and ignored by most. Why? Again and again it comes down to the fact that they’re way too rigid, perhaps outdated, confusing, not fit for purpose or people don’t even know they exist. Often, they are aimed at external audiences and are way too formal for many internal applications.

Good thinking

When done well, they create a similar tone for elements of communication, they save money because there’s an agreed formula to follow and they speed up the communication process by avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel every time.

Burning bridges

When guidelines are too restrictive, it can be hard to differentiate one communication from another. They become creatively constraining uninspiring and make the management and execution of communication impractical, leaving your audience uninspired and driftin’ away.

In the worst cases, they’re a stranglehold, leaving characterless comms feeling dull, sterile and tediously repetitive. (Which works well if your values are characterless, sterile and repetitive.)

Break the rules

It is possible to create guidelines that are engaging enough to achieve consistent communication, practical enough to prevent frustration and adaptable enough to offer flexibility and creativity. It’s never too late to reconsider your brand guidelines and give them a restorative refresh.

Here are a few points to consider…

Define your constants and variables

Establish your must-haves and the elements of your brand that can remain flexible and fluid. People need to be educated on what they can and can’t do.

Acknowledge that some constraints are necessary but give people the freedom to adapt and adjust. Consider your own brand guidelines. Are they prescriptive and uncompromising? Perhaps it’s time for a refresh. Here are 36 great brand guideline examples to take a look at.

Encourage flexibility and adaptability

In an age where we don’t all need to arrive at the office at the same time and work in the same way, why should we continue to manage our brands the same way we always did? Flexibility should be embraced and encouraged. Build in some room to manoeuvre.

Be bold – allow the opportunity to play

To maintain motivation comms must be kept fresh and interesting. Encourage creativity and play.

Consider how external brands achieve this. Take a look at how TV channels shape their brands and explore the unconventional by continually creating

fresh and stimulating idents. 

Brands like Adobe, Nike, Google, Coca Cola, Halifax, The Natural History Museum and even local authorities like Brent Council positively mess around with their brands to mix things up, have fun, prompt emotions and stand out from the crowd.

Get others involved

Audiences have the power to not only share a brand and its values but to get involved, develop them and have some creative fun too. By moderating constraints and encouraging interaction, people can connect and be inspired to join in.

Think about your internal audience

Internally, exposure to ‘the brand’ is constant so at times it needs to surprise. With an ever-increasing emphasis on building strong employer brands there are new opportunities to work on your internal identity and surprise your people with something a little different.

Remember it’s more than just a logo

We’re not just talking about logo or colour palette here – this is your brand as a whole. It’s about the essence and feel, character and style, spirit and personality. Exciting opportunities exist way beyond the obvious…

Movin’ on

Brand guidelines play a key role in helping to deliver effective brand management, sharing our narratives and supporting those promises we make to our people.

But they must provide direction that can be sufficiently adapted across channels, platforms, services and experiences. People need to understand why they exist but there must be a degree of flexibility. They shouldn’t be a stranglehold that leaves everything feeling lacklustre and limp.

Flexibility, usability and creative autonomy are central to success.

So will you be brave enough to challenge the status quo and say no?

Loosen up the shackles a little and you could have your brand rockin’ all over the world…

We enjoy the challenge of unlocking a brand and its guidelines to make comms feel, well, Alive. So have a chat with us if you’re looking for a fresh approach and something that will rock your audience.

*David Brier | Branding Specialist

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

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Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

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Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

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Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

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Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

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Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

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Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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