Branding 101: Do You Need a Brand Bible?

  •    Carrie is a designer and content marketer. She works promoting the Roanoke Region of Virginia and has more than 10 years of media and marketing experience.

A brand bible establishes distinct guidelines for how all aspects of a company's brand will be handled. It should establish rules for creating a unified and identifiable presence for your brand.

It is more than a set of rules for using colors and fonts. A brand bible, or book, is a vital tool for businesses of any size, even if you are the only employee. It will help you create consistency in marketing materials and even better understand your company and goals.

What is a Brand Bible?

A brand bible helps create and establish consistency for a company's visual presence and messaging. It includes everything from colors and fonts to rules for wording, how to use imagery and what is (and is not) acceptable when communicating with customers.

It also helps establish a set of rules for communication tactics and policies that any employee should be able to read and understand clearly. This can include anything from the company name–and appropriate spelling–to tagline or elevator pitch about what the business is and what it does.

This brand guide helps a business develop a personality that it can share with the world, while getting everyone on board with a unified message.

Who Needs a Brand Bible?

No matter how big or small the business, everyone needs a brand bible. This book will keep you on target and provide a communications foundation as the company grows.

The brand bible provides insight into the company as a whole and if you are planning to produce one for the first time, it can actually help you define what you want your company to be, how it looks in marketing and online, and how communication between you, the brand, and consumers will look.

This book needs a lot of information to help focus communications, and the best guides include plenty of examples to show how branding should work.
Here's how you might want to lay it out:

  • Business overview and mission
  • Logo and rules for use
  • Typography and color palettes
  • Image style and use
  • Writing style and voice
  • Website style and guidelines
  • Social media guidelines

How Big Does It Need to Be?

It's not always the case, but often the size of a brand bible correlates to the size of the business. Brand bibles often grow as the business expands.

For starters, yours might be a guide to your website style that you then use for all communication. (It can even live as a page within your website for easy access.)

​Larger companies often have brand guidelines that are thick and go into lots of detail–hence the term “brand bible." These guides might include specifications for the website, but also brochures, billboards, press releases, product packaging and any number of other outward-facing elements.

Creative (and Practical) Inspiration

The obvious question for small business owners without a brand bible is “how do I get one?" It's something you'll want to create with your team.

Here are a few brand bibles that can be a great source of inspiration, each with a different style:

3 Brand Bible Do's

There are some things that every brand bible needs and you're business will suffer without them. As you go through the process of creating a guide for your company, make sure to do these things.

  • Be honest about what your company is and who you are. Many companies make their brand guides public in order to be more transparent. The guide can help your staff better understand your goals, and can help customers connect with your company.
  • Be simple and direct. Guidelines for use should be loose enough that they are doable, but strict enough that the brand remains consistent while being creative.
  • Show examples of best practices. Nothing helps someone recreate the brand like seeing it in action. A good brand bible is full of pictures, examples and detailed usage to communicate that message clearly.

And 3 Don'ts

There are the things you want to avoid when creating this guidebook as well.

  • Don't micromanage with a brand bible. Too many rules and details can overwhelm users. Think of it as a collection of cheat sheets, not a textbook.
  • Don't use a different tone. Prepare the guide like your brand materials. It will reinforce the tone and style you are trying to create.
  • Don't forget to go back and update. This is especially important when you make changes to your core mission. You'll want to consider an update if your product line or service changes, any visual elements are redesigned, if your brand shifts tone or during times of growth. It's a good idea to take a look at the guide annually.

Conclusion

A brand bible is an important piece of every business plan and can help provide a visual framework for your business. Further, it can help you stay true to who you are and who you want to be when communicating with customers or online visitors.