It’s simple. When you start a new job, you get a handbook of policies or rules to follow. If you didn’t, everyone would make up their own interpretation of what is expected, which generally leads to confusion, chaos and a whole lot of wasted time. It would be like playing a game of telephone: the first person whispers an idea in your ear and, as it travels down the line, it morphs into a twisted message that comes out all wrong at the end. This is not to say individual ideas are unwelcomed, but when it comes to getting everyone on the same page, universal solutions tend to work best.

The same goes for Brand Etiquette, or what is more generally known as a Brand Standards Guide. Brand Etiquette not only sets up the rules or “manners” of design, but also helps employees – who may not have a background or knowledge of design – stay within the boundaries of the creative brand decisions. And when employees follow suit, it makes it that much easier for customers to recognize your brand and bypass confusion altogether.

1. Messy Margins & Lazy Logos

Brand Etiquette comes in handy for clarifying an array of sticky design situations, from fonts to color palettes to logo sizes. You may think these are trivial items, but then think about what could happen if people without design experience – or the wrong software – got their hands on your logo files. What if you send out a cockeyed company letter with the wrong margins, wrong company colors and a pixilated logo? Honestly, it just makes you look sloppy and unprofessional. It comes off as if you don’t care. And that’s not the message you want to send to your clients. Brand Etiquette helps designers and employees handle these communication elements effectively.

2. That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It

A company mission statement sets people at ease. It tells the world why your company exists, what you hope to achieve and what your customers and employees will come to rely on from your brand. Consistency is the main objective here. Consistency sends a message of fulfilled expectations and reliability.

In the same vein, taglines and slogans – which are essentially the same thing – are also very important to your brand recognition. Brand Etiquette defines how and where they are to appear; free from made up versions, misspellings or adverse punctuation. Imagine if one of the most infamous slogans “Got milk?” was mistakenly written as “Get milk.” It doesn’t have the same punch nor does it ask the consumer to question their behavior and take action. In a slogan or tagline, even the most miniscule item like a verb or a question mark can create a different meaning for you and your brand.

Brand Etiquette ensures that these outgoing messages are the same across the board. You don’t want one employee to misstep and then you have bigger public relations issues to defend – which is an entirely different blog topic.

3. From the Inside Out

It’s also a good idea to agree upon internal and external communications. I’ve found it easiest to create a list of approved phrases, verbiage and industry terms that have a positive impact, as well as a list of phrases to avoid. Certain words can create a negative impact and vice versa. And if you’ve already tested the waters, you know what to stay away from next time.

The best way to do this is to review past hot button issues for customers or any negative press you may have received. Take all of these into account. Know what you stand for and where you are headed. Words have meaning, and the words you choose to represent your brand remind your staff of what they are to project when writing for your company. This is especially helpful to the writer and copy editor.

4. More Than Just Pretty Pictures

Having a consistent look to your photography will amp up your brand recognition all around. If you’re a marketing company specifically, like we are, it helps the public take note of your abilities. If you take distinctive and professional photos, it will help you stand out to your potential clients and provide evidence of your basic skills.

In my opinion, headshots need special attention in every instance of Brand Etiquette, since they tend to get the most use, are the most often viewed photographs and get the harshest critique. Let’s face it, most people don’t like pictures of themselves, but poor composition and bad lighting can make any person look bad. Would you trust a company to take photos for your website, if they can’t even take professional quality photos of their own employees? I think not. Headshots need to be carefully executed and presented in the media as they are not only a reflection of the individual, but are also a reflection on the photographer.

5. Go Out in Style

It’s also a good idea to clarify your ad style. This will help your staff quickly define what elements can and cannot be used; a guideline for production of sorts. This part of Brand Etiquette creates efficiency reducing the amount of time wasted each time an ad needs to be developed. Instead, designers have the three key elements they need to uphold your brand image: key messaging, tone and composition.

Brand Etiquette simply makes for better ads and more independence of employees. Imagine if you have a project with a tight deadline and the creative director is in a meeting or on vacation? You don’t want to stall production due to major decisions that can affect whether your ad runs or not. This is another reason for every client to have Brand Etiquette in place ahead of time.

Nip it in the Bud

Using a consistent font, format and communication style makes a company statement; one of universal thinking and working as one. If the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, your company is in for a world of hurt. Getting these rules and “manners” figured out ahead of time creates an example for your clients and employees to follow. In other words, lead by example. The more consistent your Brand Etiquette, the easier it is for customers to put their trust in you and depend on your brand every time.