Brand Creative Guidelines Rule in 2019

Brand creative guidelines set up rules as to how your brand identity should be expressed creatively, no matter what scenario it’s in.


This keeps your brand identity powerful and true no matter where it appears, whether you’re doing online ads, in-store displays, social ads, or other public-facing events.


Creative guidelines also keep your brand consistent, yet relevant as culture changes. Let’s say your brand is known for being “masculine.” If society’s idea of masculinity evolves, you’d evolve with it while still maintaining your identity.


On top of that, creative guidelines help people who produce your marketing materials (like ad agencies, vendors, or internal teams) get immersed in your brand’s identity and understand how to portray it.


That’s important because the better these teams understand your brand, the better work they’ll do for you.


Creative guidelines helped Axe, the global grooming brand for men, evolve its identity and strategy.


Ten years ago, Axe’s creative strategy centered on giving males the edge in the dating game. The brand’s famous ads featured attractive women and “manly men.”

Over time, society’s views on masculinity changed and became more multifaceted. And men began to embrace grooming products as a way to express themselves. Axe knew it also needed to change – but still, maintain its iconic brand identity.


Axe’s creative guidelines were the key to this evolution. They helped Axe stay true to its masculine brand identity while exploring modern interpretations of it.


In 2016, Axe embraced the notion that a definitive, single-minded idea of masculinity doesn’t exist. They updated their creative guidelines to reflect this thinking.


This resulted in a creative campaign featuring images of confident men from all walks of life. The ads’ tagline “Find Your Magic” asked men to discover what makes them unique, and touted Axe’s products as a way to express this individuality.


So how do you start setting up brand creative guidelines? You’ve probably already guessed that building your brand identity is the first step.


That means defining your vision and mission statements, as well as your target audience. It also includes describing your brand’s character in a series of adjectives like caring, generous, youthful, spontaneous, etc.


These adjectives are your brand personality traits. They give your brand human characteristics, aspirations, and values – all of which make it easier for people to relate to and engage with your brand.


Once you have your brand personality traits, think of some synonyms for them. For example, let’s say one of your traits is “powerful.” You might look at these synonyms: competent, convincing, authoritative, commanding, and dynamic.


Your creative guidelines can use these synonyms to define what’s on and off brand. Competent and convincing might be too weak, while authoritative and commanding are too forceful. Dynamic, meanwhile, works perfectly.


It’s a good idea to create this range of synonyms via an internal brainstorm that involves everyone responsible for designing your brand’s identity, like designers, marketers, PR leads, and so forth.


After you have your synonyms, continue to personify your brand by aligning it with the 5 human senses.


Humans experience the world using each and every sense. So if your target audience can experience your brand in the same way, it will be more memorable and meaningful to them.

But what if your product isn’t a fragrance or food or something people can touch? It still works, because all the senses come with connotations that can match your brand identity.


You just need to be able to think hypothetically about your brand. “If my sports car brand had a flavor, it would be spicy. If it had a signature aroma, it would be a delightful new car smell.”


To align your brand with the 5 senses, go through each one (sight, touch, smell, sound, taste) and ask yourself how your brand uniquely embodies them.

For sight, list color schemes, photos, and illustrations that represent your brand. Basically, you’re setting up visual guardrails to show what’s on brand, like Casual, unposed photos are on brand, but staged stock photography is not.

For touch, describe your brand’s shape and texture. How should product packaging feel? If you built a pop-up store, what tactile materials would you use? Hypothetically, is your brand-heavy, light, smooth, or abrasive?

Describing your brand’s signature smell is hugely important because it’s the most subconscious sense and the one most tied to memory. Would your brand have a musky, flowery, or sweet scent?

Creating a signature sound for your brand can help your writers craft copy that’s in the right tone of voice. Ask yourself, if I used a voiceover actor, what type of voice would she or he have? What music complements my brand?

Lastly, explore the sense of taste. If your brand was food, how would it taste? Would it be sour, sweet, or spicy? Are there certain foods you’d associate with your brand? What kind of food would you cater to your brand event?



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