Brand Guidelines? They’re More Important Than Ever in 2024

Insights on the vitality and continued importance of brand messaging and guidelines in an increasingly complex communications landscape. Originally published on faur.site

When someone says Roll-Royce, or Marlboro, or Skoda, or Timpson’s… what’s your reaction? Is it “premium”? “Cowboy”? “Great, but used to be rubbish”? “Philanthropic”?

That reaction or feeling: that’s all down to brand marketing.

Brand marketing is how customers and clients/potential clients feel about your company. You can play the game all day. What’s your reaction to Apple, Ryanair, Tesco Mobile, The Body Shop?

These reactions do not happen by accident. They are crafted through design, messaging, imagery, PR, logos, taglines, and customer reviews. And at the very heart of all of this is content. Content covers assets published on a company’s own channels, social channels, and what is written and shared about them by others.

As the proliferation of channels, platforms, sites, newsletters, and adverts continues, ensuring your business stands out will become more important but also more difficult.

But the means to influence that message and the way you as a company are perceived is becoming easier. It used to be that getting the message out was the preserve of advertising and PR. If you wanted to tell people about your business, you had to pay someone else to do the publishing.

Websites and social media changed all that. Companies now have the means to create content in-house and influence messaging via social media, influencer marketing, SEO content on websites, email newsletters, and digital PR. The junior social exec running an Instagram account now has the responsibility of representing your brand to the world, not just publishing content but engaging and interacting with it via comments and messages.

However, there does need to be a degree of brand control. Social might be a different format on a different platform — compare TikTok with LinkedIn or Instagram and X — but it still needs to consistently represent your company.

The danger of too many channels is you lose that brand consistency. The more people (and we’ll get to AI in a second) involved, the more chances there are your brand’s tone of voice is diluted or interpreted. Every time a company uses a different agent to create content, it is another chance for that brand messaging to alter.

And AI? AI has to be used carefully. The more infamous models, such as ChatGPT, will only give you non-specific output. You’ll have to temper and change them to meet your brand and its tone. AI will be most useful if you make it bespoke and there are moves to create AI systems which support your brand (and your brand only) to make sure, as you create a brief or write a piece of copy, it checks that your tone of voice and style fit the Brand’s guidelines. A tailor-made spellcheck or Grammarly. Generic generative AI has the potential to weaken a brand, if not damage it.

At the heart of your brand messaging is the content you, your agencies and your customers produce. Content marketing in 2024 is the articulation of a brand, and the better brands are the ones who not only have firm guidelines in place, but the flexibility to create content to be used across different channels and platforms.

It will keep going back to consistency. When you choose an agency or any third party to represent you or create content on your behalf, they need to comprehensively understand your brand and your guidelines. In 2024, marketing has to be on budget, it has to support your business’ aims and strategy, and, as importantly, it has to consistently be on brand.

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