Whether you have just started your travel business or you have been running for some time, if you don’t have defined brand guidelines, or don’t know how to create brand guidelines, this is the article for you.
Brand Guidelines are, basically, a set of rules and standards that set the way that your business will be presented, internally and externally.
If you are not very familiar with the guidelines, and why is it so important to get them in place, I highly recommend checking out my previous article first – Why are Brand Guidelines Important for Travel and Hospitality Businesses.
In that article, I’ve dived deeper into the main reasons why brand guidelines is a must for any travel business that wants to dominate the market.
Brand guidelines can seem a little intimidating, especially if you haven’t had any experience with them before.
So we will break the process down into two main parts – brand identity and brand assets.
I will guide you step-by-step through both parts. By the end of it you will be able to create brand guidelines with your team – or direct a design agency with confidence.
How to create Brand Guidelines:
Your brand identity is what differentiates you from your competitors, and makes you recognisable on the market. It helps your audience connect you with your product or service.
Your brand identity is important because it sets a foundation on which you build the connection with your customers and how they will perceive your brand.
Brand identity is often confused with brand image, but there is a difference.
Brand identity is how you want your audience to perceive you. The brand image on the other side is how your audience is actually perceiving you.
You have full control over your brand identity – which in turn can help you to create the right brand image. Even though you can influence the forming of your brand image to some extent, you don’t have full control of it.
Your Ideal Customer
It all starts with knowing your customer first.
The more you know them, the better you will be able to form your messages in a way that will resonate with them. You will know how to engage them, and ultimately turn them into bookers.
By knowing your customers, you will know their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can help them by serving them.
You want to be able to describe your customers as easily as you could describe your best friend.
The best way to develop this knowledge of your audience is to create customer personas.
Customer personas are a way of defining your audience, and their key characteristics.
If you haven’t encountered the term before, or are unsure how to create your customer persona(s), then you might want to read How to create customer persona for your travel business.
In that article, I explain in-depth why customer personas are so important and how you can make your own.
The best way to understand brand personality is to imagine your brand as a physical person.
Then think about the characteristic traits you would like it to have.
When you are doing this, don’t forget about your ideal customer, and ask yourself a question – what type of person would your audience be drawn to?
To put this into practice, I suggest using a Brand Personality framework by Jennifer Aaker.
In this framework, there are five dimensions of the personality: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, Ruggedness.
Under each dimension, there is a set of specific character traits.
When you are thinking about your desired brand personality, define at least five characteristics that you want your brand to have.
Each of those traits will fall under one of the dimensions.
For example, if you want your brand to be glamorous and upper-class, that will put you under sophistication. If you’re opting to be adventurous and youthful, that will put you under excitement.
This framework is also great for evaluating the current status of a brand and comparing it to a desired future status.
To do that, go through all dimensions and the traits and rate from 1 (not descriptive) to 5 (extremely descriptive). Once you have done that, you will know how you need to alter your brand to form the desired personality.
Every brand or business, has stories to tell. Done well, your target audience will relate to and connect with your brand on a much deeper, stronger, emotional level. Done wrong, you’ll get the opposite effect.
There are many techniques that can help you to craft the perfect story for your brand. My personal favourite – and one that I highly recommend – is Building a Story Brand framework by Donald Miller.
Using this framework, you position your customers as heroes of your story, and you as their guide, helping them to overcome any struggles and challenges, and providing the services and products they need to succeed.
You can create your own brand story using the free framework template here. Or if you need more help with this, you can always reach out to us and we’ll help you to craft an authentic and attention-grabbing story.
Brand Vision, Mission, Values
To complete the brand identity, you need to define your vision, mission and values too.
Your brand vision is, basically, what you aspire to become in the future – the ultimate goal that you want to achieve as a brand.
It is a short statement that effectively presents how you see your brand in the future. By sharing your brand vision with your audience, you are telling them what you are working towards every day. You are sharing what are your priorities and in what direction you will be moving forward.
For example, let’s take a look at Southwest Airlines’ brand vision: “To become the world’s most loved, most flown and most profitable airline”. That’s what they aspire to become. It doesn’t matter if they will achieve that or not, we know they are working hard every day in order to move closer to fulfilling that vision.
With a brand mission, you define the purpose of your brand, what effects you want to have on your customers and the world around you.
Your brand mission should define the approach you are taking to accomplish your brand vision.
We can take Omni Hotels for an example – their vision is “Proudly opening doors to the true spirit of a destination”, and their mission is “We are a luxury brand whose incredible family of associates puts the soul in hospitality every day. The needs of our guests, associates and owners are in the forefront of everything we do. Through authenticity and innovation, we create unique memorable experiences.”
They have a clear story and they aim to live up to this statement on a daily basis.
Finally, brand values are what you stand for as a business.
They give the moral element to your brand and the work you do. Brand values help you set the company culture and how you are operating. They ultimately help you form every aspect of your business.
There is no limit or rule on how many values you should define. What matters is to stay true and aligned with them once you have them in place.
Some examples of brand values are responsibility, transparency, integrity, respect, growth, authenticity, and so on.
How to create Brand Guidelines:
Brand assets are, simply put, design elements that help you become visually recognisable by your audience.
The consistent use of brand assets builds your recognition. So within time, your audience won’t need to read your brand name to know it’s you. Their goal is to help your audience instantly recognise you whenever they see your content.
Brand assets can be differentiated into visual and audio. However, it depends on the type of your business and your brand identity how many assets would you need in order to present your brand in the best possible way.
But there are some mandatory assets that every brand needs like logos, brand colours, brand patterns and defined typography.
When designing and creating brand assets, you need to be confident and sure of your brand identity – because the brand assets will be based on that.
Assets can often be overlooked, however, they are incredibly important for building brand recognition.
To measure the strength of your assets, frameworks like brand link and brand ownership are often used.
Brand link is a measure that reveals the percentage of the market that links your brand assets with your brand. Brand ownership is the percentage of the market that associates your brand assets with your brand only. If they also think of other brands when they see your assets, that suggests you have weak assets.
The logo is the main calling card of any business, and the most recognisable element of any brand.
Great logos don’t need to be complicated. In fact the best and most iconic, are often the most simple and refined. While fashions change, simple, bold and elegant logos are timeless – and can help an audience to instantly recognise your brand.
Look at a logo like AirBnb’s for example:
While it is important to get it right – logos help people form an instant opinion about who you are and what you do. A good logo is nothing without a solid brand identity to back it up.
When you are defining your brand colours, you are defining a set of colours that you will use whenever you are creating visual content for your brand.
When you are choosing colours to be part of your brand palette, have in mind that each colour has its own psychological meaning in branding.
So be sure to define your colours according to this and to reflect your brand identity. I have written an entire article about different meanings of colours in branding. I highly recommend you check it out!
A rule of thumb is that you need to have a bold colour, a complementary colour, a neutral colour, and dark and light colours within your palette.
The bold colour will be the main, attention-grabbing colour. The complimentary colour will either compliment or contrast the bold.
Then the neutral colour’s role is to ground the bold and complimentary. The dark colour is primarily used for the headlines and paragraphs. So make sure it’s readable when combined with the rest of your colours.
Lastly, the light colour is there as a supporting element, to help you maintain balance.
But that can be just a starting point. There is no one size fit all, it varies from brand to brand.
You can start with just three-four colours and add more as you go. It’s just important that when you start, you keep it consistent. For this reason, we usually recommend less rather than more.
Patterns are great for adding personality to your brand. This graphic element will usually support the other elements, and help to build brand recognition. While they are not usually the main element – they will tie your designs together beautifully.
Brand patterns are great for print, signage and promo material design. They can be especially useful and effective in the hospitality industry, where there are many touchpoints with customers.
They can really lift a piece, by adding texture and interest, while also reflecting your brand values.
Typography refers to the fonts you will use and also how the text will be arranged. How it will be laid out, the font-size, tracking, spacing and more. Typography is an art in itself. It helps to have a good eye to know what works and what doesn’t.
Type is often where you can see which brands have brand guidelines, and which don’t. A good set of brand guidelines will demystify typography, giving clear guidance on how to use text appropriately. Usually, you will define a primary and secondary font, and have rules for how they can be used together.
The primary font is often used for headlines, while a paired font can be used to add contrast to short statements and subheadings. A body copy font should also be specified, which can be used for paragraphs and longer text.
Legibility should be a key concern when using text – it’s easy to be seduced by fancy scripts. But the audience needs to be able to read what you’ve written.
Tone of Voice
It’s also worth spending some time thinking about the way your brand would speak. Imagining it is a person again can help with this.
How do you want your website copy to read – fun and playful, or serious and business-like?
Photography and illustration
It also helps to define the type of photography your brand will favour. For example, some like to use black and white, some like to use lots of photos of people, while others will go for a vintage feel.
Do you like shots lit with lots of sunlight, do you want to show mainly families, do you want to use photos shot from unusual angles?
Defining your photography style will really help when editing photos, as you can help to keep a similar aesthetic style.
You can also define whether you want to use illustrations to add to your brand. If so, what kind of illustrations – hand-drawn, vector graphics or isometric. There are lots of styles, so see what fits your brand.
How to create Brand Guidelines:
Setting the Rules
Now when you have defined everything above, it’s time to finish your brand guidelines by defining the rules.
Creating a brand guidelines document will help to communicate these decisions to everyone within your organisation. Or external parties – such as graphic designers, illustrators and photographers who you may work with.
By defining clear, unambiguous rules, you can maintain a consistent brand image, and present your business to the world in the best possible light.
Your brand guidelines document can be updated as and when needed. But it will keep everyone associated with the business on the same page, and help to create the brand image you desire.
I really hope this article has done a good job of explaining how to create brand guidelines. I highly recommend reading related articles from above. Whether you decide to build your own brand with the team or get help from a creative agency, these articles will help you understand branding better and why you should invest in it.
Have a question about building a strong brand?
We’d love to hear from you! Whether you need help to set up your brand for success, create brand guidelines for your hospitality business, improve your current branding or just learn more about it, we are here for you. Contact us at any time or even better, schedule a free 30-minute discovery call and let’s take your brand to the next level!
Stay safe and stay healthy,
Until next time,