Marketing advice: maintain your style guide

In summary Your style guide is the reference source your various design and marketing teams are using to convey your message.

“Maintain your style guide” should be every company’s unbreakable New Year’s resolution. Now that the champagne buzz has had a chance to wear off, and all our own resolutions have been properly made (and broken), I find that a lot of self-assessment is still happening. Around the office, Chris is asking each of us to bring a list of 3 goals to the table this year, as a means of encouraging growth in ourselves, and growth in the company as a whole. It’s a great idea, and is the source of inspiration for my advice today.

Well, I must be honest. It’s not the only source. We recently had a question come up in the office about the proper usage of a client’s logo. It’s a question that could – and should – be easily answered by referencing that company’s Style Guide. In this particular case, though, it was unaddressed in their manual.

A great example of why it is so important to keep your Style Guide updated.

To back up for just a second, a Style Guide is a reference manual, usually developed at the time that a company’s brand is initially established, and added upon as the need arises. At the very basic level, this manual includes:

  • What the company’s overall message is to its consumers/shareholders/employees.
  • How that message is portrayed through the company’s logo.
  • Proper typography for the Web and in print, and why these choices were made.
  • Company color scheme(s), and the meaning behind these choices.
  • Examples of how these elements work together in various media – online, advertising, booklets, brochures, trade shows, etc. – to best represent the company’s brand.

I’ve seen manuals that went into much further detail, but this short list should cover most companies’ needs for everyday use.

Why is it so important to keep this information up-to-date? Simple: it is the reference your various design and marketing teams are using to convey your message. By keeping it as current as possible, your message will remain accurate and consistent regardless of if you are using an internal marketing team, an outside advertising agency, a specialized Web and new media agency, or any combination thereof.

So, while you self-assess, take notes. Update your Style Guide to coincide with what you learned from the last year about your company. Has your message changed? Are you offering different products/services than last year? Do you have a new media you are communicating to your clients through?