Why your brand guidelines get ignored (and how to fix it)

13.07.2018

Your brand guidelines are a living, breathing part of your company – or they should be. They keep your brand consistent across different teams and channels. They are the clearest representation of what your brand identity is made of.

But sometimes brand guidelines get ignored. This is when color palettes are reinvented by your team, or maybe your old logo from three years ago is placed somewhere you really, really don’t want it.

When your brand guidelines aren’t used, you need to get to the root of the problem. This tends to be because they are:

  • 1. Hard to find. “If I could find the brand guidelines, I’d use them.”
  • 2. Unnecessarily complex. “What on earth does an em-dash mean anyway?”
  • 3. Lacking version control. “Which of these PDFs is the right one?”
  • 4. Seen as unimportant. “Why do I need to spend extra time on this?”
  • 5. Not used by others. “If my manager cared about these, so would I.”

Don't spend your time trying to decipher senseless brand guidelines
Don't spend your time trying to decipher senseless brand guidelines

Let’s fix it.

1. Hard to find? Make your Style Guide accessible.

If people struggle to find your brand guidelines, you need to solve that pronto.

Simplicity is your friend. Choose one central place to communicate your standards for brand design, identity, and voice. If it is a web-based brand manual, all the better; this is the easiest option to update, use, and search.

Using PDFs means unnecessary extra steps, and it is likely that outdated versions will continue being used beyond their time. Yeah, static brand guidelines suck.

Collaborate better with a cloud-based brand management solution like Frontify
Collaborate better with a cloud-based brand management solution like Frontify

2. Unnecessarily complex? Simplify your brand guidelines.

If people see your brand manual and run away screaming, you need to head back to the drawing board.

Divide your guidelines into their core pillars: design, identity, voice. For each section, every word needs to earn its place. Your reader has only so much attention. You don't need to share thirty technical points about your logo. People should know who to go to for more details.

3. Lacking version control? Say goodbye to static guidelines.

The consistent brands are the magical ones. They stay in line with their identity at all times and don’t act out of character and alienate their customers. They’re predictable; trustworthy. Consistent brands scale beautifully too. Lufthansa is a shining example of this.

When it comes to your brand, you have no room for confusion, double meaning, or inconsistency. Make sure that every brand guideline fits the standard you want to uphold.

Have one Style Guide and nothing else that contradicts it. To keep everything centralized, choose a brand management tool with version control and get rid of those pesky outdated guidelines.

4. Seen as unimportant? Get your team on board.

Everyone on your team is a brand ambassador. They help to define and amplify your brand, whether they are talking about your company or producing work with its name on it. But you need to make sure they’re spreading the right message.

Pinpoint what your brand identity really is. Make sure this comes through in your brand guidelines, and tell everyone on your team where to find your Style Guide – as often as you need to.

Sing to your team the wonders of brand consistency and make it clear that they’re part of the mission. A mission that involves using the brand guidelines.

5. Not used by others? Lead by example.

Your company needs to live and breathe your brand identity and vision, starting from the top level. If your work environment doesn’t exemplify your brand values, you can’t expect the wider world to believe in them either.

One company that does this well is Netflix. They want to maintain an “unusual employee culture” that helps their company to entertain everyone, their key business goal. Innovation is at the heart of their brand identity – internally and externally.

If you manage a team, remember that you are the ambassador for your brand guidelines. Use them in your own work and pave the way for others to follow.






When you have an inspiring and consistent brand identity, powerful customer loyalty is within your reach. To help you along the way, make your brand guidelines simple, accessible, and collaborative – and add some joy to the experience.

For refreshingly user-friendly brand communication, Frontify has your back .

Johannes Waibel
Johannes Waibel Marketing Lead at Frontify
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