The Skinny on Style Guides

The Skinny on Style Guides

By Danielle Leber

How Consistency Can Result in Higher Revenues and Better Brand Visibility

Let’s do an experiment.

Take a moment. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think about your favorite brand. Really think about it.

What popped into your head? Was it the feeling of buying your preferred product from that company? The sound of their familiar jingle? Or did you imagine the company’s logo, a graphic you likely could recognize anywhere?

Regardless of whether you imagined buying an ice-cold soda or ordering from a favorite online retailer, chances are good that when it comes to your favorite brand, you can recall even small details about its aesthetic and tone—and the way it makes you feel. And chances are even better that if something about the product, the brand, or the brand’s communications unexpectedly changed, you’d know it.

Now, think about your own organization’s branding. If a Twitter follower practiced this same exercise for your association, what do you think would come to their mind? How about a casual website visitor? Or a highly involved member?
If you think each of these users would come up with a different description of your organization’s voice, tone, aesthetic, or message, then chances are good you’re not always following your corporate style guide—if you even have one at all. And chances are even better that you’re missing out on valuable opportunities as a result.

Style Is Substance

According to “,” a survey by Demand Metric in partnership with Lucidpress, companies that present their brands in a highly consistent way see a host of benefits, from greater visibility to increased earnings.

Participants were primarily employees at B2B and mixed B2B/B2C companies reporting less than $10 million in revenue, with some 20% reporting from companies that earned more than $500 million in revenue. Regardless of earnings or company type, however, the findings were consistent.

Respondents who reported a highly consistent brand presentation were three to four times more likely to see excellent brand visibility—a key indicator for brand awareness—than their less-consistent counterparts. The estimated revenue increase resulting from excellent brand consistency across channels was 23%. And, in addition to improvements in customer communication, lead generation, and sales, brand consistency even was noted to have a positive impact on internal communications with and among employees.

However, despite these benefits, few organizations actually are achieving excellent brand consistency. Although 86% of respondents indicated that brand consistency is important, only 10% reported that their brands are presented very consistently, with brand confusion being the most impactful, and most commonly reported (71%) consequence. Even more shocking is that some 95% of respondents indicated that although their company does have branding requirements, only 25% had their guidelines formally documented, meaning only few employees were able to practice what those guidelines preach.

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Going with the Guide

However, companies that did have formal, documented policies—and enforced the requirements within those policies—were twice as likely to see consistent brand presentation, indicating that this mire of potential communication pitfalls does have one simple solution: an easily accessible and comprehensive style guide.

So where do you begin? Although the process of developing your own style guide will be unique to your association’s needs and goals, the first step is to identify what in your communications needs to change; the stakeholders who can help you change it, such as your executive director, membership managers, and marketing team; and when you want the change to take effect.

Then, ensure you have buy-in from everyone on staff, not just those who speak with the end user: if everyone from your member services representatives to your chief executives knows how to communicate, your messaging always will be consistent.

Stay tuned for an upcoming 911 post on how to create an effective style guide for your brand.

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