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How Great Brands Scale Through Documentation
As your company grows, ensuring that your brand retains its original meaning gets harder. Smart executives know that they have to keep brand at the core of their marketing. Traditionally this was done by keeping the brand management team a small group of trusted veterans. But that doesn’t scale with the volume and speed of marketing in 2014.
One widely used technique for scaling a brand’s core values and tenets is with brand documentation.
Brand documentation, sometimes called identify guidelines or style guides, are materials created to train people on how a brand’s assets should be used or developed. It usually refers to visual assets but more and more can also refer to editorial and technical specifications for the brand.
At Percolate, we believe in documentation. We strengthened our own visual guidelines through a new brand system we unveiled late last year and we’ve started to document editorial and technical guidelines to our writing and products as well.
Here are seven examples of strong style guides from across a range of industries that might inspire your own style guide efforts.
Yelp recently unveiled a powerful toolkit by their engineering team which allows them to easily reuse components like buttons, navigation units, text boxes and the like. The style guide is used across the organization to ensure their product has a consistent look and feel.
➤ The Yelp Styleguide (visual, technical)
The iconic school in New York has produced two beautifully crafted documents which provide guidance on how the brand’s logo and visual assets should appear as well as editorial voice. It’s great to see them translate their values (urban, ambitious) into editorial choices (get to the point, use strong action words). We look forward to seeing their design and social media guides come out later this year.
➤ NYU Identity (visual, editorial)
MailChimp is well-regarded email marketing service and is famous for having fun, helpful, and positive brand voice. From the way they offer a high five after you launch a campaign to their mascot Freddie’s little jokes, they’ve developed a style that is all their own. To maintain that voice, they’ve developed an entire site devoted to how MailChimp writes, with a strong emphasis on catering the tone to the feelings their customer might have when they see that particular piece of copy.
➤ MailChimp’s Voice and Tone (editorial)
Do not be hectoring or arrogant. Those who disagree with you are not necessarily stupid or insane. Nobody needs to be described as silly: let your analysis show that he is. When you express opinions, do not simply make assertions. The aim is not just to tell readers what you think, but to persuade them; if you use arguments, reasoning and evidence, you may succeed. Go easy on the oughts and shoulds.
The Economist is known for its concise, no-nonsense reporting for decades and their style guide lays out in very explicit terms how words should be put together for their magazine. Their A-Z format is perhaps a little odd (a denounciation of “Jargon” is right next to the definition of “Jib”) but it is fascinating to read.
➤ The Economist Style Guide (editorial)
Upworthy is of course well known for being one of the fastest growing websites in the history of the Internet. They’ve written a fair amount about how their formula (tell a story with a hero and a villain, optimize for Facebook sharing) and while it doesn’t appear to be a content blueprint the company has turned into a formal editorial process, Upworthy’s guidelines nonetheless provide a helpful reference point for how to think about crafting sharable content.
➤ Upworthy’s Sweet Science of Virality (visual, editorial)
The Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News, Matt Winkler, has been training reporters on their method of journalism since the early ’90s. Focused on the Five F’s (first, fastest, factual, final, and future), the book lays out the philosophy and nuances, and details for how journalists write and cover stories for Bloomberg.
➤ The Bloomberg Way (editorial)
When it comes to developers building on the Salesforce1 platform, the company sets out three overarching principles: hierarchy, simplicity, and alignment. Their style guide offers visual assets like buttons, icons, typography as well as front-end html/css to help developers build products that “feel like” Salesforce. Bonus points for a robust set of examples.
➤ Salesforce1 App Guidelines (visual, technical)
If you’re interested in seeing more examples of brand documentation and style guides, take a look at Earl Carlson’s list on Medium.