Brand Guidelines and Why They're Important for Your SchoolAugust 7, 2019
A note from Digistorm: this post was originally published in April 2018. We've updated it to include more relevant information.
Branding is an important aspect of any business, providing its customers with a strong identity. As Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what your customers say about you when you’re not in the room.” At Digistorm, we’ve been working hard to develop and strengthen our brand, making our brand assets more familiar to our clients and the broader education community.
Schools likewise need to develop their brand to differentiate themselves and to become instantly recognizable and unique in the eyes of your school community. Clear brand guidelines are an important tool to ensure everyone in your school team understands your brand and your brand assets and can use them appropriately.
What are brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines (also known as brand standards or style guides) are a set of rules and definitions that explain what your brand is and how to use your brand assets. In other words, brand guidelines tell you how your brand works.
Brand guidelines come in a range of formats, from short documents to whole websites, like the Netflix Brand Site. No matter what kind of format you choose to use, it’s important that your brand guidelines are:
- accessible to everyone who needs to use them
- easy to navigate
- locked, or unable to be edited by anyone other than the ‘brand owners’ (usually the marketing team).
Why are brand guidelines important?
Brand guidelines allow schools to ensure that every use of the brand, both internally and within the community is consistent. Brand consistency increases the recognition and strength of your school’s brand.
Keeping external providers on the same page
An additional benefit of implementing brand guidelines is being able to share them with partners, such as software providers or marketing agencies. Brand guidelines are an effective tool that assists your school in carrying its’ branding across every system that’s implemented or added to the school’s portfolio.
Once implemented, brand guidelines will ensure that all communications and marketing content parents receive work together to create familiarity and brand recall. This means that your school’s brand will be more memorable and recognizable.
What should be included in brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines can vary in length, however, it’s a good idea to try and provide enough information for your team to use the brand assets without needing to rely on graphic designers or your marketing team. If you’re just starting to put together your brand guidelines, here are the essentials that should be included in your brand guidelines.
This is where you will state the purpose of the brand guidelines, who they are for, and how and with whom they can be shared. It would also be a good idea to provide an overview of your school, including its history, values and vision. This helps anyone viewing your guidelines to contextualize your brand assets.
Your school’s motto, ethos or slogan
School mottos tell your school community why your school was founded and often provide aspirational “shared ideals for life beyond education”. Whether modern or archaic, service-centric or virtuous, English or Latin, your motto will be splashed across most brand assets that your marketing team will produce. This means it’s important that they can find it quickly and easily (least of all so they don’t get the Latin spelling wrong!).
Your USP or elevator pitch
USP stands for unique selling position, and it’s a simple statement that communicates to prospective parents the difference between your school above the others in your area. It usually taps into a core value that your school community holds; whether it be academics, faith, musical excellence, or another value. On the other hand, your school’s elevator pitch is limited to one sentence and is sales-focused, explaining to prospective parents why they should choose your school.
Your tone of voice
Your school brand has a personality, which comes across in your words. Tone of voice gives anyone writing on behalf of your business an idea about how to write so that it “sounds” like your school. It’s helpful to include adjectives here to clarify your tone of voice — for example, open, authentic, friendly, authoritative, technical, professional. It’s also a good idea to provide examples of your tone of voice in different marketing materials.
This is the part of brand guidelines that most of your users will be looking for. Include high quality, downloadable versions of your logos (or instructions for how to get them), as well as rules about where and how to use your logo: minimum sizes, spacing and where not to place it. If you have secondary logos (a school crest, or house-specific logos), include them as well.
Your school colours are an important part of your brand, as your students wear them every day as visual brand ambassadors. To ensure they are used consistently throughout all of your marketing materials, it’s helpful to include your primary and secondary colour palettes with a breakdown of each colour for print and web.
Source: Element Three
Your school likely uses particular font families in your marketing collateral and on your website. You might even use different typefaces for internal and external audiences. Your brand guidelines should include the different typefaces that you use for headings and body copy across web and print, and how to access them.
Photography or imagery
You will likely have a whole library of photos available to use for marketing. In your brand guidelines, it’s important to note how these images can be used and the types of photography that works with your brand.
Examples of how all of your assets work together
At the end of your brand guidelines, provide some examples of how your colours, typography and imagery work together to create a marketing asset, such as:
- A screenshot of your website homepage
- A social media post
- A brochure
- A photo of school merchandise (such as a water bottle or backpack)
Source: Adventist Education Victoria
There’s nothing quite like an example from another school to give you the inspiration to get your brand guidelines started. Check out these incredible examples from St Paul’s Girls School in Hammersmith London and Adventist Education Victoria.
Thinking of getting started on some brand guidelines? Download your checklist of brand guideline essentials to get you brainstorming!