Brand guidelines: why they're important for your schoolJuly 9, 2021
Branding is an important aspect of any business, providing its employees and customers with a strong identity that they can instantly recognise. In the same way, schools also need to develop their brand to differentiate themselves and to become recognisable and unique in the eyes of their school community.
The best way to ensure everyone in your school team understands your brand and can use your brand assets appropriately is by creating a set of brand guidelines. Ready to see how guidelines can make a huge difference across all areas of your school operations? Read on!
What are brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines (also known as brand standards or style guides) are a set of rules and definitions that explain your brand and how to use your brand assets, such as colours, logos, imagery and more. In other words, brand guidelines tell others how your brand works.
Brand guidelines come in a range of formats, from short, one-page documents to thick manuals. 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 do schools need brand guidelines?
1. They create consistency
Brand guidelines allow schools to ensure that every use of the brand, both internally and within the community, is the same, no matter where it is displayed. Brand consistency increases the recognition and strength of your school’s brand and helps you to maintain a coherent image.
2. They keep external providers on the same page
A big benefit of implementing brand guidelines is being able to easily communicate your brand to others that are working on behalf of your school. This is especially important when you’re briefing teams such as software providers or marketing agencies. Rather than needing to sit down and explain your brand to these providers, you can save yourself a lot of time and back-and-forth by simply providing them with a copy of your guidelines.
3. They increase parent recall
Once they’re 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 by parents who see your assets in the wild — for example, on a bumper sticker of a fellow parent’s car or on a TV advertisement.
What should you include in brand guidelines for your school?
As we mentioned above, the length of brand guidelines can vary greatly. 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’ll 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 contextualise your brand assets.
Your school’s motto, ethos or slogan
School mottos tell your school community why your school was founded and can often communicate values. Whether modern or classic, 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 proposition, and it’s a simple statement that communicates to prospective parents the difference between your school and the others in your area. It usually taps into a core value that your community holds: academics, faith, musical excellence, or something else that is intrinsic to your school. 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.
You should include at least one of these in your brand guidelines. This is incredibly helpful for anyone acting on behalf of your school to easily communicate your benefits quickly and consistently.
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, you may identify that your tone is open, authentic, friendly, authoritative, technical, professional or a combination of these. It’s also a good idea to provide examples of how your tone of voice can be used in different marketing materials.
This will likely be the most-accessed part of your brand guidelines, as an easily accessible version of your logos (and how to apply them!) is so useful! 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. You may also like to explore including additional complementary colours into your palette to help strengthen your brand using colour theory.
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 the web and print, and how to access them.
You will likely have a whole library of images available to use for marketing. In your brand guidelines, it’s important to note how they can be used and the types of images that can be used on different platforms. While imagery is usually associated with photography, it can also include illustrations or a combination of both.
Examples of how all of your assets work together
Once you’ve provided clear explanations and use cases for each of your assets, it’s time to put it all together and demonstrate how they all work together to form your cohesive brand. The best way to do this is to show your brand in action on different marketing assets, 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).
If this is your first time developing your school brand, you may not have best-practice brand use cases that you can showcase within your guidelines. If this is the case, work with your design team to come up with some examples of how your brand could be used once the guidelines are implemented.
Source: Adventist Education Victoria
Start creating your brand guidelines
Ready to get to work creating (or updating) your brand guidelines? We’ve created a handy brand guidelines checklist that includes everything we’ve covered in this post. 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.
Digistorm has an incredible team of UX and UI designers who can take your guidelines and build a website that works as an extension of your school brand. If you’re interested in a custom-built, branded website, make sure you talk to the friendly Digistorm team today.