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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Digital brand guidelines: why leading brands are going online with their brand books

Picture of an example of a digital brand book

Why choose digital brand guidelines for an organisation? What may seem like an unnecessary frivolity can pay dividends as brands look to achieve brand clarity and consistency across their organisation. Not sure if it’s for you? We’ve put together a short explanation of the pros and cons of digital brand guidelines.

Recent years have seen a significant move towards hosted brand guidelines. Bigger brands like WhatsApp, Netflix, and Google Material Design paved the way, with now mainstream corporates and SMEs are looking to follow suit, seeing the benefits of creating an online hub for their brand guidelines and brand assets. Here’s a simpler example from e-store brand, Shopify.

The Pros. Why choose digital brand guidelines?

Easy to access by anyone, anywhere, on any device

The benefits of cloud-hosted systems are well known and apply to brands just the same. Just imagine, it’s 10 pm, the office is closed, you’re stuck in a traffic jam just off the M25, and you urgently need your company logo for a press release. No problem, you can get hold of your key assets anywhere, on any device at any time. Nice!

Changes are easier to make

Making changes to a brand can be complicated enough. Changing guidelines can be even harder. With traditional brand books, typically sent out as PDFs, there’s no telling who has which version, or whether they even bother to read a new release when they’re happy with what they’ve had for the last 18 months. With hosted guidelines, change happens quickly and, importantly, centrally.

Quicker and easier to use

Online guidelines take a few seconds to access, but after that, it’s high-speed all the way. With the intuitive navigation you can access the specific information or files you need within a few seconds. Click, view, done.

Brand, print, digital, moving image, all under one roof

One of the killer benefits of digital brand guidelines is that you can go beyond flat, static graphics. Brands can come to life, showcasing the ‘moving brand’ as well as more traditional aspects. Including stings and videos, UI components and animations all become standard practice. The possibilities are pretty endless.

Leengate's brand guidelines picture

Managed centrally, updated instantly

Need to make an essential change to the brand? Notice your presentation template has a mistake? No problem. With an online brand guideline, you can make changes quickly and centrally. Updates are instant, meaning your team aren’t still using the logo version from 1995. Version control can alert the users to changes too, so they see what’s changed. With everybody on the same page, it avoids confusion and helps achieve consistency.

Hosted guidelines are more economic

Creating digital brand guidelines is more cost-effective for businesses. The time to create them is about the same as more traditional methods (PDFs, books) and any changes or additions are quicker to make in the future.

Download files and templates directly from the page

One of the main benefits is that you can download files from inside the brand hub. It’s quick, easy and means you’re always accessing the latest files, such as logos, colour palettes, templates.

Guidelines that evolve as your brand grows

Start small and build. You can cover the essentials and then add to it over time as more of the branding is developed and established. This approach means you can be more flexible, ending up with a solution that’s the best fit for the business.

Keeps your valuable brand files secure

If you’re giving access to anyone, you need to have the option to retain control. Some brands choose to share freely, but you might want to keep sensitive information away from prying eyes. With digital brand guidelines, you can keep your important brand information under lock and key with password protection. Like a CMS or file system, your team will be given a username and password to gain access, while keeping the haters out.

Screenshots of Leengate's digital guidelines

Not as tangible

As with so many things in the modern world, digital materials can feel harder to connect with. Some of our clients say that they prefer a printed hard-copy of guidelines, as it is easier to keep at hand and more engaging to use.

They need looking after

With a traditional brand book, once it’s complete, it’s complete. You can stick it on the shelf and consider the project done. True, but is that good? A digital brand guideline (or brand hub) does require upkeep and maintenance, but that isn’t too much of a downside, is it? Your brand needs reviewing and maintaining to keep it relevant, so actually, it keeps focus and attention where it’s needed.

There’s an ongoing fee

Yep, that’s right. Keep a digital brand guideline is a luxury that has a price tag. But, like all good things in life, they’re not free. In our opinion, whatever approach you choose, the costs aren’t huge, and the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.

How to go digital with your brand guidelines

Whether you’re for or against, we see a clear benefit in moving to digital brand guidelines across industries. If you’re tempted, then there are the following options.

Host yourself

For a basic solution, you could host yourself using a simple intranet tool like Google Sites. For the essentials, it would probably do the job. No bells and whistles though.

Use an online guidelines tool

There are several new online brand guidelines tools out there, like Open Brand, Brand Master, Frontify, and Branding Manual. They typically require a subscription and won’t be tailored to your brand, but they’re an easy(ish) way to get your brand online.

Choose a branding agency

If you’re serious about reviewing and growing your brand, then you need support from a good branding agency. Branding is much more than guidelines – it’s considering your whole market proposition and how you engage with people. Threerooms can help review your brand positioning, create a brand strategy and design an identity that fits your business goals. Digital brand guidelines are all part of the process.

Want to get started?

Interested in learning more? We’re all ears. Get in touch and discover how we can review your brand and create digital brand guidelines for your business.

A specialist brand agency

An award-winning branding agency, Threerooms has spent over 15 years making brands stronger and businesses more successful. Whether modernising brands with meaning or crafting effective marketing campaigns, our amazing team is focused on delivering brand transformation while providing exceptional customer service.

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