In this episode of the Brandwidth podcast, Dean Millson discusses the importance of brand guidelines and how they can benefit businesses, explaining that brand guidelines are more than just visual standards and should encompass the vision, purpose, target audience, communication style, values, and visual identity of a brand. Dean emphasises the need for flexibility in brand guidelines to adapt to changing trends and media platforms, while also highlighting the importance of tailoring brand guidelines to the specific needs and capabilities of the organisation.
– Brand guidelines should include the vision, purpose, target audience, communication style, values, and visual identity of a brand.
– Flexibility is crucial in brand guidelines to adapt to changing trends and media platforms.
– Tailor brand guidelines to the specific needs and capabilities of the organization.
“Clarity equals power. Once you know your truth or what you stand for, it’s powerful.” – Dean Millson
“If you’re a two-person show, you’re probably okay to drop the values and how we act section.” – Dean Millson
|0:00:27||Introduction to the topic of brand guidelines|
|0:02:33||Historical background of brand guidelines|
|0:04:40||Importance of brand guidelines as a business marketing bible|
|0:06:25||Sections of a good brand guidelines document|
|0:09:00||The inclusion of values and behaviors in brand guidelines|
|0:11:31||The significance of capturing and sharing brand stories|
|0:12:01||The visual elements of brand guidelines|
|0:13:09||Summary of the ideal length and format of brand guidelines|
|0:13:09||Mention of NASA and New York subway brand guidelines|
|0:14:07||Shift from prescriptive guidelines to more flexible approach|
|0:16:47||Challenges with social media and marketing gurus encouraging flexibility|
|0:19:26||Optus’ approach of non-negotiables and playground for brand guidelines|
|0:22:18||Tailoring guidelines to the audience and their skills|
|0:23:23||Discussions on fonts and alternatives like Google Fonts|
|0:24:19||Considering end users and their tools for using brand guidelines|
|0:25:29||Online brand guidelines and changing approaches|
|0:25:29||Small business clients often lack brand guidelines|
|0:25:29||Challenging to develop creative assets without brand guidelines|
|0:26:03||Importance of consistent brand guidelines for small businesses|
|0:27:41||Documenting brand direction for better decision-making|
|0:28:22||Creating a framework for content marketing and social media|
|0:30:03||Applying brand guidelines to advertising and exhibitions|
|0:32:36||Avoiding competitor focus and maintaining brand distinctiveness|
|0:33:12||Bunnings as an example of disciplined brand consistency|
|0:35:44||Minimum brand guidelines: Who we are, where we’re going|
|0:36:19||Defining target customers and brand language|
|0:36:46||Distinctive language for better brand memorability|
|0:37:09||Importance of values and how we act for larger organizations|
|0:37:39||Importance of brand guidelines for small businesses|
|0:38:14||Brand touch points and consistency in visual representation|
|0:38:54||Planning and guidelines for social media and content production|
|0:39:56||Guidelines for photography and stock imagery|
|0:40:58||Documenting brand guidelines for future growth|
|0:41:35||Benefits of getting ideas on paper or screen|
|0:42:20||Recap of the five key components of brand guidelines|
|0:42:43||Call for questions and reviews|
|0:42:47||Conclusion and farewell|
0:00:00 – (Dean Millson): Sam?
0:00:27 – (Sam McEwin): Yes. Welcome back to the Brainwidth podcast. Sammy ewan here with you? And joining me, as always, Dean Nielsen. How are you today, Dean?
0:00:35 – (Dean Millson): I am very well, Sammy. How are you?
0:00:37 – (Sam McEwin): Pretty good. I think I almost called you Gene then.
0:00:39 – (Dean Millson): Gene? That’s okay. Dean. Gene?
0:00:41 – (Sam McEwin): Yeah, I might stick with Dean.
0:00:43 – (Dean Millson): I prefer Dean. That’s good. Prefer Dean.
0:00:46 – (Sam McEwin): That’s very good. So this podcast, as is the way that we do things here. One of us comes with a topic for discussion, topic without notice, and we see where it takes us. And you are fulfilling that duty for us today?
0:01:04 – (Dean Millson): It is my duty, yes. I want to talk about something. This is probably a little bit more of a, let’s say, rational or functional topic than maybe we have been used to of late, Sam, but I thought it might be interesting to talk about what a good brand guideline is, you know, what a brand guidelines document is.
0:01:27 – (Sam McEwin): I have seen the occasional brand guideline document in my life. I’ve never created one.
0:01:34 – (Dean Millson): I imagine you’ve crafted one, have created numerous, actually. And yeah, look, there’s honestly so many different ways you can approach them. And I think it’s very hard. Like, the definitions of what people think as a brand guidelines is probably different for a lot of people, which is fine, I thought, yeah, we just might talk around that a little bit because it might be interesting for our listeners to kind of maybe they’ve thought about this before, maybe they haven’t. I hope they might be a little bit. But I guess to start, brand guidelines, the idea of brand guidelines probably, or did start out more like a logo guidelines document or they called them graphic standards manuals. In the there’s some really famous ones out there. If you Google like the New York City Transit authority, there’s a NASA one.
0:02:33 – (Sam McEwin): There’s actually a I have the NASA one.
0:02:35 – (Dean Millson): I’ve got the NASA one. I think they’re called standards manuals. There’s a couple of designers, I think they’re Margaret Pentagram. I should get these info right before getting on a podcast. But anyway, a couple of guys like the NASA one and the Trans Authority one, they kind of resurrected, found the files, photographed them, which is awesome. The point of these was to ensure that the brand looked consistent everywhere.
0:03:05 – (Dean Millson): The Transits Authority one is amazing because it’s that whole line system of the different the colors. And I think it’s either I should know this as well, I think it’s accidents grotesque or helvetica accidents before that. But they looked at everything from what the sides looks like in every possible scenario. If you’ve got stairs on the left, stairs on the right, they’re really granular. And the point was with those and with that one particular was having someone very clever, I think it was Massimo Vazignelli to design it.
0:03:47 – (Dean Millson): Think of everything you can possibly think of and then the people that implementing it don’t really need to think they can just kind of take that, find it and do it. So that was very much the kind of the idea. It was a corporate identity guidelines. What do we look like and how do we execute that? But I think as the definition of branding has expanded over the last 40 years, guidelines these days need to be more than just the visual side of the brand and the audience is more than just a design and marketing team. Well, I think so anyway, but I’ve kind of sometimes run into a bit of with clients of ours who don’t who don’t see that, which I’ll explain in a moment, I think, thinking about our audience, we talk a lot about small business here as well.
0:04:40 – (Dean Millson): I think a brand guidelines can be sort of a business marketing bible. Like often, if you don’t have a big marketing team and you’re the CEO and you’re meant to know these things and you’ve paid someone to help you kind of bring it all together, unless you have sort of a document where it’s all in one place that you may be able to refer to. Go back and read it again or refresh your memory. I’ve got to write a tender or a proposal.
0:05:09 – (Dean Millson): Who are we again? It sounds silly, but it’s also really true because they’re often not thinking about that. They’re thinking about other things, thinking about running a business. And it’s not the default of them to kind of think in marketing kind of terms. So I think that’s how I think about it anyway. So I’ll put out what I think, like, what have we got here? Five kind of sections that I think should be in any brand guidelines. And I think the thing I want to kind of point out, like we said at the beginning, it depends on the organization, it depends on the business, it depends on how many people there are. It depends on what the need is.
0:05:55 – (Dean Millson): I don’t think there’s a one size fits all kind of scenario, and I’ve certainly fallen into the trap of thinking we could have a one size fits all scenario and then you kind of create it in that mold and doesn’t get used very well because you haven’t kind of thought about the audience enough. So I reckon that’s a real key consideration. So I think to start with, there needs to be a section about who we are and where we’re going, like vision and purpose stuff.
0:06:25 – (Dean Millson): And some people say, oh, that shouldn’t be in a brand guidelines, it’s more to do with the business side of things. And yet I think the audience for that shouldn’t just be kind of the leadership team, it should be everyone. And even it’s probably not necessarily the marketing or advertising team all the time. And certainly we don’t want to get into that kind of purpose conversation. We have every podcast, but who are we? And where are we going?
0:06:52 – (Dean Millson): And when you do the work like we’ve spoken out to kind of get that right. And then you write it down and you solidify it. It’s always good to come back to. It’s always good to come back to. Then we have to have some information about who are our customers. It’s amazing how often this is missed. Vision and purpose, where we’re going, why do we do this? And then here’s what we look like. And I’ve got an example at the moment of someone, a brand we’re working for, which I can’t say who, but we’re kind of picking up some work from another.
0:07:26 – (Dean Millson): It’s been done by someone else. The design work is amazing, but I don’t think they have any idea who their customer are because no one’s actually thought about it. So who’s our target market? Try and define them how you want to, but define it simply in broad brush jokes. But also what motivates those kind of categories of customers? That’s another thing I think is always interesting to kind of think about.
0:07:59 – (Dean Millson): They’re the kind of the internal bits. Then how do we communicate? What’s our value proposition, our tagline, our key messages? What are the things we say? How do we kind of sound in the world? And this is the bit that I think is kind of new and sometimes missed. It’s not included yet. Everyone in an organization how big or small, should understand and know these things, know what the tagline means, what’s the promise, why do we say it that way?
0:08:30 – (Dean Millson): That sort of thing. So that’s section three, then section four. So this is another new one and this is where it gets I wouldn’t say controversial, but I’ve had some strange looks when I say this. Like how we act should be in the guidelines, which is around kind of values, behaviors. A lot of people see that as a HR piece. It’s not part, but at the end of the day, especially in a B to B context, people are the brand. They’re out there interacting with people.
0:09:00 – (Dean Millson): And another kind of layer to that is if you can like stories of those values coming to life or those things happening. The great thing with kind of guidelines these days where they’re starting to be pushed online, you can add to them, you can kind of create, make that a real kind of active place. So we say we believe in this and then here’s an example of that happening. And that’s a story that can be told. And I saw, and you’d be surprised actually how especially if business has been around for a little while, how many of those stories are there and they’re just not kind of written down or they’re not recorded or in any come.
0:09:44 – (Sam McEwin): Out at the Christmas party.
0:09:47 – (Dean Millson): That’s right. Or the CEO CEO has them and that’s great, but it’s got to be more than the CEO and get that out of him doing something else. I think that’s a part that some people kind of struggle with. It’s not part of my brand guidelines, that’s my HR departments, but it is like how you act is a way of influencing not to go back to.
0:10:14 – (Sam McEwin): Purpose, but I guess if that’s where everything’s heading, that brands have to be these sort of purpose led organizations. And I don’t think they do, but then it’s very clearly part of their brand in that case, and arguably just as important part of the brand, even.
0:10:33 – (Dean Millson): If you’re not a pip. That’s right. But even those stories, like working with someone at the moment they’re in construction, and I’ve done four days with the workshops with them. And then the CEO told me a story. We were talking about their kind of internal brand and communications, their employer brand and all this sort of stuff, how they talk to how they attract people. And he tells me this story about how they approached the job five years ago, which were this stupid deadline of retrofitting 100 apartments, accommodation in 28 days. And everyone said they couldn’t do it, and they said they could, but then they approached it really creatively. They did things like they took all the doors off every took all the doors off so that wouldn’t slow them down. So you couldn’t be opening closing doors all the time when you’re walking through just little. And he told me this story. I was like, I’ve just got the essence of your brand.
0:11:31 – (Dean Millson): Probably more I wouldn’t say succinctly, but more richly than I had in a few days worth of workshops. It was just a different way of talking about it. And I’m a big believer in kind of capturing that stuff and being able to share that. So I think that definitely goes in there. It’s not so much a guideline in that sense. It’s not really much a guideline how to behave. It’s an example of kind of how you could behave in a situation.
0:12:01 – (Dean Millson): And then the last one is what we look like, which is the obvious one. Your logo, colors, uniforms, vehicles, signage, social media. And the point of that is to take a kind of a leaf out of the guidelines I was talking about before, is to look at as many things as possible, if you can. Even if you don’t create them all, you don’t need them all straight away. We don’t have any vehicles, but we reckon we might have some in the next kind of five years or three years, or whatever.
0:12:28 – (Dean Millson): We’ll need them eventually. Let’s see what they look like. So when we get to that kind of bit, we’re not necessarily reinventing the wheel or starting again. So they’re the five sections. Who we are, where we’re going, who are our customers, how we communicate, how we act, and what do we look like. And I think if you can cover those off so this could be really long. It could be pages and pages, or it could be a page on each of those, or you might be able to get you probably can’t get what we look like, but you can probably get all of that on one page as well. And we’ve done those before, so it doesn’t have to be I was going.
0:13:09 – (Sam McEwin): To ask you obviously your answer now, it depends what’s the perfect length, but you make mention of the NASA, what they call them, communication standard.
0:13:21 – (Dean Millson): Graphic standard.
0:13:22 – (Sam McEwin): Graphic standard, that’s right. And the New York subway, that would be a $2 million brand guideline in today’s currency by the sheer weight and size and breadth of those documents. They are amazing documents. If anyone gets their hands on one or gets to see one, they’re a thing of beauty and certainly representative of a time a time when we potentially had more time to sort of work out these things and did things in a much more formal manner than we do today, I guess.
0:13:59 – (Sam McEwin): But that’s obviously would you think that is that a gold standard or is that just a product of its time?
0:14:07 – (Dean Millson): No, it’s a gold standard, and we’ve done guidelines like that, but not 2 million.
0:14:16 – (Sam McEwin): I may have overpriced it.
0:14:17 – (Dean Millson): You may have I think you can just 25K for I think we’ve ever talked numbers on this podcast before, for a hundred page manual or something like that. We’re around about right, potentially, but but on that, like I’ve seen on that, it depends on whether the audience is up for that. And it’s actually a really good segue into what I kind of wanted to go to next with this, is you can have those sections, but then your approach to how you kind of write a guidelines, I think is changing.
0:14:54 – (Dean Millson): And they used to be very prescriptive, like we just kind of said, and we’ve worked everything out, so you don’t have to. And there’s still an element of sometimes I think, designers especially, let’s say the design bit like wanting to work all that out and control it so everyone looks consistent. But I think the shift there’s a shift away from that, though, and I think it’s twofold. I think brands are needing to become more flexible because of how thick people say things change quickly, and all that sort of stuff, once again, depends on your business, I guess, and the market you’re in and what you do. But I think as a generalization, you can say that the thinking of brands is becoming a little bit more flexible.
0:15:41 – (Dean Millson): And the fear is you develop this really rigid system and then it’s obsolete in two years or a year because something else has come along and we can make arguments to why that happens as well and why it doesn’t. But generally, I think it’s maybe more so because of diversity of media. It used to be like, we did brochures and we did TV ads and we did vehicles and we did uniforms, and that was our brand.
0:16:08 – (Sam McEwin): This is how they should look.
0:16:10 – (Dean Millson): That’s it. Whereas now it could be anything.
0:16:13 – (Sam McEwin): I was going to ask that with social media and these things, you can’t talk great Australian success story, I believe, is Canva, although often the bane of my existence. And there’s all these tools out there that are like, yeah, just slap something up in Canva and they come with all these templates, none of which adhere to your personal brand guidelines or brand structure. But we’re sort of in this space where we’re encouraged to just go out and find these tools around us.
0:16:47 – (Sam McEwin): There’s all sorts of marketing gurus out there telling us just to have a crack, don’t worry about any of this nonsense. How prescriptive do you need to be?
0:16:58 – (Dean Millson): Yeah, that’s right. So that’s my second kind of bit to it. Brands have got more flexible. But I kind of feel that’s the problem, isn’t it? Well, no, not necessarily. But I think the problem potentially or maybe you just embrace it. I think marketers the people creating the branding, they expect some flexibility. Now, I was having a chat to one of our designers about this before I kind of came here to record this today, because we’ve run up into that a little bit.
0:17:29 – (Dean Millson): Because my point was, I think gone are the days of coke. Sometimes we go to, Why can’t it just be like coke? Everyone does it this way, and if you don’t do it this way, you find another job type thing. I don’t know whether that’s like, it coke, but it’s very they’d certainly have.
0:17:46 – (Sam McEwin): A pretty good set of brand guidelines, wouldn’t that’s?
0:17:49 – (Dean Millson): Right. But I think his point was that once again, it does kind of depend on the brand. Like we were talking about, someone had an example of working on Bosch and how Bosch have this really strict kind of thing to do with layout, grids and all that sort of stuff. But Bosch’s identity, now, I can’t remember it’s the old or new one, but the old one was helvetica and it was a very simple identity that needed the structure, needed the right amount of space or whatever. Otherwise it didn’t look like Bosch. So from that point of view, you can go, okay, if we’ve got this ultra minimal kind of identity, then you really need a lot of rules, otherwise it doesn’t work. But you might not have that. You have something else that doesn’t need to have as many rules. But I just do feel in my experience that there’s an expectation now that there needs to be some flexibility and culturally.
0:18:46 – (Dean Millson): And so there’s a great talk, if you want to look it up, by a designer by the name of Chris McLean, who did a talk for Agdor, I think it was. It’s called how to Make Brands and Influence People. He’s worked at an awesome agency in the US called Gretel and also at Wolf Ollins. I’m not sure what he’s doing at the moment, but he had this approach. I don’t know, when I watched it, it felt like it was pitched that they did it for everything, but I actually think it wasn’t. He doesn’t always do it like this, but it was for Optus. They rebranded Optus and they had this idea where it basically had the kind of the core in the center, and it’s a great way to think about it. And so these are the non negotiables.
0:19:26 – (Dean Millson): So coke red, dynamic ribbon, or maybe a distinctive typeface. We do a bit of work with pink lady apples and pink the color pink, it has to look pink. That’s a core thing there’s, not negotiable. And yet outside that, he called the playground. And for Optus, their thinking was that everything’s moving so quickly, they’ve got to kind of have certain assets which are there, but then we need to give people kind of freedom to kind of create what they want.
0:19:58 – (Dean Millson): Or he calls it to kind of stretch its leg. He goes, I’ll do his quote. This section is governed by principles rather than guidelines. The playgrounds where the brand can stretch its legs, push in new directions and involve at the speed of culture. So it’s not locked in. And I think it’s a really interesting concept to kind of think, okay, what does our brand look like? What are the key elements? And then where can we maybe have a bit more fun? And where, you know, once again, it all comes down to context sometimes as well. You probably want corporate communications to all look the same, but as you get further away from that kind of core of the brand, maybe out into advertising at the edge there, you’re responding to culture or you need to look different.
0:20:46 – (Dean Millson): I’ve heard kind of people say they need to be looking different and new and refreshing all the time, which is not necessarily true either, but you want to give kind of some leeway there. So it’s an interesting approach. I think it’s something that’s kind of evolving. I’ve heard it called agile branding, which made me vomit, but this sense of being a bit more flexible. And I think the other thing as well is making sure what’s also good about this approach is that you end up tailoring it specifically to the audience.
0:21:29 – (Dean Millson): So say, for example, you’re a small business, you need a guidelines, and you’ve got an internal team of midweight experienced people. You’re going to want to give them things like templates and things, potentially. But you’re also going to have to realize that if they’re executing the brand, you need to develop it in a way that they can set them up for success. So rather than writing a guidelines or even designing a brand identity, like, you probably need to think about it even before that, of who’s going to be using this because I’ve been really disappointed creating these awesome guidelines, and then the people at the other end just they don’t have the skills or they’re using canva.
0:22:18 – (Dean Millson): So you need to consider all those sort of things. And I think that is the job of a really good kind of design team, that you create something, and now you’ve got to set up whoever’s using it for success rather than kind of complaining, oh, the client’s taken my baby and destroyed it, or they don’t know what they’re doing, or they don’t care. It’s often none of those things. It’s just they don’t have the people.
0:22:43 – (Dean Millson): And that’s okay, but you’ve got to kind of be aware of that.
0:22:47 – (Sam McEwin): Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, one of the things that I know you and I have run into on a couple of occasions now is things like fonts and the ability for tools like canva and these kinds of things to actually support. A lot of them only support Google Fonts or things like this. So it is an environment that’s a lot harder to have that control, isn’t it? It sort of lends itself to having to I mean, do you need to go that far and saying, well, this is the font that we like to use. This is the Google font that’s acceptable as an alternative?
0:23:23 – (Dean Millson): Yeah, absolutely. No one can see that, but yeah, no, absolutely. This is the brand font. This is a Google Alternative. This is the Word system font version. We have heaps of conversations around that now, and it’s I reckon this is what web designers kind of got frustrated with, kind of maybe started it ten years ago. Everything basically everything was fluid. All of a sudden, you can do anything with more kind of traditional brand design. It was you buy the font and here it is, and everyone has to have on their computer, and now it’s like, well, there’s a Google version of this, and it’s free. And even though fonts are relatively inexpensive, like, it might be two or $300, they can get upwards of that if you’ve got lots of seats, but it’s not ridiculous amounts of money. But people are like, well, the Google one’s just as good, and then you’re kind of like, well, it kind of is.
0:24:19 – (Dean Millson): So they’re all discussions that go on. And once again, that’s end users that’s coming back to how the end user uses it. Or if you just know that all of this brand, say, for example, it’s a company that does a lot of PowerPoint presentations and it’s more that kind of sort of stuff, then you’ve got to kind of think of that they’re not going to have InDesign and all these kind of applications. You’ve got to kind of bring it down to that level somehow. So, yeah, it’s different for everyone, but I like where it’s going, and I like how I think it’s changing a lot. And the fact that you can do them online. Now we’ve just done a couple online, which means you can add to things easily and there’s something to be said. There’s a different way you approach it then as well. It’s not about putting this kind of massive document to wade through a website to kind of find what you want. So it’s interesting. It’s interesting.
0:25:29 – (Sam McEwin): We’ve got an interesting perspective on brand guidelines because I wouldn’t guess a percentage, but certainly in of our small business clients, that the majority will come to us without brand guidelines. We’re not a brand agency, we don’t claim to set these up, but oftentimes we are finding ourselves in the position of having to maybe not develop the documentation, but develop the creative assets, the look and feel within the absence of brand guidelines or approach, which can often be really challenging.
0:26:03 – (Sam McEwin): I think small businesses will often have multiple little providers. A freelancer over here, a web designer, there an agency like ours that’s running their digital advertising or something like that. Without that consistent document, it gets really messy. We’re trying to make Facebook creative that looks a little bit like what their website looks like, which was done without any sort of direction and looks different to their other material, and try to sort of unify that in. A way that we can at least sleep well at night, knowing that we’re putting that advertising out and it’s going to do something for their brand.
0:26:44 – (Dean Millson): It’s kind of like insurance. I think it’s an interesting kind of way to think about it. You might have people, I’m sure you do, and we do too, like, oh, we don’t need that. You might not feel like you need it and see like you need it, but if you can go through and think about things from all these different angles and document it, you can sleep better at night because someone comes and engages you to do the advertising. You’re not wasting time trying to think up stuff that’s not it’s all there, that framework should be there, maybe what we look like, but also as a basis, how we sound and what we say as a starting point. You can build on that and change it potentially, but at least you know where to start. It’s not like you’re coming at it from a blank piece of paper, blank slate, spending time that’s just wasted time. It should be kind of considered.
0:27:41 – (Sam McEwin): It’s planning on paper, isn’t it, for grants. You threw out the big number before for the really complete massive manual, but they’re not expensive and at a stretch you could sit down as a team internally potentially, and say, well, this is how we do this kind of post. The one thing that touches on this a little bit is we do a lot of content marketing, which is really mostly blogging for us, and we have a very simple spreadsheet that we go through where a lot of businesses that come to us might be like, hey, we need you to write four blog posts a month.
0:28:22 – (Sam McEwin): Okay, great. And that could start and end the brief.
0:28:25 – (Dean Millson): Really?
0:28:26 – (Sam McEwin): And we can create some topics and write things, but we go through a process where we say, okay, well, first we need to, exactly as you said, understand the audience. Who are we writing for? We call it an editorial mission statement and say, okay, well, if you’re blogging, let’s treat this like a magazine. A magazine should have their mission statement for who they’re trying to help and what they try to do. And we go through that and then we create pillars, topic pillars, and we say, okay, well, here are the two or three different pillars.
0:28:57 – (Sam McEwin): Some are simple help guides to help these people. Others are thought provoking pieces from the bleeding edge of whatever subject matter it is. And another might be detailed how to manuals or something and sort of develop those out and go, okay, now we have a framework for which all of our content and that kind of approach would be easy enough. I guess for someone to sit down and go, okay, well, we’re going to be using Facebook ads and we’re going to do some Twitter posts. And we’ve got that press print ad. This is the general framework that we’re going to sort of do all these things in.
0:29:35 – (Dean Millson): Exactly right. I mean, if you run back to run back, rewind back to what I was talking before with those kind of sections, that section about how we communicate, what’s our value proposition, how do we talk of ourselves? What’s our tagline? What’s our key message? I’m going to run some ads. Okay, we go straight to our key messages first. What are the things we say? Okay, well, okay, we say we’re this, okay, well, let’s start from there. Like you’re already starting from a place of some alignment with the brand. You can build on that and do whatever, but it’s not kind of like we need some ads. What are we going to do?
0:30:03 – (Dean Millson): Another example, I reckon, is things that you do as a brand which you don’t kind of might be a one off or not doing all the time. You might decide that you’re going to do an exhibition stand, you’re going to go to a conference. What do we put on the stand? Let’s go back to the framework. What do we do? What are we solving? What do those people want to hear? How do we say it? What are the things we want? What do we want to be known for? All that type of stuff.
0:30:28 – (Dean Millson): And then you build it up that way as opposed to what I’m sure happens all the time. It’s like so and so has just spent $25,000 on this space. What are we going to put on it? Let’s spend $50. We’ve already spent all our budget on the space costs so much. Money because the space or the other.
0:30:46 – (Sam McEwin): Thing that I see constantly is competitor focus. Well, this is what they did.
0:30:51 – (Dean Millson): Yeah.
0:30:52 – (Sam McEwin): And that’s so dangerous because you’re just making yourself look like you’re competitors.
0:30:57 – (Dean Millson): Yeah, well, that’s a really good point, actually, because I’ll put my hand up and say, as an agency, we’ve done that a little bit in the past as well, before we cleaned up our own kind of strategy. And during COVID two years ago, we took the opportunity when we had a little bit more downtime to do stuff like that. And it made me I was scrolling Instagram, for example, and kind of looking at some of the other agencies that I really respect. And one of them, I was looking at their feed going, oh, that’s so awesome.
0:31:27 – (Dean Millson): Why can’t we be like that? But then I went back to our I could just see my strategy in our head. It’s like, because that’s not us. Our version of that is this and that’s what we’re doing, and that’s on for us. And so it absolutely can unless you’ve defined that. Because if you haven’t defined it or it’s just this kind of idea that’s sitting there differently in different people’s heads, it’s very easy to just get pulled from left to right or even down to just feeling unsure as to whether or not you’re doing the right thing, I don’t know.
0:31:59 – (Dean Millson): But if you’ve put in the time to kind of set this up as a framework, then once again, you’re not starting from zero, you’re starting from five.
0:32:09 – (Sam McEwin): Probably starting it holds you straight and it gives you the discipline. That example, I have seen so many industries where a dominant player has emerged suddenly and they’ve done something a little bit different, really cool. And then within four or five years, every other like the language that’s being used by every other brand is similar. And those brands, all they’re coming across as is inferior versions of the leading brand.
0:32:36 – (Sam McEwin): I think you’ve got to fit into the category, right? There are some similarities, but looking like your competitors is most of the time a terrible strategy. And you wouldn’t make it. You wouldn’t say, okay, we’ve sat down, we’ve done our strategy documents, and our strategy is to look exactly like everybody else, but just spend a little bit less on it. It’s pretty poor, but inadvertently they’re the things we’re doing without actually thinking about. And the other one, of course, we can’t go an episode without talking about bunnings, but that ding. Yeah, ding. There it goes. Take a shot.
0:33:12 – (Sam McEwin): That discipline that I’m always talking about, of how bored I imagine their CMO must be, of pumping out a different version of the same commercial every other week, and there’s a different version of that same catalog and a different version. But that’s just so them and so powerful. They did the homework, they got it right, and they are very good. I think at there’s an event or there’s a particular date or a time of year, you see them seasonally changing and these kind of things within that framework, they’re making it relevant to the fact that the AFL Grand Finals coming up and you’re going to have a barbecue or summer’s nearly here.
0:33:53 – (Dean Millson): I can hear the song in my head, but I won’t sing it.
0:33:55 – (Sam McEwin): You’re free to sing.
0:33:56 – (Dean Millson): No, it’s okay.
0:33:57 – (Sam McEwin): But that’s the discipline and the rigor that having something like this clearly defined that you can refer back to. And it does allow you, I think it does allow you to look at what other people are doing and dismiss it and go, we don’t need to get sucked into copying that or repeating this other thing because it doesn’t fit with our structure and our brand.
0:34:19 – (Dean Millson): Yeah. Wasted. We talk a lot in the workshops. We do like clarity equals power. Once you know you’ve, you know your truth or you know you’ve, you’ve, you know what you stand for, then it’s powerful. It makes you feel more confident. You can move on things more quickly. It’s way more efficient. The opposite is costly costs, extra money wasted on trying things that clearly aren’t going to work, or copying the competition, or spending another session trying to come up with some different ideas because you’re kind of like a ship without a rudder. So we’ve kind of morphed a little bit into this conversation has gone from guidelines a bit into kind of the general principles of kind of branding, but at the end of the day, all those things have to be covered off in your guidelines, whatever that may be. And to the point we kind of were talking a little bit, but before I’ll just come back to it. Yeah, I mean, on a page is fine. Like a brand on a page. If your audience just needs to pin it up in their cubicle, if they are in a cubicle anymore, just next to them, and it’s sitting there constantly, and it’s got six things on it, and you can get it down to those things that are important to that person. Fantastic. That’s it. Your job’s done.
0:35:44 – (Dean Millson): Job’s done. Yeah.
0:35:45 – (Sam McEwin): Great. Should the minimum standard include those five items you said? Is there even less than that? Or where should someone start if they don’t have brand guidelines? I know a lot of if you’re sitting there without brand guidelines, often it seems like an unimportant task to certain CEOs or these kind of things. If you’re heading up a two person marketing department or something and you’re frustrated by all the things that happen when you don’t have these clearly defined brand guidelines, where should they start?
0:36:19 – (Dean Millson): Yeah, so, I mean, I think when I said, like, who we are, where we’re going, I think you have to have that no matter how big or small you are, and that’s who are the customers? I think you have to define that somehow as well you have to be thinking about that. There’s no point kind of if you don’t know who that is then like you said, you don’t know who you’re talking to. It doesn’t make sense how to communicate. I think you definitely need what are the things you want to say? How do we talk about ourselves?
0:36:46 – (Dean Millson): The more distinctive you can get that language as well, the better. Like we’re working with a school at the moment. We do a fair bit of work in education. If you go around and if you see kind of school advertising, they all say the same thing, setting up for success or like building inquisitive minds or something like that, right? And look, they’re all doing the same thing but taking the time to kind of find words that are a little bit different to that. Probably saying the same thing. It’s important because it becomes more distinctive and memorable. So I definitely think have to do that as much as I just said before about how important it was. If you’re a two person show, you’re probably okay to drop the values and how we act. Bit like I think that’s more important.
0:37:39 – (Dean Millson): Once there’s more of you at that small size, you’re generally about needing to get comms out, need to tell the world about you and find your place in it as a business and a brand. So you probably take that one out and then the what we look like? Well that just might be really simple if you just want to make sure you’ve got a color and a font and the logo, I guess. But I think you want to think about it in just a little bit more detail because you think about it like you never see a logo by itself.
0:38:12 – (Dean Millson): It’s always on something and that’s what.
0:38:14 – (Sam McEwin): You often see, isn’t it? The use cases like this is what it looks like on a photo, this is what it looks like on a black background, this is what it looks like on a white background.
0:38:22 – (Dean Millson): And think about what are the we call the technical term for them might be like brand touch points. Think about the key things. If you do social media a lot then create some templates that look the same or if you don’t do any of that but maybe you’re doing a lot of writing well then, like you said, make sure you have your pillars set out and your kind of your blog posts or the way you produce your content. If your brands consume that way, whatever it is, just plan that out a.
0:38:54 – (Sam McEwin): Little bit more and you can plan for sort of scrappy homemade stuff. One of the best things I saw I think was just a great in a guideline was this is how to choose stock imagery. Look for images like this. Don’t use the ones with the cheesy smile. Look for serious people going about their.
0:39:13 – (Dean Millson): Business pointing at computers, no pointing at computers. We will put those into guidelines all the time, or even how to take a photo. We have a client who’s in an infrastructure and they’ve kind of got their act together more now and getting they realized that the photos of I mean, they’re always going to get amazing shots of the end building or whatever it was. But along the way, they were kind of having shots taken and some of them were just terrible. But when you think about it, or captured on phones, and if that’s what’s going to happen, then give people some guidelines.
0:39:56 – (Dean Millson): Make sure the lights as bright as possible, don’t shoot in the darkness or frame it up a certain way. Or you can come up with lots of things, once again, depending on the audience.
0:40:10 – (Sam McEwin): Good brand guidelines, therefore grounded in reality, first and foremost. I think that’s the key from my point of view and listening to what you’re saying here as well. I think if you are that two person, it’s probably very appropriate just to literally start documenting these things. If you did nothing else but wrote down those four or five headings that you’ve given everybody and fill them in with something, even if it’s not incorrect sorry. Even if it’s not correct at the time or perfect or whatever, to document these things and go, this is what our Facebook at least you’re consistent in preparing those and that document will grow. And at some point it’s probably not a bad brief to go, this is the homemade crappy brand guidelines that we’ve been using for the last three years.
0:40:58 – (Sam McEwin): Go to an agency like yours and say, help us take this to the next level.
0:41:04 – (Dean Millson): Yes, without a doubt. Without a doubt. Just document it and start yeah, that’s right. You answer those questions to begin with, it’ll make things infinitely better, and you probably get it out on paper or screen or whatever it is. And once you’ve got it out, then you can start focusing on other things. It’s like that. You get that idea on paper, I can move on to something else, get out of that, move on to the next thing, start growing or whatever you’re doing.
0:41:35 – (Sam McEwin): All right, excellent. Well, look, some good tips there. It’s a funny topic I certainly have seen too many times, sadly, what happens when you don’t have one of those guidelines. It can seem like a simple sort of non topic in some regards, I think, but it’s really important. I think it’s crucial. Thanks for sharing. We’ve got those five notes. So who we are, vision, who’s our customer, your taglines, and the way that.
0:42:05 – (Dean Millson): We communicate about ourselves, how we act.
0:42:09 – (Sam McEwin): Our values and behaviors and stories. And then the all important, what we look like. Really good framework.
0:42:20 – (Dean Millson): Glad you got something out. All those notes will be in the show notes. Yeah. If anyone’s got any questions, once again, just hit us up and certainly hit like or a review, if you can, because it helps us immensely. Kind of makes us feel good about ourselves, if nothing else.
0:42:43 – (Sam McEwin): Thank you, Dean. Great topic. And I’ll see you again next time.
0:42:47 – (Dean Millson): See you next time. Bye.