How to create a bigger brand with this simple trick

Craig Jordan's Layout avatar

Let’s face it, marketing is hard. Marketing as you scale? Even harder.

One of the biggest challenges we run into with our clients is where to even begin in this almost endless sea of marketing technology. But before we dive into whether they have a blog or what they spend on advertising each month, we usually ask one simple question to start:

Do you have branding guidelines?

Now most companies will not have them. But as marketers and designers, this is one tool that will prove its worth time and time again. Why?


One way for a small company to look much larger is to have a marketing strategy that follows a basic set of rules. Don’t take my word for it; take a look from a recent article from Hubspot on their 7 essentials for a strong company brand:

“In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty. (No pressure, right?)” – Hubspot

More information on brand consistency can be found from Commonplaces and Surefire.

How often have you worked with a client that has a hacked together WordPress blog or uses more than five fonts in their content? This is a common occurrence for many different types of businesses.

a shot of the ground. Wooden planks run lengthwise across the image, and a person's red shoes and khaki pants are visible

Luckily the effort to create branding guidelines only takes two to three hours and will easily pay off in the long run. Whether you’re creating advertisements or relaunching your site, this tool has universal utility.

What are branding guidelines?

It varies per company, but typically we recommend a three to five page PDF document or presentation template that outlines the following:

  1. Colors
  2. Fonts and weights
  3. Logos and iconography

The goal is to provide a quick, referenceable document whenever ANYONE is creating marketable assets for you or your company. That way if you or your client is working with a freelancer or a new hire, boundaries are set to ensure a certain level of quality. Then you won’t experience any surprises or wasted time!

You can check out the branding guidelines we use for SaaScend as an example.


The color section should include all of your main branding color scheme. We typically recommend two primary and two secondary colors. Within the color palette, include an RGB, Hex, and CYMK to future proof for all designers.

a drop cloth with multiple paints paints and brushed laid out. a cup of green paint water holds additional brushes


Font choice is up to the designer’s aesthetic, but for early stage companies we like to follow the rule of one heading and one body copy font. Preferably a digital compatible font to make our lives easier in asset development.

The weights of fonts should also be described, whether an H2 varies from an H1 for example. This gives your fonts a certain dynamic, but also maintains that structure we crave.

Logos and iconography

The final section should include logo placement and rules. Whether a certain background color is compatible with a certain logo type, for example.

It is also a better practice to include iconography rules, especially for use with backgrounds, layout, etc. This takes your branding guidelines to a new level but once again ensures that consistency is the end result.

How to use branding guidelines

As mentioned earlier, branding guidelines have an almost universal utility in the marketing world, but the most common use cases are:

  1. Email marketing
  2. Landing pages
  3. Advertisements
  4. Blogs and website content

Whenever we create a new asset we always have the branding guideline open, not only because it makes our assets consistent, but it also makes development faster. I don’t have to email someone about what that hex code is, or have to look up the code on our website, it’s just there.

One example that can help every blog are your hero images. When thinking of hero images you can come up with a certain style that fits your business. At SaaScend we really love branded color opacity overlays on top of real photos. This keeps virtually any image on point with your brand. Throw in your headline font and you’re cooking with gas.

branded image shows SaaScend logo overlaid on an image of two hikers on a snowy mountainscape

Hopefully, you have now been converted into the realm of using branding guidelines. They not only make your designer’s lives easier but ensure your legacy is carried on with your clients.

To quickly recap, brand guidelines:

  1. Keep your marketing assets consistent regardless of who creates them
  2. Enables you to look like a more professional and bigger company
  3. Speeds up development time for all design and marketing assets

Do you think you or your clients would benefit from branding guidelines? I would love to hear your thoughts and horror stories in the comments below.

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Maximillian Heth

    August 17, 2017

    Hey Craig,

    I'll just preface my whole comment by saying that I realize you wrote and published this article over 2 years ago, but I still think it's worth addressing, so here goes nothing. =)

    You brought up some interesting points with your approach to branding guidelines, but I think it's worth pointing out that branding at its core isn't really about your logo, colors, font choice, or other aesthetics. Those things make up your visual presence, but they don't define your brand; your customers do.

    That's not to say that those things don't matter; they are indeed critical, but I think it's more accurate to say that they serve as a reflection of your brand rather than make up the brand itself.

    Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't have anything to back up my statements, so here's an article written by a designer and brand architect with years of professional and entrepreneurial experience under his belt.

    Not only has he worked with countless household names across a variety of industries, but he also founded and ran a design and marketing firm that grossed over $2 million during its third year following its launch back in 1994.

    Does someone with that track record know a thing or two about branding and marketing? I'd bet my money on it.

    All that said, here's the article:

    Enjoy! =)

  2. David Proctor

    September 3, 2016

    I think you can tell when a company has branding guidelines. All marketing material ties together and flows, the message of the company is reflected in everything etc. As a small business it can be difficult to find the time to sit about your brand image and how you reflect it to your customers. But it's really important. Thanks for a great article.

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