Guide to Building a Brand Identity Kit
With freelancers, marketing agencies, internal teams, and many others using your brand in communications and content, it's easy for inconsistencies and misuse to arise, such as applying an outdated version of your logo, misusing colors, or uploading an off- brand image.
A brand kit can help by providing teams and stakeholders with the tools and information they need to uphold your company’s brand consistently. In fact, a brand kit is an absolute must-have for all organizations.
What is a brand kit?
A brand kit — sometimes referred to as a brand identity kit — is a resource containing the rules of your brand and how people should apply it to maintain brand consistency across channels. It should include the most business-critical visual assets and information such as where to find logos, how to use them, approved color palettes, typography styles, and other visual attributes.
What’s the difference between brand guidelines and a brand kit?
Brand guidelines and brand kits are used to uphold the consistency of your brand, but they aren’t one and the same. While a brand kit speaks more to the visual elements of your brand, brand guidelines (also known as a brand style guide) are a set of standards and details that explain how your brand should be communicated, be it in written, visual, or audio form.
In many cases, the information in your brand kit is an important element of your greater brand guidelines. But don’t get too hung up on the labels. The important thing is arming your teams with the framework and resources they need to deliver a consistent, cohesive, and memorable brand experience across all touchpoints.
For more information on developing brand guidelines, check out our handy tips here!
Why do you need a brand kit?
Whether you’re just establishing your business and brand or looking to expand, it’s important to have a brand kit that every contributor to this growth can refer to. When all teams work within the parameters of your brand kit, the content and materials created have consistent messaging and visuals that make your brand more memorable and quickly recognizable out in the world.
We should also note that preparing a brand kit is just the first step. It must also be maintained and followed consistently to be effective. So make sure that it’s easy to use and easy to find, which will ultimately help you build a meaningful brand that creates a lasting impression.
What should I include in my brand kit?
Consistency is the backbone of every memorable and recognizable brand. When putting together your brand kit, think about the most important visual elements and information needed to uphold the visual integrity of your brand across platforms, audiences, countries, and beyond. While there are a lot of elements you could include, we recommend starting with the essentials below.
Anyone that touches your brand — from creatives to sales managers — needs to understand your target market and why your brand matters to that audience. Without this knowledge, it’s challenging for people to use your brand’s visuals in a way that resonates with the intended audience.
Start by providing a positioning statement or concise description of your audience and how they perceive your brand — and make sure it’s consistent both internally and externally. Keep it simple but memorable, honest, and unique to your market. Then, share your brand promise. What are you committed to delivering to your audience? What aspirations do you vow to work toward?
Lastly, communicate your brand’s unique value proposition. Include a detailed explanation or simply include your brand’s tagline — sometimes a short, catchy phrase says it all!
Just as a person possesses characteristics that define who they are, a brand has personality traits too. Other companies may share similar characteristics, but none are quite like yours.
Capture the key brand qualities that humanize your brand and describe its distinct personality. Thinking about your brand as an actual human can be helpful. What are your brand’s “always traits” and “never traits”?
In other words, your brand could “always” strive to be optimistic, trustworthy, and witty, but “never” foolish, insulting, or dishonest. Whatever the case, remember that, while you should note these traits in writing, it’s just as important to practice what you preach.
Logos and wordmarks
While some assets used to communicate your brand are somewhat subjective, your company’s logos or wordmarks leave little to no room for interpretation. However, it’s up to you to define what proper use looks like. For starters, give people access to your logos and wordmarks — this likely includes internal teams, sure, but it could include external stakeholders too. Be sure access contains applicable high-resolution formats as well (e.g., TIFFs, PNGs, PDFs, and JPEGs).
Also include all logo and wordmark variations like vertical, horizontal, tagline, and color versus black-and-white versions. Protect against incorrect colors, pixelation, and modifications by detailing use cases and instructions. For example, provide standards for white space surrounding your logos and wordmarks. Set limits for how small or large they can appear to avoid unrecognizable or ineffective reproductions.
Lastly, make it visual. Show people what incorrect usage looks like. Seeing how bad a distorted logo or non-complementary background color looks can help drive home the message.
Just as your brand has unique character traits, it also has a look, feel, and visual identity that plays a role in the recognition and perception of your brand. And that look and feel has to be consistent from in-store touchpoints and websites to digital ads and social media channels.
It helps to put your brand’s visual identity into words. What mood, feeling, or emotions should it elicit from your audience? Be descriptive and provide examples of appropriate visuals along with general do’s and don’ts for visual treatment. This is your opportunity to highlight acceptable styles for any and all visuals such as lifestyle photos, stock imagery, videos, and graphics. If you favor well-lit, realistic photography over illustrations, make those parameters clear.
And make sure to give people access to your approved brand assets. Your teams and partners absolutely need a digital repository with approved creative to use and reference for inspiration. Give everyone a central place to get up-to-date visual assets (like logos), and it’ll be easier to consistently present your visual brand across every channel and environment.
The colors that represent your brand are what make it instantly recognizable. Take Coca-Cola for example. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t associate the color red with the global, household brand.
But Coca-Cola doesn’t just say its brand color is “red.” Rather, the company assigns a CMYK, RGB, and PMS color code. As such, your brand kit must include your brand’s color identifiers.
Take care to include your brand's primary colors, as well as the secondary colors that support and complement your main color palette. Lastly, provide directions on when it's appropriate to use colors, combinations, and palettes.
While often overlooked, the fonts you use to communicate your brand contribute to its identity — the people, products, and culture that it embodies. Include your brand font and approved secondary or tertiary fonts in case the primary font is unavailable.
Some brands, like Netflix, create their own fonts to save money on licensing fees and to represent their brand with a typeface not seen elsewhere. The BBC, YouTube, Google, and Apple are other companies that have gone this route to distinguish their brand identity.
Using a single typeface across all communications gives your brand — down to the look of the words — consistency. Think through all use cases and provide type treatment guidelines around size, hierarchy, and font-weight. For example, you may want to specify approved font sizes for blog headlines versus subheads and body copy. Or, you may have strict typography rules for advertisements and sales collateral.
Strike a balance — creatives and marketers need some creative freedom to push the envelope, but the most critical elements of your brand should be non-negotiable.
Your brand kit should always include at least one point of contact who can answer questions and provide support. Make sure to include contact information like name, email, and phone number, along with details like job title, location, and any special instructions.
Lastly, think strategically about the questions you receive. Often, this feedback signals holes or clarifications that you can use to improve your brand kit. When you make it a regular practice to turn this feedback into brand kit updates, you can keep pace with your constantly evolving brand.
Brand kit examples
While each brand kit should cover the same topics, what it looks like will be as unique as your company. Depending on who uses your kit and how, it might be short and to the point or it could be a robust guide spanning multiple brands. Let’s take a look at a couple of brand kit examples.
McCormick is a fortune 500 company that manufactures, markets, and distributes spices, seasoning mixes, condiments, and other flavorful products worldwide. Their house of brands spans 170 countries with a mix of memorable brands available in each one, including Frank’s RedHot, French’s, Lawry’s, and, of course, McCormick spices. To ensure each brand is represented consistently, the company makes assets in their brand kit available on their website. This includes links to on-brand assets for the press and others to use, as well as guidelines and terms for logo usage.
Unlike McCormick, T-Mobile focuses on a single brand, but that doesn’t mean keeping things consistent is easy. When Sprint and T-Mobile merged, for example, quick, strategic updates to existing content were key, and T-Mobile continued to build its brand presence across the U.S. To do this, the company also makes assets from their brand kit available on their website. These public assets are readily accessible to anyone who wants to share the T-Mobile story.
Where to store your brand kit
Like McCormick and T-Mobile, once you’ve created your brand kit, you need to make sure it’s available to those who need it. Understanding who needs access will determine the format in which your brand kit is shared, whether that’s a shared document or webpage with information and links.
The important thing is that your brand kit (and brand assets) live in a central location that’s easily accessible and shareable. The unique needs of your organization will determine the best solution to help you centralize, store, and manage your kit and assets.
For some organizations, a simple webpage and links to a file-sharing solution do the trick. For others — including McCormick and T-Mobile — a brand management solution, like Acquia DAM (Widen), is best because it provides a single source of truth for the assets and information that power your brand wherever it travels.
Note: This article was originally published on Widen.com.