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What is a Brand Style Guide and Do I Need One?

Updated: May 26, 2021

Chances are good you've heard of Tommy Bahama…manufacturer of men & women’s casual-wear as well as swimwear, accessories, footwear and home furnishings. Some may be surprised to learn that there is no actual person, or founder, named “Tommy Bahama”. He is simply a fictional character devised to give embodiment to the brand. The brand embraces the "island lifestyle" in the way of luxury style, color, fabrics, and attitude. Think yuppified Jimmy Buffet, with big yachts and good linen. Tommy Bahama was a fictional character brought to life by the company's Brand Style Guide, and "his" preferences guided decisions made at every level of this Seattle-based manufacturer. What "he" teaches us is how important it is to have a Brand Style Guide and to follow it rigorously and without compromise.

Simply put, a Brand Style Guide is a road map of rules about how you portray your company to the world. How do you use your logo, and equally importantly, how do you not use your logo. Think of it as your company's personality and a rulebook for maintaining consistency in what your brand looks and feels like. Marketing companies have long known that customers recognize consistency and it helps build trust in a brand. They know they can count on you to be "you" and that trust trickles into confidence and loyalty for your service or product line.

What are the key components of a brand style guide?

Every Brand Style Guide should address a key core of company initiatives and beliefs. These include:

Mission and vision

Once you've defined why you exist and what you strive to deliver, you can permeate that mission and vision throughout your brand communication. It can be big (we're out to revolutionize our industry) or it can be small (we're out to provide the friendliest customer experience), as long as they are true to your brand.

Core values

What are the guiding principles for how your company makes decisions and then acts on those decisions? Write them down and let them guide you in all you do.


Make a short list of adjectives that describe your company. Three to five will do. For Tommy Bahama, those adjectives probably looked like this: Playful, Casual, Stylish, Approachable, Tropical. It's also helpful to pick the same number of adjectives for what your company is not. Again, turning back to Tommy B., those words could have been Elegant, Serious, Urban.

Target audience

It's just as important to know who you're talking to as well as what you're saying to customers and prospects. This is where market research can come into play, helping you to pinpoint target segments so you can speak directly to those individuals based upon the insights research has revealed.

Graphic standards

It's important to outline how your brand looks and feels in the way it's communicated visually. This includes proper logo usage, typography, color palette, and imagery. Many companies create a "vision" board with images and colors that reflect their brand, and then use this to guide them in creating advertising and other marketing tools.


How you speak to people is as important and why you speak to them. Successful companies create a "voice" and then speak their messaging with that voice consistently. It all comes back to trust. Customers trust that you are who you say you are, and you sound like it in what you say. Messaging guidelines are especially important on social media and other more viral communication platforms and help keep your message and your brand on track.

Along with management and your company team members, Top marketing agencies like St. Petersburg-based Thompson Marketing Partners can help define your Brand Style Guide and then utilize it to craft compelling, motivating marketing campaigns. Thompson Marketing Partners also offers a full range of digital marketing services and are experts in developing and executing strategic digital marketing solutions that help you realize more effective customer journeys. To learn more, visit


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