You’ll feel like a copywriter trying to work with a typical set of brand guidelines – if the ones I’ve come across are anything to go by. It’s not easy trying to perform when you’re restrained by loads of rules.
Of course I exaggerate, I’m an adman after all. Maybe your brand guidelines allow a lot of creative freedom. Orange’s, for example, inspired its agencies to create great advertising and direct marketing.
But my experience suggests that Orange is a rare brand. Working as a freelance copywriter, over the last ten years I’ve seen a lot of guidelines. I’ve even had to write some. When I read a new set, I get a sense of déjà vu. They dictate similar styles of imagery (usually library photos), typeface, headline lengths and tone of voice. They’re all excellent at controlling campaign uniformity, and equally superb at stifling creativity.
It’s not surprising then that the campaigns created using these rules end up looking and feeling similar. More about bland than brand, they lack that essential cut-through.
It doesn’t have to be this way though.
Look at Nike. If there are guidelines for this brand, they certainly don’t show in Nike’s ads and other communications. Nike’s art directors and copywriters appear to have the freedom to create fresh, big ideas. Their campaigns are varied in look and feel, but they always seem right for their target audiences. Of course the thing that holds them together is a Nike attitude.
In my own business, the most successful brand I’ve worked on over the past ten years has very flexible guidelines.
I think flexibility is one solution to the problems caused by brand guidelines.
The other is to create a brand design idea so brilliant it sparks off more brilliance in the advertising and communications.
Do you disagree with any of the above? Or have you anything to add? I’d be delighted to hear from you.