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How to set up brand guidelines that work

Great! You’ve made the decision to embrace decentralized email creation. And you want to have it done so the performance of the emails produced and benefits to your organization are optimal.

Great! You’ve made the decision to embrace decentralized email creation. And you want to have it done so the performance of the emails produced and benefits to your organization are optimal.

Yet, there’s probably one element of decentralized email creation that raises your anxiety level – if only just a bit.

Many marketers and MOPs pros have told me their main concern centers around controlling those in their companies who think they know what good email design ought to be. 

Key to having emails created that look the way you need them to is to develop and put in place brand guidelines that those you’ve empowered to create emails will understand and follow. In other words, guidelines that work – for them and, importantly, for you and your organization.

There are five critical elements that need to be incorporated into your brand guidelines for email creation.

  1. Defend your logo
  2. Use typography that can be read
  3. Limit the color palette
  4. “Speak” in your brand’s voice
  5. Make available images that are the right size and type   

Here are the questions you need to ask – and answer – to establish brand guidelines for email creation.

Defend your logo 

designer working with logoStart with your company’s logo when developing brand guidelines – especially for decentralized email creation. The reason is simple: your logo is your brand’s primary identifier. However, that does not mean it should be used a lot. It’s your company’s signature, and you explain how it should be handled – with precision.

Begin to get buy-in on using your logo by sharing the thinking around how it was conceived, its structure, and its components, all to provide context as to why this brand mark is so important.

When people get the meaning behind the logo, you need to let them know how – and how not – to use it. The more – and more detailed – logo usage scenarios you can provide, the better. When people have ample examples to follow, they tend to follow what’s being asked of them.

Some technical questions your email brand guidelines need to answer are:

  • How much padding and white space should be used around the logo?
  • What are the smallest and largest logo dimensions that can be used? Be sure to include unit type, metric or imperial.
  • Are there secondary logos? When can they be used?
  • Where in the email can the logo be placed? Footer? Header? Body? Including photos to show examples is helpful.
  • How should the logo be aligned with other content pieces?
  • What should never be done with the logo?

Use typography that can be read

When designing for different mediums and scenarios, brands often use primary, secondary, and even tertiary typefaces. When it comes to email creation, it’s critical to use web-safe fonts that are supported across devices, operating systems, and email clients. This is an absolute necessity, so the email renders properly for all who receive it.

Web-safe fonts include:

  • Most Safe: 

Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Courier & Courier New‍

  • Safe Font: 

Palatino, Garamond, Bookman, Avant Garde‍

  • Windows and macOS Safe Fonts: 

Verdana, Georgia, Comic Sans MS, Trebuchet MS, Arial Black, Impact

Don’t see your corporate fonts here. Go to CSSFontStack to see all the web-safe fonts and if they are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

If a non-web-friendly font is integral to your brand, you may consider converting sections of your email to an image file, also known as graphical text. But be aware that some images may be blocked on some devices. ‍

In your brand guidelines, lay out what font sizes, weights, and colors are used for the following email elements:

  • Header text
  • Preheader text
  • Body Text
  • Call-to-Action
  • Signature
  • Opt-Out Text
  • Links

These details will ensure emails created on a decentralized basis will comply with your design requirements.

Limit the color palette

Color choice and use should be made with care to reflect the quality and spirit of your company’s brand. Usingwomen working with color palette consistent colors allows strong associations to be created by customers (and even prospects) with the brand.

Beyond the aesthetic and psychological benefits of choosing the right colors, you need to make certain emails from your company are readable. This can be done by checking your contrast ratios and following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

If a field marketer creating email on a decentralized basis thinks a hot pink CTA with white text is the right move, you can stop them in their tracks with a well-prepared guideline on the corporate color palette. Rather than insulting them for poor design taste, let them know that their design has poor contrast ratios that are hard to read will drastically lower click-through rates. Beyond that, limiting the number of colors they can choose from the corporate palette can help to control the number/frequency of less-than-desirable color usages.

To avoid more color choice errors, answer these questions in your brand guidelines:

  • What are the RGB, Hex Codes, and Pantone Colors of your brand colors?
  • What is the purpose of each color?
  • When should I use each color?
  • Where can I make sure that the contrast ratios are accessible?

“Speak” in your brand’s “voice”

You might describe your brand as sassy, sage-like, or something in between. Whatever it might be, establish a clear “voice” that brings consistency and clarity in how you might communicate your brand’s personality – including in emails. 

You might wonder how subscribers can “hear” your brand’s voice in an email, but they can. It’s about word choice and writing style. That translates to tone in written communications, and that’s your brand’s “voice. Doing so in every email will ensure the right chord is struck.

Questions your email brand guidelines should answer include:

  • 3-5 adjectives that describe the brand’s tone and voice?
  • What phrases and industry jargon should always be avoided?
  • Emojis – usable or not? If so, which?
  • How long should the subject line be?
  • What “from name” should emails be sent?
  • How should email readers be greeted? Hey? Hi? What?
  • How do you close out my emails? Sincerely? Best? Regards?
  • How many words should be used in an email?

Make available images that are the right size and type   

Selection of an image (or images) in an email should be made to enhance the quality and clarity of the communications. With the colors, words, and style just right, an email can be even more appealing with the right image. That doesn’t mean email creators should use rich media for the sake of using rich media.

Questions about images that your email brand guidelines should answer include:

  • What image format should be used? Gifs? Pngs? Jpegs?
  • What is the largest file size to be used for each image? How can large images be optimized?
  • Where can usable/appropriate images be found?
  • What subject matter should be included in the images? Which should be avoided?

Make controlling guidelines easier with automation

You can exert control easily and effectively with robust, programmable guardrails that ensure every email created by anyone authorized to do so on a decentralized basis is on-brand every time. Now, it’s important to realize that HTML code editors or the email builder in your MAP/ESP don’t offer that automated control. 

An Email Creation Platform provides granular brand guardrails that you define and adjust as branding and designs evolve. This is done on a centralized basis, so all emails created – on a decentralized basis – are 100% compliant. Elements like fonts, formatting, color palettes, and even character or line counts prevent users from “going off the rails” as they create a marketing email. That’s done on a centralized basis, so all emails created – on a decentralized basis – are 100% compliant.

How one tech company took advantage of automated guardrails

email marketers celebrating successA leading cloud content management company wanted its field marketers to be able to create emails to get them to customers and prospects faster. 

To make certain controls were in place to prevent the organization from being exposed to brand, legal, or security risks, the marketing team turned to an Email Creation Platform. It empowered field marketing teams to create on-brand emails 100% of the time. 

Learn more

To learn more about the benefits of decentralized email creation, download the eBook 5 steps to optimal decentralized email creation.

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