Table of Contents
- What is a Brand Style Guide?
- What to Include in Your Branding Guide
(colors, logo, typography, imagery, personality, audience, etc.)
- Why Does a Body Shop Need a Style Guide?
- Sharing Your Branding Guide
- Final Thoughts
As your collision repair business grows you may find yourself doing more advertising and marketing.
The more marketing you do, the more likely it is that you need to work with other firms to create the marketing pieces, whether it’s for your website, magazine or newspaper ads, billboards, or signage.
Being able to provide those vendors with a brand style guide will ensure that all of your marketing looks consistent and professional, and makes it easy for other partners to work with your shop and get you the results you need.
What is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a rulebook that defines the details of your body shop’s brand, including your logo, color schemes, typeface usage, image and photography styles, the “personality” of your business, and more.
Branding is More Than Your Logo
You might immediately think of your logo as your brand, and while that’s certainly a major component of it, there are many other elements to consider.
Let’s look at what you might want to Include in your shop branding guide.
Your Brand Story or Company Intro
For the average independent body shop, this is probably not necessary, but for a multi-location business it may be helpful to explain your company history, founder(s), where the name came from, and if it’s a family name or there’s any chance of mispronouncing it, clearly define how it should be pronounced.
Color is an important part of branding. You should choose primary and secondary colors that are used consistently across all your marketing. If you haven’t yet picked an “official” color palette for your business, it’s not too late.
Color is a complex topic, and volumes have been written about color theory and color psychology, but we won’t get into that here. What I will note is that when choosing colors for your shop, it’s best to put some thought into it - more than simply “I like red and black”. Consider your ideal customer and what might appeal to them - more on that below.
Typically when a graphic designer creates a color palette, they’ll choose a primary color and at least one secondary color, and sometimes tertiary or accent colors as well.
Your chosen colors will be a part of your branding kit, and will display the color codes in a few different formats.
For any materials that will be printed using very specific mixed inks, designers often use the Pantone Matching System. This is similar to using an AccuShade variants swatch book, but is used for ink on paper, instead of paint on metal. Colors are listed as “PMS 286” for example, to specify an ink color.
For standard color printing colors are listed using their “CMYK” values. Most colors can be converted to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) so that colors are printed using 4 standard ink colors. These don’t come out quite as bold as mixed inks such as Pantone, but are less expensive to print in many cases where full color graphics are needed.
For anything that appears on a screen, whether it’s a computer monitor, tablet, or mobile device, colors are usually listed using their “RGB” values (Red, Green, Blue) or 6-digit “Hex” codes.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing color palette is a great start to making all your marketing consistent and recognizable.
Your Logo and How it Should Be Used
Chances are you already have a logo design, and maybe it’s great, or perhaps it’s dated or amateurish. At any rate, you need more than one version to make the best use of various marketing options.
For instance, you have your primary version that is used in most cases, probably on a white or light-colored background. You may have a variation for use on dark backgrounds, and another that is plain black, and another that is plain white. You might even have single-color versions using a color from your brand color palette.
Your primary logo might be rectangular overall, but for social media profiles, you’ll probably need a square version.
Another version of your shop logo may include a tagline, or maybe at smaller sizes you need a version that is more of an icon or your company’s initials.
There can potentially be several variations of your logo, and your brand guide should outline when and where to use them. Usages will depend on where the logo is being used. If it’s your own website, then your full-color logo gets used. If it’s on stationery or a pen, and prints with a single color of ink, you might use the black one. If it’s a watermark over a YouTube video for example, you might choose the white version.
Along with your logo variations, you’ll need to include information about sizing, in particular the minimum size and proper proportions. If you’ve seen a well-known company’s logo used incorrectly, where it’s either too small to read, or it’s “squished” it tends to be noticeable.
Additionally, spacing is important when it comes to logo usage. If you are sponsoring an event, you don’t want to see your logo crammed against someone else’s with no space in between. Your logo designer should factor in spacing around your logo, detailing the minimum amount required.
You may want to show examples of how not to use your shop’s logo. For instance, you may not want it to appear on a textured background or photo, but instead, it should be set in a box with a certain color from your official color palette.
Lastly, you need to be able to provide copies of your logo to anyone who might need it to create marketing materials for you. This could be a sign for the little league field, a magazine ad, a radio station website, or a vehicle wrap.
You’re probably familiar with GIF and JPG image files, but these formats are typically only good for use on a website or email. If you try to scale it up to fit a sign it will look extremely grainy or pixelated.
For use in print or signage, you’ll need your logo in a “vector” format. That will let you scale the logo to any size without losing quality. This includes EPS, AI, and some PDF files, among others.
For use on websites, GIF or JPG can work, but the preferred format for a logo is usually PNG or SVG.
This might all sound like gibberish to you, but any designer can handle these formats easily.
Most major brands have one or more official typefaces or fonts. Some even have custom fonts commissioned specifically for their brand.
While that isn’t necessary for the average business, I recommend that you choose at least one font, ideally from a “font family”. A font family contains variations of a typeface, such as thin, regular, semibold, bold, extra bold, and italic.
If an official font wasn’t selected when your logo was created, you’ll want one that pairs with it well. Then, this font gets used for every ad, every billboard, on your website, your business cards, invoices, signage, and everywhere else you can think of.
The more advertising you do the more important it is to consistently use your chosen typefaces, as it becomes a recognizable component of your brand.
Image and Photography Guidelines
If you do any advertising there’s a good chance you use photos or illustrations. Just as with typography, it pays to have some consistency with the images you use. That doesn’t mean you should use the same images over and over.
Instead, decide if you primarily want to use photos or illustrations, and then find a style that you like and stick with it. For example, if one of your ads uses clip art, and another has a photo, that isn’t consistent.
Ideally you’ll find an illustrator – either your designer or marketing partner can handle this, or you can use stock illustrations from the same source or same artist.
The same thing applies to any photos you use. Is there something about them you can standardize to make them fit your brand? This might be that you always use people who are looking directly at the camera, or it may be that all photos have a certain color tint, like they are blue-ish or black and white. Maybe you always show cars cut out on a white background.
You may decide you like to use icons on all your marketing materials. The same thing applies here – make sure the icons come from an icon family, so they don’t look random or haphazard.
The options are endless, so you have the opportunity to make imagery part of your brand. A good graphic designer can be invaluable to solidifying your shop’s brand image.
Your Brand Personality
You have an individual personality, and there’s a good chance that it carries over to the way you interact with your customers.
You can and should identify the components of your brand’s personality as well. This defines the tone of voice that should be used in your marketing.
For example, should your marketing come across as personable and friendly, or corporate and professional?
Do you want to portray modern and high-tech, or classic and traditional?
Cutting edge or well established?
Fun, or serious?
Accessible to all, or upscale?
Detailing this will ensure that anyone creating marketing for your facility, whether it’s an employee or an outsourced firm, will know what personality to use. Otherwise, you’re leaving this to chance, which can waste your time and the time of the people with whom you’re working.
Your Shop’s Target Audience
Defining a “target audience” for a collision repair shop can be tricky, but it’s still important.
You might say that your shop will help anyone who has been in a collision and needs a repair. That may be true, but who is your ideal customer? Who is your average customer? They may be one and the same, or those could be at opposite ends of the spectrum.
If you could have hundreds of a certain type of client, who would they be? Is it Honda owners? Ford owners needing aluminum repairs? Is it luxury brands only?
Perhaps it isn’t based on a type of vehicle or a certification you have. Instead it could be based on demographics of your area. That could mean you are in a heavily Hispanic or Black community, or it could mean that you have an older population, or blue-collar, or white-collar.
The point here is that you should define who you most want to focus on, and create marketing pieces that reflect that. This sets you apart from your competition.
If you serve a predominantly Hispanic population, then your marketing should include Hispanics in any photos you use, and you should strongly consider creating a version of your site in Spanish.
If you want to target women, then use women in your ads.
If you want to target high-end customers, show off your Porsche and BMW certifications and be sure to use photos of those makes.
This doesn’t mean you can’t help people outside of your target audience, it’s just that you are trying to attract a certain clientele and make them feel like they found a good match for their repair.
Why Does a Body Shop Need a Style Guide?
You might be thinking that none of this applies to you, but I’d argue that every shop that plans to stick around needs to define all of this.
Branding builds trust with your customers. It makes you and your facility appear credible and professional.
If you see a Coca-Cola logo and it’s blue or green or some other color, it feels “off”. If you see the Apple logo and it has two bites out of the apple instead of one, something feels wrong even if you don’t immediately know what.
Consistency matters, and we have an unconscious appreciation for companies that have a professional image.
If you hire someone to do a service, and they hand-write your invoice on a generic pad from Staples or OfficeMax, do they appear professional, or do they seem like a Mom-and-Pop?
On the other hand, if the invoice is printed in color with line items and the company logo and contact info, that gives a different impression. To be clear, I love Mom-and-Pop operations, but they do have a different vibe.
What’s the future of your body shop? Are you going to remain independent and compete with the consolidators? If so you need to have an image that portrays you as a serious option.
Are you going to sell to a consolidator at some point? Having all this mapped out strengthens your position and shows that you are a sophisticated seller – one who has systems in place that don’t require you to personally make every decision.
Your brand style guide can help with all of this, assuming you actually use and follow it after it’s created.
Sharing Your Branding Guide
Once you have a brand style guide created, you need to use it with your advertising partners and vendors.
Let’s say you’ve decided to create a billboard. The vendor is going to need your logo at a minimum if they are creating the artwork for you, so sending your guide to them makes sense.
You may simply choose to keep your files in a folder on your computer so you can easily send them to the vendor. In this case you just send them as email attachments.
Better yet, have your website developer create a private section or page on your website where you can post your brand guide and logos to be downloaded. You can even set a password on this area to keep out search engines and the general public.
In that case, you’d email your vendor a link to that hidden page, where they can grab the guide and logos.
Your Guide will most likely be created as a PDF. Depending on how detailed it is, it may be a single page or 20 pages, but 4-5 pages is fairly common.
As I mentioned above, your logos will be included in several size and color variations, and each of those needs to be available in a variety of file formats (EPS, PDF, PNG, etc.). It’s easiest to manage this on a web page where you have all the options posted, and your marketing or ad vendor can choose whichever one they prefer.
While at first glance this may seem like it doesn’t apply to body shops, it’s a valuable exercise for any shop that plans on growing and sticking around. Even if you don’t feel a need, you may find that one or more of your competitors starts getting serious about marketing.
When that happens, having your brand style guide created will save you time and effort so you can fight back strategically, rather than running a few ads at random, and hoping customers choose your shop instead of the one with the rock-solid brand.
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