Brand guidelines are necessary for your company to stay “on-brand” and elevate the value of your business. Without brand consistency, your message will be lost — or even tainted. 

For your affiliate marketing program, affiliate reps should be expected to adhere to brand standards as any creative agency or internal employee would. It’s important to continually revisit your company branding to make sure you’ve implemented brand guidelines that are clear, not only to you and your employees but also affiliates who are out there spreading your message. 

‌In your niche market, countless competitors are likely seeking attention from the same pool of affiliates. While they’re not officially employed by your company, affiliates and influencers expect a professional relationship. The more organized and put-together you come across, the easier you’ll make it for them, and the harder they’ll work for you.

Below are some tips on how to create clear brand guidelines and style guide for your affiliate program.

What to include in your brand guidelines

Logo use

A whopping 75% of people recognize brands by their logos. There’s great importance to that one piece of graphic design. Depending on how affiliates share your products, you may not have to worry too much about logo misuse. However, you should still include instructions on proper logo use in your brand guidelines. Think about the many ways an affiliate could manipulate your logo. 

If your company colors are blue and orange, would you accept a lime green logo plastered on materials, clothing, or social media? There are no right or wrong answers. It depends on how you want your brand represented.

Color palette

You and your marketing department spent significant time and resources choosing your brand colors. These colors should always remain consistent, down to the specific shades. The four-color types to include in brand guidelines are:

  • RGB: Red, green, blue
  • HEX: Hexadecimal 
  • PMS: Pantone Matching System
  • CMYK: Cyan, magenta, yellow, black

‌RGB and HEX are used digitally. PMS and CMYK are used for printed materials. Most affiliates will be sharing your brand digitally and won’t be doing any graphic design. Still, provide all color codes for all brand colors. This means, if there are four approved brand colors, your guide needs 16 total color codes. If nothing else, your affiliates should have the correct color codes for text. 

Typography

Typography is a must for your brand guidelines. If you don’t feel the need to provide specific fonts for your affiliates, at least mention fonts that are completely off-limits. 

Images and graphics

What types of images and graphics are permissible for your brand? Some companies use only real photography with real people. Do you have an image strategy for your website, ads, commercials, and social media? An easy way to think about this and communicate it to affiliates is by saying what you prefer in a context like this: real people vs. cartoon people or real flowers vs. sketched flowers. In your brand guidelines, consider including specific examples of images you accept and don’t accept.

What to include in your style guide

Companies with stellar brand guidelines also include a style guide. This is of top importance in affiliate marketing because it provides direction on how to speak about your brand. 

‌Brand voice

Every brand has a personality reflected in its tone and voice. This is important to share with affiliates who speak candidly about your brand. You want influencers to sound like themselves and be authentic. Point out the brand voice in your guidelines, but encourage and remind them that their personalities are also acting for your brand.

Key phrases

In addition to your slogan or tagline, are there any key phrases that you use across the board that employees and loyal customers recognize? You don’t want affiliates sounding like robots, but throwing in some key phrases here and there will help with brand recognition. Some examples of key phrases used to define a brand include:

  • “Go big or go home.”
  • “On time, every time.”
  • “For the girl on the go.”
  • “Who has time for that?”
  • “The only towel you’ll ever need.”

‌These may seem insignificant, but when used consistently with your brand, people will remember.

Grammar and punctuation

Even this article has grammar and punctuation guidelines. You may have different guidelines depending on your brand’s tone. For example, do you allow contractions? Formal writing doesn’t typically allow for contractions, but more casual writing does. Also, note if it’s okay to use exclamation points.

Enforce the rules

It’s not fun to be the brand police, but someone has to do it. One of the best ways to enforce your brand guidelines is to have all brand assets located in one place that’s easy for affiliates to get to. It can be through a platform like Dropbox, Google Drive, or an internal company intranet site. You may even want to create a separate brand resource center for affiliates that offers everything they need in one tidy place, including exact types of graphics, files, and other important brand information. 

If brand guidelines were violated, you should communicate with affiliates by directing them to the folder or resource center you’ve created and remind them it’s there. This is an actionable message rather than just scolding and asking for it not to happen again.

‌Practice what you preach

Consistency, consistency, consistency. You may think it goes without saying, but make sure you walk the walk. When communicating with affiliates, always adhere to brand standards. This also goes for anything you send to them. A swag item should match your company. If you don’t allow any lime green accent colors, don’t send out a lime green branded coffee mug. 

When you play by your rules, you elevate the professionalism of your brand in every affiliate interaction. 

Provide clear brand guidelines

With all of these carefully considered elements of your brand, an off-color logo or incorrect font here and there may not seem like a big deal, but it will over time. By providing affiliates with clear brand guidelines, they’ll help carry your brand in the direction you’ve envisioned. And don’t forget to be monitoring your brand to make sure affiliates are following the guidelines.

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