brand book, brand guidelines, identity guidelines, brand bible, co-branding guidelines, brand usage guideline

What’s the Difference? Brand Book, Brand Guidelines, Brand Bible, and Identity Guidelines

A brand book is the physical manifestation of the living, breathing concept that is your brand. Without a guiding document, the Brand can spin out into an inconsistent set of representations. In an attempt to slow that process, Marketing Departments often develop Brand usage guidelines.  These guiding documents have a lot of names: Brand Book, Brand Guidelines, Brand Bible, Identity Guidelines, etc, etc, etc. But whatever you call it, the Brand Book helps to define the standard elements of the Brand identity, in an attempt to limit the inconsistency that would otherwise develop as the Brand is implemented and actively used.

There are a number of methodologies available for writing this Brand Book / Brand Guidelines / Brand Bible / or  Identity Guidelines, and there really isn’t ONE right answer.

  1. The first is a Brand Book, an overview document, describing the brand position, it’s history, how it was created and, briefly, it’s use. This document tends to be utilized as a source document for internal staff. It’s designed to help them understand the brand, and generally to understand how to use brand elements. Examples of this kind of brand book include: Santa Brand BookSun Microsystems,and Czech Design.
  2. An Identity Guidelines book is helpful for articulating to the marketing team and marketing partners the mechanics of exactly how the brand is to be used and displayed. This tends to be a very technical document. Examples of this kind of book include: Netflix,  Lloyds, and Barbican.
  3. The third, Brand Guidelines, is a combination of the first two. It addresses the philosophy through the treatment of the brand elements. Examples of this kind of book include: Skype, Jiffy Lube, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
  4. brand book, brand guidelines, identity guidelines, brand bible, co-branding guidelines, brand usage guideline
    photo credit shutterhacks

    Occasionally, where a branded product or sub-brand needs to integrated with a parent brand, it is necessary to develop Co-Branding Guidelines. While the Duke Medicine Brand Guidelines spend a lot of time cover co-branding, a separate document for each of the co-branding instances may also be developed. Examples of co-branding guidelines include: Wharton, UAB Medicine & Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and Novozymes.

The first thing you have to accept: these terms are used almost interchangeably, regardless of the type of document – so pick the phrase you like best and use it. The second encouragement I would give you – is to lean heavily toward option 1 or 3. Your Brand Story is the most important part, it gives the reader a reason to follow the guidelines and should make them feel proud to be a part of your Brand Book.

Your Brand Deserves a Brand Book

No matter what you call it, or what it’s scope is,  your Brand deserves to have a Brand Book to protect and shelter it from “good intention” and “bad taste.” Have I convinced you that you need a Brand Book? Good – just continue reading this Brand Book Tutorial to learn how write your own Brand Book, Brand Guidelines, Brand Bible, or Identity Guidelines, your Brand will thank you for it.

See more from the Brand Book Tutorial Series


  1. says

    Is there any publication where I can find info about classification of the brand books? I need it for my BA Thesis.

    • says

      I’m sorry, I’m not aware of any one publication that has those definitions Adrian. I’d love to read your thesis when it’s completed though, would you share it?

  2. Mark says

    Do you know of an online resource for creating a brand book? In other words, a cloud solution that would step the user through the different elements of a brand book and build it online. Nice discussion of brand books- thank you.

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