The terminology around branding can be confusing. You may wonder what a brand bible is, what’s inside and why it matters.

Here’s my take…

An unexpected education

I worked as a freelancer for the BBC for a decade. I didn’t realise I was getting an education in branding, but I was.

The BBC is one of the most recognised brands in the world. You can picture those three little monochrome letters in squares.

The BBC’s purpose is to inform, educate, and entertain. You might have heard it.

The organisation values trust, impartiality, and creativity. So when the BBC isn’t impartial, people complain.

I wanted to work there because of the BBC’s trusted reputation.

Within the BBC are sub-brands: BBC World, BBC Worldwide, CBeebies, BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, and a spectrum of BBC radio stations. They each have their own personality. Their own voice. They speak to different audiences.

Different channels offer different ways to engage. I have always loved BBC Radio Two, feeling a bit middle-aged before my time.

But it’s not only the channels that have their own identities. Individual programs (strands or shows) have their own identities too.

The Culture Show Bible

In 2005, I started working on an arts magazine programme, The Culture Show. My first job was to familiarise myself with The Culture Show Bible.

This document created a shared understanding for everyone who worked on the strand. It outlined the purpose of the show, its personality and tone of voice.

The brand bible also included guidelines for the use of logos, music, and opening titles. These elements and the host, Lauren Laverne, worked together to let viewers know they were in the right place. You could describe these elements as distinctive brand assets. Imagine how weird it would be if a different program used these.

The Culture Show had a diverse group of presenters, but it maintained a consistent overarching tone of voice. It was lively, irreverent, and hellbent on making the arts more accessible. This was something some traditional art lovers took offence to, which gave the show a rebellious vibe.

Reading The Culture Show Bible was like reading my kids’ clubhouse rules. I could finally access some juicy secrets. “Neighbours only. No grownups aloud”.

Could I have learned about The Culture Show without reading the brand bible?

Sure, I could have picked everything up in a few weeks or months on the job.

Brand guidelines articulate all the details. The dos and don’ts. The values and priorities. The tone of voice. They give new people access to the clubhouse rules. They get everyone on the same page and reduce misunderstandings.

Every brand is different. Some brands have sounds. Others have smells. Brand guidelines articulate the rationale. The intention, message, worldview, and feelings behind the assets. That’s the stuff that matters. Call them guidelines, style guides, brand strategies, tone of voice, brand stories… it doesn’t matter so long as they reveal the behaviours behind the brand.

When working with clients, I love digging up and shaping information to create meaningful guidelines. These articulate what you want your audience to feel and understand. The process is clarifying and satisfying.

Do you have a brand bible? Does it work well for your business or organisation? If not, I know someone who can help…

Let’s talk.