Why Your Travel Agency Needs a Style Guide

February 13, 2018

What is the first rule of marketing?

It should be pretty obvious… define your brand. Without a brand, there is no marketing.

Unfortunately, because small business owners don’t think of themselves as marketers or “creatives” they put off defining any kind of brand because they don’t know where to start. Well I’m here to paint the starting line, right in front of you! We are going to create your brand’s style guide. This is a guideline that defines the standards of your brand to ensure a cohesive and consistent look and feel across all marketing. A style guide is important for even the smallest company because it gives your customers something to consistently recognize and it will also save you a ton of time in all future marketing and advertising creation.

I am going to walk you through the 6 essential elements you need to create your style guide. The easiest thing is to jot all these down in a word document as we go along.

#1 Brand Story

This is what your agency is all about. Image you asked a client to describe your brand. Now think about exactly what you wished they would say. That is your brand story and here is how you create it.

Define your Mission: In only 1 sentence (2 if you really have to!), write your mission. What do you try to do every single day in your business? Why do you exist? What is your company’s overall intention?

I’ll use our organization as an example to show you what I mean…

Uniglobe Travel Center’s mission is to cultivate the most reputable, knowledgeable, and passionate independent travel agents, through an unwavering commitment to support, education, and personal connection.

Define your Value Statement: In 1-3 sentences, write your value statement. This is what you believe in as a travel agent and how you will conduct yourself. Make sure they are things you really believe, because you should be holding yourself accountable to these.

For some Inspiration, here is our Value Statement…

Integrity: We uphold the highest ethical business practices for our own company and promote those same standards in our agents and their agency practices.

Advocacy: We care not only for our own agents, but also for the community of travel agents as a whole, and actively work to support and promote the continuation of the travel agent profession. 

Family: We believe the best way to provide excellent support to our agents is to build genuine personal relationships and embrace our agents as family.

Define your Target Audience: What customers are you trying to attract? Describe them. This doesn’t have to capture every type of client ever; it’s meant to be the “perfect” clients. Describe 2 or 3 target clients that you would love to book a trip for today!

Again, I’ll use our own target customers to show you what I mean…

  1. Serious and experienced agents who want to streamline their agency and focus on selling. These agents feel strongly about having access to the best support in the industry.
  2. Former Travel Agents that have been out of the business but are committed to refreshing their knowledge of the industry and being productive agents again.
  3. New agents that have a passion for travel and want to learn the travel industry completely. Dedicated, focused, outgoing, and committed to building up their agency. 

Define your Vibe: This is the fun part! How to you want your clients to feel about you? If your brand was a person, how would others describe that person? Pick 3 to 5 adjective to describe your brand.

Uniglobe’s Vibe: welcoming, fun, supportive, innovative, knowledgeable.

#2 Logo

Now that you have defined your brand story, let’s make it pretty!

You need a logo! Your brand should have a central feature to make it recognizable and brands that do not have a logo lack a level of professionalism. To make your own logo, you can use self-design tools like canva.com. But keep in mind, this will provide only basic file types (.jpg, .png, and .pdf). If you really want to look professional and be taken seriously, you should invest a few hundred dollars in a professionally designed logo. In my opinion, it’s the very first thing you should spend money on because it will be used in almost every single thing you do, from your website, to social media, to your invoices. To get a professionally designed logo, I recommend 99 Designs. The best option is to run a “contest”. Basically you describe what you want, choose how much you are willing to pay for it, and designers pitch ideas to you. You then choose your favorite logos and work with your finalists to tweak the logo until it is just what you want. Another benefit of using a professional designer is that they can provide vector files like .ai and .eps. You will need these types of files in any professional printing.

#3 Color

Choose colors that embody your brand story. Check out this link to get some ideas on the psychology of colors in business.

If using a designer, they can help you with deciding the exact shade of colors and providing you with the color codes. But, you should have a general idea of your primary color, and accent color.

A Note on Color Codes:

There are multiple “codes” for the same color, based on what medium you are using, so if using a designer to create your logo, ask for the following.

  1. RGB and HEX codes: This is for digital color and what you will use if you are using a tool like Canva to create ads. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, which are the colors used to make up all the colors you see on your screen. 
  2. CMYK: this is for printed assets. So for example to have flyers or magazine ads printed. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, which are the 4 colors used in a full color printing. 
  3. PANTONE color match: Pantone is a universally understood color-coding system that’s used by designers and print companies. The problem with CMYK printing is that from printer to printer, there will be slight color differences. This is because 4 separate inks are being used to create the color. With Pantone however, a single ink is used, meaning the colors will match exactly every time.

#4 Typography

It is best to choose some predefined fonts for your brand, as this will make things consistent, and save loads of time. Trust me, I’ve previously spent hours just trying to pick a font for a Facebook ad! You want to have at least two primary fonts. A font for headlines (something bold) and a smaller “normal” font for you body of text. You can also choose more if you like. For instance, it may be useful to add a script style font as an accent. The key is to make sure all your fonts look good together.

#5 Imagery

Make a Pinterest board, and pic some photos you really like. Photos that you wish were in your own ads or on your website. Then narrow down those images to the ones that have a consistent look and feel. Look at the style, the mood it evokes, the coloring. Choose 9-12 images that all have the same style. This is what you should use to compare future images too. Making a Facebook ad? Use an image that looks like those inspirational ones and you will always have a consistent brand image. Make sure your images don’t just look cool, they need to match your brand. If your colors are pink and yellow, but the images you like are close-up black and white photos, those two don’t really match. If your brand colors are calm and peaceful, or bright and fun, find image inspiration that matches.

#6 Voice

This has more to do with written content than the “look” of your brand. Choose what you want your company’s voice to sound like. Is it laid back and conversational, or is it formal and professional? This is the tone you are setting for your brand.

  1. Using a few adjectives, describe your voice (i.e. formal and professional)
  2. Define words you like that can often be used in your marketing. Words such at adventure, multi-generational, value, etc.
  3. Define any words you don’t like and should avoid using in marketing. For instance is you want to be called a Travel Consultant, and not a Travel Agent, then Travel Agent should be a phrase on the “do not use “ list. Another example of a word to never use: “cheap”! Stick with value or budget-conscious instead.

So that’s it! You now have a style guide for your brand that you can hand over to any designer to give them direction, or to refer to when creating advertising for yourself.

For any additional help with your style guide, please feel free to email questions to me at [email protected]

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