Your brand is how the market gets to know your business since it's effectively your business's identity. However, an inconsistent brand, partial branding, or poor branding, may have a disastrous effect on your market position and sales. For example:
When Coca‑Cola released New Coke, things did not go well at all. The new formula, and the (minor) name change did not go down well with the public and was a major marketing disaster. This led to a complete about turn with the original Coke going back on the shelves. This was then promoted as Coca-Cola Classic, and sales bounced back.
Some people speculate that this was the plan all along to help the public fall back in love with Coke, whereas others believe it was a major branding and marketing misstep.
A Rapid Introduction to Brand Guidelines for Your Business
Brand guidelines affect the obvious public parts of your business including logo, letterheads, website, direct mail, and emails. But it also affects the not-so-obvious parts of your business. For example: how your sales people present themselves, even your office space. In fact, not only does it affect every public part of your business, but can also greatly influence your company culture too.
Simply put - brand guidelines detail the identity of your business and how this is presented. You may choose to keep these guidelines simple and not particularly in-depth, for example just detailing colour schemes and mission statement. Or it may reach as far as affecting all marketing materials, all sales interactions, even interactions between employees.
No Guidelines Means a Muddled Message
Not having clear brand guidelines in place for an existing business, or when looking to change the brand of your business, is a recipe for possible (or likely) disaster.
It may well result in inconsistent design decisions, poorly communicated marketing messages, hugely different experiences when clients deal with one part of your business compared to with another, an overall dilution of your brand in the market place, and simply makes things a lot more difficult for your marketing and design team, whether they're in house, or an agency.
Your business brand should directly align with, and support, the goals of your business. Externally, and internally. Documenting this clearly helps support your sales, marketing and recruitment efforts, makes creating new marketing materials easier, may help get new staff up to speed easier, and can help build a real identity for your business that grows mindshare in your market.