Every brand is supposed to do this — but do they?

Shannel Wheeler
7 min readAug 22, 2023

“Let’s just spend an hour on this so we can get back to the real work.”

Photo by Bruno Bueno

I’ve read through a lot of brand guidelines over the years and many of them follow a similar template. A section toward the beginning of the document usually includes the brand attributes, where the company will outline 4–6 keywords that define the core traits of the brand. These attributes are great to list because they are the descriptors that embody the essence of the brand and guide how it will express itself through messaging and visuals.

But often the same ‘ole words will appear across brand guidelines, no matter the industry. I’ve been guilty of this crime too, especially in my earlier days of learning how to extract words from company stakeholders that would become foundational building blocks in the brand strategy.

Overused and overworked

Brand attributes and other parts of the strategy and core identity like brand archetype, brand voice, brand story, etc. are the essential elements that shape the narrative around the brand before any visual components are created. These components are even established before changing the name of an organization.

Without deeper introspection, iteration, and creativity, these attributes end up being the same boring descriptors that many of us frequently hear, because they are easy to think of. They’re obvious and they sound like the right thing to say. They are not unique. Here’s a brand attribute I’ve seen used over and over again: Authentic.

What’s wrong with being authentic? While it does sound good, the word itself has been overused and overworked, losing much of its sentimental value and diminished to a buzzword, similar to “friend”, “love”, “equity” “diversity”, and the like. Sounds great, but may not hold much value by the people proclaiming it.

The companies that claim to be authentic—in whatever they do — are they, really?

Getting to the heart of the matter

It’s easy to say your company is authentic; it’s another thing to actually be authentic. To not just know your mission and vision but to really believe in it and work day and night to achieve it. It’s really easy to choose…



Shannel Wheeler

Left-brain creative | Brand/Design Implementation | Design Instruction and Inspiration | Creating with Purpose: https://shannelwheeler.com