As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and today’s consumers are more visual than ever. Due in large part to the dominance of social media, we live in a world that is saturated with images. With so many selfies and “foodie” photos flashing in front of our eyes everyday, we’re over-exposed and yet primed for visual communication.
For marketers and branding experts, the challenge is to cut through the clutter and make your brand and your product stand out (both online and on the shelves). How can you tell your brand story visually? Here are a few tentpoles of visual branding to consider.
A Brand is a Promise
As we’ve discussed before, your brand is a promise you make to your customers (or fans, or voters). This philosophy should guide you when developing, re-imagining, or reinforcing your brand identity. Ask what your product does for your customers. Who does it encourage them to become? Does it provide safety or adventure, health or indulgence? What problem does it solve in their lives?
Once you’ve pinned down the promise that you’re making, visualize it. How does the world look different because your brand is in it? Then use these three guidelines to craft your images and engage your audience.
What is your brand’s personality? If an answer doesn’t immediately come to mind, consider exploring brand archetypes. As we’ve written previously, archetypes serve as a shortcut to deeper meaning and are understood across time and place. Assigning an archetype to your brand can help develop a compelling brand personality that your buyers will identify with and trust.
In their book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, Dr. Carol S. Pearson and Margaret Mark articulate 12 master archetypes: Innocent, Explorer, Sage, Hero, Outlaw, Magician, Regular Guy/Gal, Lover, Jester, Caregiver, Creator, and Ruler.
Which of these most closely matches your brand’s personality? Consider your target audience and how your brand and products should make them feel.
There are several aspects to a comprehensive visual brand. Along with the images you choose, your visual branding includes your logo, brand colors, and your font (or typography). With so many moving pieces to consider, simplicity becomes essential.
Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many elements. Choose two or three colors that match your brand’s personality and purpose (check out The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding for help). Select a primary font that aligns with your brand image and a secondary font that compliments it. Once these are in place, design a logo that incorporates your primary colors and font and communicates your brand’s personality.
Remove unnecessary elements whenever possible. Streamline your choices so that nothing distracts your audience from understanding who you are. Remember that your brand is a promise, and the more straightforward the promise, the harder it is to break.
Now that you’ve identified the elements of your visual brand, create a style guide to keep your usage consistent. Miles Herndon smartly addresses what great brand identity guides look like in a comprehensive post on his blog. This guide solidifies the choices you’ve made and makes it easy to communicate your brand specifications internally and to brand ambassadors or outside contractors.
Social Media presents a challenge and an opportunity for your visual brand. Consistency across platforms is a must; consumers should be able to immediately identify your brand whether they’re browsing Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. Each site has slightly different specifications for the size of profile and header images, so optimize your logo and images to make the most impact on each platform.
Brands Grow and Change
Brand personalities evolve over time. New products can change the direction of a brand’s momentum and open the way to reaching new demographics. Changing technologies always impact the ways brands communicate with their audience. Don’t be hasty when updating your visual branding, as you don’t want to confuse or alienate existing consumers, but keep your finger on their pulse and respond thoughtfully as time passes.
Here at Eidson & Partners, we’re updating our own visual brand. Starting with this post, you’ll see a difference in the images we curate for our audience. Stay tuned to watch our evolution in action!