As a business owner, you know you're good at what you do and that your company provides outstanding services. But if there's a dissonance between these outstanding services and the level of your corporate marketing collateral, it may well thwart your business development efforts.
As Scott Montgomery, Creative director for Bradley and Montgomery Advertising, puts it, "A brand is exactly two things: it's the promise your offering makes to people, and the clothes that promise is dressed in." This is why it's crucial to have a solid visual identity in place --- it can provide the underlying architecture for your overall marketing strategy, ensuring that all marketing communications send a singular message.
In this guide to creating a visual brand identity, we'll tell you how you can differentiate your company from the competition, position your business as a premium provider and instill trust and confidence in your clients.
Rebranding or creating a fresh new visual identity is a process that begins by switching seats with clients and prospects to view your business from their perspective. As seen from your former seat, the variety of ways to interact with your business can look like a series of unrelated events. There may not appear to be a relationship between corporate collateral, content marketing, public relations initiatives, and the website. To an individual client or prospect, though, these touchpoints combine to create a single picture of your business. More than passing impressions, these imprints become one's collective 'experience' of your business.
Brand identity is about what your customers feel with regard to the services you provide or products that you sell. This includes their overall experience with your company from the very first contact to seeing your visual materials, using your product or service, and staying in touch. So, what experience do you want to create for clients and prospects? The answer to this question begins with a definition of your business and what you want your marketing plan to achieve. This groundwork needs to be in place before a designer can determine how anything may look. Many professionals find the following questions a good place to begin:
- What do we stand for?
- Who are our key clients, existing and targeted?
- What do we want our clients/prospects to know about us?
- Is there a discrepancy between how the company is perceived in the market and how we perceive ourselves?
Try thinking of the business as a 'who' rather than an 'it' and sketch a personality. Start with obvious adjectives (casual, formal, friendly, quiet), allowing for more idiosyncratic and differentiating descriptions to emerge. Anything goes during this stage of the process. Leave the editing for later.
When you are considering a rebrand as an adjustment focused on your visual brand identity, logotype is the one of the most important things to consider. It's the face of your business and the primary visual icon that signifies all of the business essence that you've discovered. Visual execution of a logotype design shouldn't be taken lightly and needs to be based on all of the discovered information about your brand, competitors, and the target audience.
Each industry has its own visual language; it’s important for the designer you work with to:
- Explore the existing competitive landscape to make sure your logotype stands out
- Brainstorm and use free association as those are valuable techniques that help to arrive at the unique combinations
- Sketch multiple ideas to ensure that your logotype will go beyond the common ideas
- Skillfully design/draw the final logotypes
Final logotype selection should be based on how well the visual represents the brand essence. On a more practical note, you need to make sure that the logotype works well in smaller sizes as well as black and white for use in various applications.
Establish a corporate style
You did a great job of discovering your business's unique personality and gave it an essence-filled face... You now need to discover its aura, its style, and its emotional/visual presence. This step is crucial as it works as a foundation for all of the visual materials to be based on.
Imagery: Your choice of imagery is important to consider when creating a style. Have you seen photos of people with fake smiles that just don't look genuine? Or, perhaps, you've encountered clip art imagery that just doesn't communicate professionalism? Your choice of visual language should be true to what your brand stands for. It needs to communicate your brand values and your true convictions. Carefully choose royalty-free illustrations and photography based on professionalism and genuineness of the imagery.
Typography: Typography is another major component of the overall brand. Like brands, fonts have personalities - they could be serious, light-hearted, casual, and friendly. As with imagery, you need to practice caution when selecting fonts - some (Comic Sans) just don't communicate professionalism, and others (Arial) just lack in personality. Look through multiple font resources to purchase unique fonts that highlight your brand and have a great personality to them.
Color Palette: The last corporate style consideration is the color. Colors don't just visually influence us; they make us feel and behave differently. Various colors are used in healing environments to help aid patient's recovery or for pain management. Colors are also known to induce appetite (orange), relax (green) or excite (red). See which color combinations work best with your brand's essence.
Tips to remember:
- Choose a couple of primary colors that would be used as the main identifiers for your brand
- Also, pick some secondary ones for the background elements.
- Select accent colors that could be used in limited amounts to highlight important elements
Social Media Integration
As a business owner, social media is where your brand needs to be the subject of discussion, albeit for all the good reasons. The good old adage of "the beauty of word of mouth" still works, even though touchscreen phones and keyboard strokes are the new mechanisms for propagating such news.
Value proposition content
People respond better to things that offer them something of value. So, your brand's overall visual experience must be defined with care given to the messages it will deliver and the type of responses they must generate. Provide value by creating a content marketing strategy that illustrates your working knowledge of the major issues for clients and prospects. While it is good to know that a company has many years of experience, these 'we' messages (we have 100 years of experience, we have won many awards, we understand) will not resonate like messages that mirror a situation that a client or prospect is facing. The former is a monologue; the latter mimics a dialogue by demonstrating knowledge of issues, understanding of consequences, and an ability to envision and craft solutions.
Maybe Later? Never.
This process of defining the experience, the business, and visual identity is a strenuous exercise. It lends itself to procrastination and excuse-making. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- We're too busy to deal with this now.
- I don't have the budget to do this.
- We know we should do this, but we've decided to give it another year to see where business goes first.
If you find yourself thinking that you're too busy, remember that identity is all about perception. At the same time that you and your staff are hard at work, corporate collateral is working too, creating an "Experience" of your company for people you may never have met, who may be working for firms you've never heard of, or ones you've been trying to appeal to. Communications that align with this experience will support your efforts and strengthen business. A disconnect, on the other hand, will cause headaches that will make their way to the top of your to-do list.
Everyone is clamoring for clients' or prospects' attention. Noise in the marketplace is loud. With a visual identity that has thrown your company's Experience out of alignment, its voice is unable to strike the clear and resonant chord that will rise above the din. An intelligent design, together with a well thought-out marketing plan, will bring a quiet symmetry to the Experience that will be clearly audible.
If you are working on rebranding or would like to discuss your business further, we would love to talk!
Reach out and Contact Us today so that we can help your business thrive.