Human nature means that first impressions matter. So when it comes to branding, what consumers see will determine what they take away. We live in an attention economy where the digital environment is oversaturated with content. As a result, it takes much more effort and intention than ever before to gain and keep user attention. While marketing efforts such as SEO, web development, and social media strategy are beneficial and effective tactics to connect with audiences, they have to be done consistently. This is precisely where brand identity comes in. Your brand identity is not just something to consider when an issue arises but can be viewed as the backbone of your marketing strategy. Keeping your brand identity at the forefront of your marketing behaviours can help you create a consistent, engaging and memorable experience that helps keep consumers engaged. While your brand identity itself doesn’t directly make a sale, it makes a fantastic first and lasting impression. Not only does it send a message about your brand, but quality brand image could be the final decider between a consumer choosing you over another business. More specifically, brand identity is a holistic expression of all that your brand encapsulates. This includes your visual identity and non-visual elements that individually add layers of complexity and purpose to your brand.The goal with brand identity is to ultimately create brand recognition and build credibility. Evidently, these are rather daunting and all-encompassing tasks, so for today, we will narrow it down and take a closer look at what it takes to create an optimal visual identity for your brand.
Visual identity somewhat speaks for itself. Essentially, anything visually representative of the brand expresses its visual identity, helping it differentiate itself from others. It describes every aspect a consumer can see, whether that’s digitally or physically. Visuals are trending, and they have been for a long time, and certainly not for no reason. In fact, the human brain can process visuals up to a massive 60,000 times faster than text. As it only takes anywhere from 17 to 50 milliseconds for people to form a first impression, any visuals used in your marketing efforts must pack a punch.The power of visuals extends beyond their ability to capture attention. Still, a thoughtful visual identity can also evoke an emotional response from viewers, keeping them emotionally attached and further engaged. Thus, each element of visual identity is a building block towards creating a consistent and unified brand identity. Although the visual identity does not encompass everything the brand identifies, it is complementary to the other elements of brand identity. Consistency is key, and visuals are essential to achieving this by mirroring the brand’s values, services, voice, and mission statement. Describing the brand from the outside is an understated yet effective way of utilising creative tactics in line with brand strategy to shape an overarching effective brand image. Ultimately, any marketing strategy would not be complete without visuals for a multitude of reasons. So what are the aspects of visual identity, and how to create them so that they align with your brand and its trajectory for success?
Building Visual Components
A good logo can be the cornerstone of your brand. But, unfortunately, while completed logos look simple, chic, and effective, their creation process is not so straightforward.Despite their outwardly simplistic appearance, logos require strategic thinking, planning, and knowledge to be effective. Made up solely of text and images, you have to rely on creativity to create an icon that, while so little, says a whole lot about your brand. A good logo optimises the text and images to show what your brand does and the values you possess. If it is ever time to be a perfectionist, creating your logo is it. Fine-tuning your logo until it is just right is so important as it is essentially the face of your brand. It will be stamped on almost everything your brand does, so it is important to consider your intentions, be distinctively unique, and exude personality. It’s definitely not an overnight task.
While a logo is the predominant graphic to be concerned about, every other visual element you incorporate in your brand practices is certainly not to be dismissed. From simple lines and shapes to complex icons and illustrations, these elements combined act to signify and distinguish your brand in a specific way. Take, for instance, the recognisable shape of a Lego block. While you may look at the Lego logo and recognise specific colours and fonts, the thought process would have been much deeper than this during its creation. Specifically, the thickness of the lines and the simplicity of the blocked colours make the logo what it is. Although at the same time, these may seem like minuscule elements, if they were altered, the logo would tell a completely different story, possibly inconsistent with the rest of its branding.
3. Colour palette
Colour is undoubtedly the most exciting and fun element of digital design. From marketing efforts to film to interior design, colour undoubtedly makes a lasting impression. Much like how directors like Wes Anderson incorporate colour into their films to express tone, mood, and personality, it is also for aesthetic value. Unfortunately, aesthetics are often undermined for the incorrect perception they insinuate the excessive concern for beauty. However, this notion neglects the human desire for visual appeal. Colour theory highlights the way humans perceive colours and colour combos and how they emotionally and intellectually respond to these visual cues. Certain colours can create different emotions and evoke different feelings. So depending on the way you want consumers to perceive your brand, you can manipulate the choice and power of colour to send your message. For example, McDonald’s relies on the distinct red and yellow block colour palette to instil energy, excitement, and happiness. However, it can also be argued that these also act as a visual metaphor for condiments (ketchup and mustard), evoking hunger. While this is a somewhat simplistic use of colour, combined with other visual and non-visual elements of brand identity, it makes a compelling and memorable statement. Successful brands often create specific colour schemes to maintain consistency and appeal to colour theory notions. This includes paying close attention to particular hues, shades and tints, to ensure colours are used correctly and generate powerful emotional responses from consumers.
Although it may not be initially or blatantly obvious, typography comprises a rather large part of your brand identity. So much so that your logo, emails, website, documents and social media imagery all possess a fair amount of typography, meaning it is not something to dismiss. Typography is the shape and style of text and can say a lot about your brand. When chosen well, typography has the potential to evoke human emotion by combining form with narrative text. Even the most minor details that vary from one font to the next can affect the viewer. Therefore, when creating your visual and overarching brand identity, it is essential to thoughtfully choose the text attached to your logo, a headline font, and a body font that you can use consistently throughout your content. At the end of the day, font not only ensures your brand remains legible and memorable but exudes your personality while maintaining the perception your audience has of your brand.
Despite your logo being the ‘face of your brand’, imagery is just as important a representation of your brand's personality and customers. Imagery describes any photography and video content or any spokespeople that act as physical advertisements for your brand. As imagery is so dynamic and comprehensive, it is essential that any visuals used strategically relate to your target audiences. For example, people most heavily empathise with faces they recognise or can see themselves reflected in. So it is vital you know and consider your audience when incorporating imagery on any scale. The hyperpersonal and human nature of imagery allows you the opportunity to engage with ideas of promotional culture and truly show off your brand values. For instance, certain clothing brands that strive to incorporate diverse bodies and models into their campaigns. This practice of inclusivity sends a very clear and concise message to audiences that can help solidify other branding aspects.
Creating an Effective Visual Identity
Understanding the components that make up a brand's visual identity is one thing, but what does it take to do so effectively, consistently and purposefully?Essentially, your brand identity should guide the visuals, not the other way around. You can create something extremely aesthetically pleasing, but if it doesn't relate to the overarching brand image you want to make, you will ultimately leave customers confused.
1. Determine key business goals
Much like any marketing endeavour, you cannot begin and expect success without a plan or deep understanding of your purpose. This purpose should ultimately be rooted in your identity, values, and how you want to be perceived.Successful brands evolve over time as they stay true to their values while keeping up with trends and audiences. In this sense, there is no need to have every aspect perfected and set into stone. Instead, having a defined direction of where you are heading and your purpose can be considered the most important place to start. This includes defining your mission statement, core values, purpose, audience personas, and communication style.
2. Know your audience
It has been mentioned repeatedly that visuals only go so far if they aren’t crafted for a specific audience. Truly knowing and understanding your audience will help be the driving force behind your visual decisions. For, at the end of the day, customers are the main focus. Conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews are ways for a brand to identify its consumer group. The power of social media now also possesses many audience segmentation tools allowing for an easy understanding of the true breakdown of consumers. However, it doesn’t end here. Knowing your audience isn’t just knowing who they are, but what they value, their consumer habits, digital behaviours, and more. Audience profiling and in-depth research are invaluable for every aspect of marketing, especially your visual and brand identity.
3. Analyse your company and the market
If you’re struggling to think of creative ideas or are concerned about falling behind in the trend cycle, analysing your company and the market can help you determine your next move. Completing a SWOT analysis is an underrated yet highly effective tool that is proven to help brands understand their situation and better determine goals and the steps required to achieve them. This analysis is built to help you understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in place and help you align any creative endeavours with strategy. Going through this process can also inform you of what not to do. At the end of the day, brands are run by people, and people make mistakes. If you can learn from mistakes from others and save yourself the fallout, certainly take this opportunity.
4. Understand elements of digital design
Digital design is nearly a whole new language. Visuals speak in unique ways and possess signifiers and signs that are not to be undermined or dismissed.Graphic design is ultimately a tool for visual communication. While a great one, any tool is only as strong as its user. If you understand the way visual design works, you can spend less time understanding strategy and more time creatively weaving your brand values into exciting visual elements.
Ultimately, visual elements can be confusing, exciting, simple, extravagant, strategic, and creative. Nonetheless, when created strategically in consideration of each other, every aspect can help you achieve a powerful brand identity and help you stand out from the competition. For more advice regarding visual elements for your brand strategy, contact Anchor Digital today. Our team is passionate about the digital world and its many possibilities and are dedicated to staying up to trends to help you reach your marketing goals.