The old axiom that says you need to put your best foot forward is spot on when it comes to modern marketing. Only in marketing, you have to put your best face forward. The importance of establishing a strong visual identity for your business is critical because humans are predominantly visual creatures. They love and hate with their eyes even before they know it.
Make The First Impression Count
Strong visual identity helps you draw in prospects and leave memorable first impressions. Experts estimate it takes less than one-tenth of a second for someone to like or dislike you based on your photo. People don’t bother going any further than your profile picture if their split-second impression of you is negative. Let that sink in.
The rule holds true for most consumer-facing products and services. You want the food to taste good, but if it looks meh you’re unlikely to even try. Restaurant chains have long tapped into the treasure trove of posting well-presented, stylish photographs of their meals while Starbucks is annually killing it with its red Christmas cups campaign.
Content is king, but to get people to even take a peek at your content, you must stand out, and be recognizable. There’s a seven times rule in advertising that says people must see your ad at least seven times to start recognizing your brand. But without a recognizable, unique brand identity, not seven not even a dozen will help.
Bonding and Brand Association
The design elements of your brand’s visual identity range from logo to custom color palette and filters, fonts, materials, and textures, you name it. Think Dropbox’s sketched graphics, or Lyft’s fuzzy mustache, and the Starbuck’s signature cups. The benefits?
Brand association works miracles when people immediately recognize whose post is worth a click in their saturated feed. Especially when they know you’re often churning out promos and giveaways like it’s Christmas all year round.
In fact, scientific evidence shows that a positive brand interaction activates areas of the human brain responsible for reward and self-identification.
Further, 60 percent of consumers prefer to shop from brands they already know, according to Nielsen media research. People prefer stability over change, so having established a positive connection with a brand once, they stick to it.
Loyalty and Trust
One way to stand out from the competition is by conveying your values and building an emotional connection with your customers. If they share your values, it’s so much easier to develop a long-term relationship. That’s why pay close attention to the colors, shapes, and fonts you’re using because each element triggers specific emotions. Through color and shape, you are broadcasting your values.
A strong and clean design that makes your company immediately recognizable will save you lots of money. Few things are worse than having to reinvent graphics mid-way because your visual identity doesn’t resonate with your audience. A well-established and solid look gets you off to a good start from the get-go.
A strong brand identity also earns you lots of money. Why are people willing to pay more for a Lexus than for a Toyota? Or why is an iPhone worth more in the minds of consumers than any Android flagship if it isn’t due to the Apple halo? The value proposition is based on brand.
Key Elements of Your Company’s Visual Identity
Logo – What You Do
A logo is the first and by far one of the most important elements in your visual identity. In many cases, it’s the first thing your prospects see, and you should aim to catch their eye.
- Logo design should be as simple as possible. Can you cram into a small logo the information about what your business does like Dropbox’s sketchy logo does? If yes, fine. If not, aim for conceptual and abstract elements instead of trying to squeeze in everything that your company does or stands for.
Compare the logos of Dunkin Donuts, Revolution Doughnuts and Coffee and The Whole Donut? Which logo immediately stands out, and which makes it hard to tell what is it that they’re offering?
- Your logo should be flexible enough to scale well across various media and image sizes (logo for social media user pic, Facebook page header, invitations, infographics, labels, tags, menus, etc.).
- It should be easy to reproduce, adaptable, and have solid colors (we’ll talk more about colors in a moment).
- Also, always have a fixed position for your logo across your social media channels, blogs, and website.
- Consider having several iterations of your logo for added flexibility. For instance, one is your primary logo with signature colors, and then a black and white version that goes well with black and white photographs.
- As far as size is concerned, make sure it’s easy to identify and read.
There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation here, but many brands go as far as to develop a secondary brand mark used on secondary touch points, such as in social media campaigns, marketing collateral, and merchandising.
This is especially relevant for lifestyle brands such as fashion, accessories, clothing, beauty products, where a secondary brand mark is important. Think Chanel – it is recognizable as a name, iconic two C logo and a combination of both.
Color – Emotion
60 percent of the time, people decide if they like a message or not based on color alone. No wonder successful brands have a signature color scheme carefully chosen to convey a certain subliminal message. Red and yellow McDonald’s, red Coca-Cola, striped-blue IBM, black and yellow Best Buy, and so on.
Out of all elements making up your visual identity, color is the number one. Your logo may comprise shapes, symbols, numbers, or text, but the color is the element people remember the most. Moreover, color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent because our brains are conditioned to respond to color (we stop for red lights, and go on green).
Not only your signature color palette makes you memorable, but it also helps you convey your brand’s values and attributes. Color has the power to evoke specific emotions in people, and when used effectively, your signature palette should evoke an emotion you wish your brand to trigger.
Do you want to be perceived as bold, posh, or trustworthy? Should you choose to have a primary and secondary color palettes, always focus on conveying your emotional message via your primary palette.
- Choose visually impressive, contrasting colors that look well on flat backgrounds.
- Once you settle for your palette, use it consistently across all your graphic elements, such as logos, icons, text, and backgrounds. Also, note the hex codes for your signature colors.
- When creating visual content for your social media campaigns, make sure to harmonize your images with your primary color palette.
For example, FedEx. The brand’s signature colors are purple and orange. The company’s marketing images often depict outdoor scenes, delivery trucks and airplanes, and as is the case with their current background – winter setting.
FedEx’s color palette is cold (purple) and warm (orange) at the same time. But since it’s winter, a custom filter and de-saturation adds even more cold hues to the image, and successfully conveys the message – it may be cold and everyone else may be on a holiday, but we keep working to get your presents delivered.
The background photograph features a Christmas tree with purple lights while purple Twitter buttons and purple Santa Clause’s hat in the user pic harmonize the overall look with the brand’s primary palette and the cold nature of the season.
Custom filters can shift the emotional message of your signature colors, giving you more flexibility in how you work with your visual content based on events, movements, or trends.
Some filters brighten or darken your images, others bring up certain colors, so you can efficiently craft brand images for sun-soaked summer campaigns with warm images, and dark, de-saturated images for Christmas promos.
Font – Essence
The font has a peculiar ability to convey a brand’s essence. Think IBM’s striped-blue bold letters versus rounded calligraphy of Coca-Cola, and ask yourself what essence do you want your brand to broadcast? Is your brand geeky and uber-hi-tech, traditional, cozy, posh, or eclectic? The font you choose will affect the way your prospects and customers perceive your company.
Image – Psychology Behind Type Choices
- Consider having two signature fonts for your brand and use them consistently across all of your materials – digital, print, and on other tangible merchandise such as labels and tags.
- The font used in headings should be primary as it conveys the main message, but if you want to use uppercase consider that it’s hard to read in a small copy.
- So uppercase goes well with headings, whereas body fonts and subtitles must be easy to read.
- Subheadings look great when they are the same font as headings, but smaller, or italic, with increased letter spacing.
Don’t forget to use your signature fonts when crafting collages for social media campaigns, especially in call to action images.
Tying It All Together
Develop a consistent style guide, where your font and colors are aligned with your buttons, banners, and logo, and consider running each design set through A/B testing before the design goes live to see how well your audience may respond.
Most importantly, understand that clean always beats cluttered. If you are happy with your design, use it appropriately and put user experience at the core of your website’s layout. In design, there can be too much of a good thing.