When you see a cow on a sign with the misspelled “Chikin,” you think of Chick-fil-A. When you see the Golden Arches, you think of McDonald’s. Top brands have key written marketing strategies, but they have visual strategies too. Just one glance and the entire brand—its core messages and key products—rush into the consumer’s mind. How can you create your own powerful visual brand?
1. Identify Your Brand Colors: Identify your brand colors and use them to trigger visual memory. For Tide, it’s Tide Orange. For Coke, it’s the Coca-Cola Red. Not only are these brand colors used for products and logos, but they infuse all of these companies’ marketing, both digital and print. Even if you don’t have an official brand color, identify colors that are consistent with your company message and image. Be purposeful about using them consistently throughout your materials. Color is a consistent presence that, in itself, triggers visual memory.
2. Use the Power of Images: Stock imagery works in a pinch, but it looks like, well, stock imagery. Hire a professional photographer who can make your company shine. Use pictures of your storefront or corporate offices, employees, and products in use (instead of house shots). Showcase your customer service people, technicians, and sales reps. Build a visual identity based on real people, places, and things. Also consider tapping the enthusiasm and relationship with customers. Bistro restaurant Birroteca has built a visual identity based on images of its menu posted by actual customers on Instagram, as well as Instagram postings of its chefs, servers, and other employees on the job. The visual brand is hip, upscale, and engaged with the local community. Do you have a spokesperson or mascot? How well and how consistently is it used in your print and online materials? If you don’t have one, would you benefit from creating one? For some companies, a spokesperson or brand mascot can be a powerful tool in telling their story.
3. Tell Your Story: What’s your brand story? How can images of your products tell it? For example, Harley-Davidson isn’t selling motorcycles. It is selling freedom. Visuals of the open road are as important as the motorcycle itself. Lexus isn’t selling cars. It is selling prestige. That’s why its advertising shows cars driven by men in expensive suits or by women dripping with luxury. What feelings do your print materials need to evoke? Are your products designed to give people financial freedom, make them better moms, or boost their social standing? If so, what images will reinforce those messages?
When designing your print and e-media campaigns, think beyond products and services. Consider the impact of color for tapping visual recall. Use personal images direct from the heart of your company. Use images that evoke the desired emotions and tap the true purchasing motivation of your customers. Visual branding is a powerful tool—use it!
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