Think of some of the best known brands on the market. What do you see when you think about these brands?
Probably some of the following:
- Their logo;
- The colors of their brand;
- The fonts of their brand;
- Their most popular product.
What do all of these have in common?
They are visual.
Most of the time, the visuals are more striking than simple words. This is why look and style are defining characteristics of a brand strategy.
A visual branding strategy extends beyond your brand logo. A strong and recognizable visual brand helps to communicate brand values clearly in internal and external communications, in product design and in virtually every other area of a brand.
This guide describes five basic steps for any business wishing to develop a visual brand.
1. Define your brand identity
Before thinking about creating visuals, it’s important to identify the essential criteria of your brand.
Start by defining your brand identity. The clearer and more defined your brand identity is, the more you will be able to convey it in your content. Your brand identity will determine the tone to use in your content, the design choices (such as your brand’s fonts and colors), as well as the types of visuals to use.
This applies as much to large companies as to the self-employed. Although a brand is often seen as a product or a business, developing a brand identity is just as important for people. Adam Enfroy sums up this idea well in his guide to personal branding:
“As an individual, you are a personal brand wrapped in the content, identity and achievements that you share online.”
Whether you have a team of twenty people or you are alone on board, to develop your brand it is essential to know who you want to be.
A good place to start is to list a few words that describe your brand. You can do this in several ways:
- If your business is already established, ask your most loyal customers to describe your business in a few words, then choose the most cited features. This kind of feedback will also allow you to learn more about your customers’ needs.
- If you haven’t started your business yet, identify some key differentiators that set you apart from your competition. For example, ask your colleagues to help you list these items.
Then compile the adjectives into a list like this:
From there, you can choose a few words that best resonate with your business mission and goals. These adjectives will guide your choices in developing a visual brand.
2. Create a color palette that reflects your brand identity
Once you have defined your brand’s identity traits, you can use them to guide your design choices. One of the obvious choices for visual branding is the choice of colors for your brand.
You’ve probably heard of color psychology. Although it is not an exact science, it is easy to see that colors are one of the most memorable aspects of a visual brand.
Upon closer inspection, it is easy to notice color trends in different industries. For example, the brands of financial and technology companies are often associated with blue tones:
When choosing colors for your brand, you can choose to align yourself with the trends in the sector or try to stand out.
Go back to the list of adjectives describing your brand. What type of visual brand do you want to develop? A brand that stands out from the crowd in a radical way or a more traditional brand that seeks to inspire the trust of its customers?
The branding traits of your brand will help determine whether you are aligned with or against industry trends.
3. Choose fonts that illustrate your brand identity
After choosing your colors, it’s time to take the next major design choice step: your brand’s fonts.
Fonts are an essential design element. Take a look, for example, at the hype surrounding the Netflix custom font.
Identity features of your brand will also help you specify your font choices. In general, it makes sense to choose two or three different fonts.
- A main font for your company logo (you can possibly design your own personalized font);
- A font for the headers of your blog articles, your reports and your social media graphics (you can optionally choose the same font as that of your logo);
- A different font for the body text of your content.
Choose fonts that convey the personality you want to give your brand.
For example, if your brand has an offbeat identity that is ahead of its time, you can use a font such as Economica or Ubuntu.
Or if your brand has a chic and luxurious identity, elegant fonts such as Lora or Playfair Display can be a wise choice.
But never sacrifice readability for style!
4. Associate a face (or several) with your brand
A “face to face” approach can really help your brand to stand out in a digital environment.
Videos are one of the best ways to associate faces with your brand. If you’re not already using video marketing, it’s time to consider it this year. In 2018, 81% of B2B marketers reported using videos in their content marketing strategies.
If you’re worried about having too small a budget for videos, here’s a secret: you don’t need to have a big budget to create effective videos.
If you’re a solopreneur trying to put a face on your brand, your videos don’t need to be tweaked. They just have to add value to your audience (and of course not be too bad).
One of the ways to create added value is to take a personalized approach and create videos for specific user segments, even individual users.
The New Breed brand takes a very good approach to video marketing strategy: after attending one of their webinars, one of my colleagues received an email with a personalized video from one of their members sales team :
And if you don’t have a huge audience yet, why not take the opportunity to really connect with your users? You can include videos of team members (or yourself if you are self-employed) on your home pages, in your blog posts, and in your emails.
But if video isn’t an option you’d like to explore, you can build your brand by sharing behind-the-scenes photos of your business on social media. Brand identity often stems from the internal culture of a business, so seek inspiration from your team members.
5. Be consistent across different platforms
Consistency is the key to successful communication. To boost your brand image and gain recognition, be consistent in the communications and visual content published on the various customer-oriented platforms.
It’s not enough to use your brand’s fonts and colors to create consistent branding content. You should also strive to use images and illustrations that match the style of your brand.
MailChimp is an example of a company with a strong and consistent visual brand. Their vivid and saturated color palettes and original illustrations are instantly recognizable. These identity visuals are present in all of their social media posts, blog headers and annual reports.
Although the left tweet is an illustration and the right header is a photo, the two visuals appear consistent.
However, the consistency of a visual brand goes beyond the use of a consistent style on social media, although the social aspect certainly plays an important role. For example, you can create a visual signature. This will make your emails more recognizable when you send out newsletters, support emails, or awareness campaigns. To do this, you can simply include your logo in your signature. This simple visual technique creates little reminders that can boost your brand reputation.
The same is true with your internal PowerPoint presentation templates.
In summary, regardless of the content you create or the communications you send, think about how these elements will be perceived by your audience. Are they in line with your brand identity? Will they make your brand more recognizable?
This guide is a simple basic framework for developing your visual brand. To boost the visual impact of your brand, test and adjust as you go.
Remember, customer feedback is extremely valuable in building your brand. Ask your customers how they perceive your brand and what really sets them apart from others. Then refine these key differentiators.
How do you approach the visual character of your brand? What successes have you had? Difficulties ? Let me know in the comments!