To create a strong brand identity, do not just leap into redesigning your logo or website. Consider the visual elements that will define your brand.
When it comes to branding, many people have a common assumption that holds them back from building a powerful brand: Design a great logo with a catchy tagline, create brand guidelines, and you are done. However, brand identity is not just about making one great first impression. It is a collection of impressions comprised of countless elements, from social media to logos to experiential marketing and even to email footers.
If you execute your visual brand identity consistently and cohesively, your brand will become instantly recognizable. Nonetheless, customers will not be moved by your message — and might even believe your brand is inauthentic — if these elements feel jumbled.
Missing these marks can impair you from reaching out and connecting with your target audience. In fact, according to a study of the impact of design on health site visitors, 94% of first impressions are related to design. Visitors spent the most time looking at a website’s logo before moving on to search menus and written content. The longer you can keep these visitors’ attention, the more intimacy you build between them and your brand. Consumers will have a clear mental picture of your brand and values if your brand identity is expressed through a consistent collection of visual elements. Consequently, they will be more likely to buy from your business if your brand projects credibility.
Being memorable is key. Think about a company like Ikea. How do you remember this Swedish furniture store? It is the colors, the sight of the massive building as you approach it on the highway, and the iconic oversized bags. Additionally, research shows that having a signature color can make your brand 80% more recognizable.
From the example above, it is obvious that everything a brand does translates to its impression while also impacting loyalty and trust. Knowing how to command this impression in a way that influences customers to keep coming back takes time and a dogmatic meticulousness around all visual elements of your brand’s identity.
The woes of bad design
When brand identities are inconsistent with their operations and/or strategy, they present a confusing image to their audience and ultimately lose credibility in the market.
Take the example of Dell, a household name that developed a competitive advantage based on exceptional value and superior customer service. Dell lost control of that positive image after shifting its manufacturing overseas along with its customer service. Suddenly, Dell had to define its competitive advantage through brand design, a factor it had never focused on before. This proved to be extremely difficult because this shift contradicted its brand identity.
However, when brands take extra care to craft their visual brand identity from day one, they make a strong impression that defines them in the market. Chobani is one such brand that has evolved its visual identity to support its product expansion strategy. By leveraging its strong “wellness” theme, Chobani has positioned itself in customers’ homes as a lifestyle brand that goes beyond yogurt. Its visual identity reinforces that shift, especially through a recent packaging redesign, which includes earthy colors and a font inspired by 19th-century American folk art.
As seen by both Dell and Chobani, visual brand identity can quite literally make or break a company, and communication and branding execution should not be taken lightly.
5 questions to ask when building a brand’s identity
To create a strong brand identity, do not just leap into redesigning your logo or website. Consider the visual elements that will define your brand by asking yourself these five questions:
1. What is our company’s mission?
Without a clear vision for what your company is trying to do, you will not be able to portray that vision to your audience. Remember: Your mission is your emotional connection with your customers. Communicate it clearly and concisely in the visual language of your brand.
The mission statement should be aspirational and include why the company exists. Then, you must connect this mission statement with your business objectives and how you will meet those goals. Senior leadership should lead the charge in aligning the organization around the company’s mission either through team meetings or upper management collaboration.
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2. What benefits do we provide our customers that our competition cannot meet?
Repeating visual cues reminds visitors of your differentiating values and features, whether they’re price point, problem-solving, social responsibility, or customer service. Use visual elements to signal your unique characteristics and make them easily recognizable to consumers as they compare options.
For example, if your brand cares about the environment, choose visual cues such as the color green or an Earth motif. Use the selected elements in all of your internal and external materials to connect your branding to your message.
3. How does this help us stand out from the competition?
If your brand’s product is on a store shelf, the better it can stand out from the rest, the more likely consumers will add it to their shopping carts. With every design decision, make sure it further defines and differentiates your product.
However, social media and the internet have created a virtual world for brands and products. You must consider how you can use Instagram and other social sites to separate your brand from the millions of others on the platforms. For example, research that uses proprietary data from campaign polls shows that Facebook campaigns that use video and “human” language elicit a more emotional response from audiences, so embrace such elements to help your brand reach new heights.
4. How does this visual design help communicate our mission, values, differentiators, and value propositions?
Your brand identity should not just be pretty or visually compelling. If it does not serve a larger purpose, your brand is sure to flop. After visualizing how you want your brand to look, spend some time connecting that image to your broader goals and values. Make sure every element you create actually helps you communicate your purpose.
If you do not have someone on your team with experience in brand management, you should avoid creating your brand in-house. Instead, engage with a designer or brand agency to help connect the dots.
5. Is everything that we say and claim true?
Brands that spin the truth risk betraying customers’ trust. Once that occurs, it can rarely be won back.
One brand that was exposed for stretching the truth was The Honest Company. With a mission that boasts an all-natural approach to family care, the brand was in a tricky situation when unnatural ingredients were found in its products. Consequently, customers were offended and began to spend their money elsewhere. One organization even filed a lawsuit against the company. Lesson learned: Authenticity matters. So make sure to align your operations with the values that your customers expect.
Use these five questions to start making better design decisions for the life and longevity of your brand. With the right approach, you can delight customers and maintain their loyalty and trust. Knowing the answers to the above questions is the best formula to ensure an unmistakable brand identity that consumers will not forget any time soon.