Building a brand is all about consistency. Your customers expect to have the same (or darn close to the same) experience whenever they come in contact with your brand. After all, consistency leads to reliability and trust.
Since I’ve been doing a lot with visual maps these days, I’ve really gotten into studying how visual schemes impact your brand. Here are a few tips that might help you.
Design Schemes and Associations
Think about this – what if you bought one of those red cola cans at a convenience store only to find when you drank it, something orange came out of the can. That’s pretty crazy, right? You’d probably storm back into the store and confront the cashier at the counter with your red can. The experience would make you second guess ever buying another from that store, or possibly, ever again.
In fact, that actually happened…sorta. Remember when they came out with clear cola? It crashed and burned badly…why? Because we expect cola to be dark brown. And when a very popular condiment maker came out with green ketchup, it ended up making appearances as a collectible on eBay, not on kitchen tables.
Something very similar happens with brands online. Certain colors and design schemes are associated with certain products. If the product has the wrong color or design, it’s off-putting to potential customers.
An important part of creating a consistent brand image is to choose a visual scheme that will always be associated with your name or your company’s name.
Your Visual Brand Language
To create a design and color scheme for your brand, you need to create a visual brand language, or VBL.
So what’s that? A VBL incorporates design elements such as shape, color, materials, finish, typography and composition. All of these items together should work smoothly to communicate your company’s values and personality.
For a good example, take BMW’s front grill. When you see it on an advertisement or website, you automatically think of BMW and all the qualities associated with this luxury car designer. This distinct design feature is used as a visual marketing tool by the company to trigger feelings and associations in the minds of its target market.
An important key to creating a VBL is to remember that it isn’t static, but something can be changed and used in different ways.
Think about Google’s logo – basic letters on a clean white background. During different times of year or during promotions, incremental changes are made to this basic design theme. Your VBL can be something flexible as well.
Visuals for Your Niche
Your own images need to create a brand personality that fits with your niche. Think about your target market and what they like. Consider your products and look at how other companies in your expert niche create their brand personality.
For example, some niches tend to showcase stark, hard line visuals, while others use soft, curvy lines. Each image a company uses fits with its personality to create a sense of consistency across all of its marketing and content creation.
Your Brand’s Logo
The single most important visual element is your logo. Recently, I went to my friends over at Logo Nerds to come up with a new design for me. I knew the one I had was not fitting well with my niche and I wanted it to make a stronger connection with my brand.
To create a logo, you need to go back to your brand’s unique selling proposition. What is your brand’s promise and personality? These should be communicated through your brand’s logo. Your logo should be based on this foundation and it should harmonize well with your other design elements.
The best practice when designing a logo is to start by choosing a primary and secondary color. The primary color is for your symbol, icon, or lettering. The secondary color is for the background. Take advantage of color meanings and associations when choosing colors.
The Importance of Visual Branding
A common business mistake is to bring in outside visual experts as an afterthought rather than a central part of your business’s initial planning. Remember when I mentioned redesigning my logo? I have seen people make the mistake of trying to design their own, but that sometimes doesn’t send a clear message about who you are and your professionalism.
Here’s another resource for you. Pam Wilson has an amazing blog that teaches a lot about visual branding. Be sure to check out her Big Brand System here for great tips.
Remember – your brand’s visual plan is just as important as your unique selling proposition or your products: it’s part of your company’s basic image and it can help you communicate clearly about who you are and what you do for your target market.