Our first impressions are typically visual – they’re also formed in seconds.
Just think about quickly we make judgements on what people are like based on what they’re wearing, their hairstyle, their body language etc. Well, the same applies in business.
From your store or office to your website, brochure and social media posts, people will form opinions and make decisions about you before you even speak – today more than ever before. So if you’ve not been paying much attention to your visual branding, now’s a good time.
What is visual branding?
Basically, visual branding is the art of communicating who you are, what you do and what you stand for as a business through visual elements. It’s how you represent yourself both on and offline, and is primarily concerned with the design details of your marketing collateral such as colours, fonts, images and layouts.
Your visual identity is important because it plays a major role in helping people – prospects and customers – form associations and connections between your business and certain characteristics and emotions. If you help them form the right ones, it can help in winning them over.
Visual branding has always mattered. It helps you define your business, and it also helps you stand out from the competition. However, in today’s fast-paced, multi-channel world the need for a strong, effective visual identity has become even more immediate.
Why? One of the major reasons is because with today’s customers constantly hopping between your store or office as well as social media, mobile, web and print, you need a clear consistent face to your business which translates across them all and makes you instantly recognisable.
The rise of visual content
The increasing popularity of visual content has also upped the urgency for strong visual branding. Because visual content has proven to be more engaging and effective in communicating with target audiences, businesses are using it with increased frequency.
And from social media photo posts on Instagram and Facebook to infographics, video and brochures, any business content you send out needs to be visually branded to stand out. Not only can it help familiarise people with your brand, but it’s also a way to build lasting connections with them.
Defining you brand
Whether you’re starting a new company or have been in business for years, this increased need for effective, consistent visual branding should be high on your list of priorities. But where do you start?
To create a solid visual identity, first you need to be clear on your brand e.g. who you are, what you do and what you stand for. You also need a clear understanding of who your audience are. In addition, you need to clarify how you’ll deliver your product or service, and what kind of experience you want your prospects and customers to have every time you interact with them.
Defining your brand is essential, no matter how big or small a business you are – so if you don’t have a strong brand already, make it a priority.
Related: 7 things to consider when rebranding
Matching your visuals to your brand
Once you’re clear on your brand, you then need to whittle down everything you stand for into a short list of adjectives. For example is your business approachable, honest, open, modern, serious, smart, bright, fun, quirky, professional etc. These are the attributes you want people to associate with your brand and should influence all of your visual design choices e.g.
Anything visual has implied meanings – emotions and attributes – attached to it and for each design element you need to make choices that reflect the adjectives you have pinpointed for your brand, and which appeal to your audience. There are plenty of online resources which can help you with this e.g. colour psychology charts, and a good designer will be able to guide you.
The importance of consistency
As well as ensuring your visual design choices align with your brand, another critical factor to getting your visual branding right is consistency – this means always applying them and ensuring all work together and convey the same message. So, in short, everything from your website to your social media posts, brochures, and even your POS material should look and feel the same.
The best way to manage consistency is to create a visual style guide. This is a document which details all of your visual branding decisions. As well as serving as a useful reminder, it can also be shared around the company so everyone is one the same page and knows what your visual brand looks like, as well as how it should be applied.
Create the right impression
People will form a first impression of your business visually regardless of whether you pay attention to the visual face of your business or not. So putting some thought and effort into visual branding makes sense – after all, wouldn’t you like some say in making that impression an accurate and positive one?