Australia is being continuously flooded with new products and brands. Increased choice and the ability to shop around more easily means it is more important than ever to establish a loyal customer base. A strong brand identity can help do this. Getting the visual element of a brand right can be a difficult task but, if done correctly, can really drive customer engagement and improve your bottom line.
Visual branding is much more than simply designing a logo, it includes the whole visual language. It represents everything about the brand including what you want customers to think. Everything needs to be carefully considered, from the messaging to the colours and typeface.
Your brand is the sum of everything that your audience thinks about you, formed by all their experiences with you. A key aim when developing your visual identity is to create something that evokes a desired feeling about your brand in your audience. What evokes a positive reaction with one group might have the opposite reaction in another, so an accurate representation and understanding of your audience is vital for brands when developing a new logo or visual identity.
In an age of readily-available customer data, many businesses still presume to know who their audience is without actually researching. As a result they miss the target and fail to develop appropriate brand key messages.
Once you know who your audience is, you can consider what you want them to think and feel about your brand. Don’t try to convey too many messages at once as the messages may end up diluting each other and get lost. It’s best to select one idea that you really want your customer to understand and focus on designing the visual identity around communicating that.
Your key message should reflect what you want your customers to think and feel (the perceived benefit), more than the product or service features. People often feel stronger attachments toward how brands make them feel than what they do. Any visuals should reflect these benefits, creating a strong association between them and the brand in customers’ minds.
Typeface, colour and symbols
Colours and fonts can elicit different feelings and responses in people making them an important consideration. Famous brands have done this well. Barbie uses soft, rounded fonts and even has its own pink Pantone colour. Toys ‘R’ Us uses a backwards ‘R’ and bold primary colours to reflect its whimsical childlike personality.
Your font should reflect what you are trying to convey, so choose carefully. Serif fonts (e.g. the little feet on Times New Roman) give the impression of maturity, where sans serif (like Arial or Helvetica) can appear more contemporary.
Using upper case can give the impression of loudness or shouting while lower case typefaces appear more softly spoken, conversational and accessible. Different colours can also evoke different feelings. Yellow may be perceived as cheery, blue as clean and calm, and orange as energetic. Just like the Barbie pink, certain brands have created strong colour associations (Coca-Cola red, IBM blue or Jetstar orange, for example).
Sometimes combining carefully these chosen attributes with hidden or overt symbols can help underline brand messages. For example, the deceptively-simple Amazon logo has an arrow pointing from the A to the Z, creating a subtle representation that they have everything you could need. The arrow also forms a smiley face, suggesting customers will be happy they chose Amazon. FEDEX similarly uses an arrow to represent the movement of goods while the ANZ logo uses negative space to hide the silhouette of a person at its centre.
Devices that sit outside the logo itself should also be considered part of the visual language of your brand. The consistent use of certain textures or shapes in backgrounds for example or photographic and image styles help support key messages and should extend to all your visual brand touch points (business cards, email signatures, websites, advertising, retail design and any other communication touch points).
Vodafone is a good example of consistent application of visual branding. Its logo and signature red colour (together with supporting imagery and shapes) are consistently applied across advertising, sim cards and packaging, right through to branded store experiences.
Inject some character
Another device that can help underline brand characteristics is a mascot. This can be a great way to bring a brand to life and works especially well for brands that might otherwise seem quite dry. Android software for example uses a friendly-looking robot, reflecting key attributes like simplicity and fun. Characters and mascots have been used for more than a hundred years (the Michelin Man was created in 1894).
Just like with fonts and colours, make sure the character fits your brand personality. An audience that sees themselves as discerning and mature is unlikely to warm to a childish character like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Using a combination of all these different elements creates distinctiveness in your identity, and communicates the essence of your brand. This ensures you are not only recognised by but also resonate with your audience so they continue to come back to you.
Dan Ratner, managing director, uberbrand
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