Be sure to also read Part One: Thinking to Win
Direct economic value of a powerful brand is obvious. We pay a premium to wear labels on the outside of our clothing. Evidently, the fundamental elements of brand marketing have been appropriated by global brand marketers. Yet those fundamentals remain, as a matter of simple marketing common sense, accessible to all. How we approach them is a matter of perspective that implies our own vision.
Humans are a visual species. Individually, pattern recognition is one of the most rimal means by which we differentiate and learn the nature of everything around us. As you read this, the phrase “How do I look?” is being thought or said somewhere. These expressions began with our visual art and images.
The visual expressions of societies throughout history””from the cave paintings of Lascaux, to illuminated manuscripts, to the art of the renaissance and later movements, to the invention and social dominance of television””have shaped out society. The computer now dominates the field. And that which indicates visual expression also defines, qualifies, and impacts every level of your business, regardless of product or service.
Visual marketing encompasses everything from which customers view a brand identity. Examples of these are logo, identity system, printed collateral, sales tools including PowerPoint presentations, web presence, media advertising, sales promotion vehicles or delivery vehicles, and anything that bears your company’s symbols. These are all brand attributes. These attributes should carry forward a consistent design defined by typography, color, and layout. It is no coincidence that brand category leaders are invariably the ones at their visual best: they present simple, memorable, appropriate, and consistent visual images across every conceivable communication channel.
Visual cues differentiate them from the mediocre. Think about it: If attention to visual brand imaging did not support sales, improve competitiveness, and deliver substantial return on investments, those brand leaders would not keep spending the money, would they? Why, then, do so many businesses underestimate the power of their appearance? Perhaps they forget tangible visuals are what the customer actually sees. Elaborate strategy statements, committee approvals, and budget spreadsheets do not interest the consumer.
To stay current, focus on powerful visuals that speak to the core business customer. For example, if your business produces sprockets, your company’s visual marketing efforts should be centered around the demographic/psychographic of those who are likely to purchase a sprocket, distribute sprockets, etc. Core visual messaging, reinforced by positive customer experiences, will ultimately drive brand awareness, loyalty, and repeat sales.
Regardless of the size of your business, focus on the four key areas of visual marketing outlined below. These key areas can help give your marketing strategy visual impact.
1. Logo and Corporate Identity
Who are you? What can you do for me? Why should I care? Those fundamental questions are answered first by your corporate identity. Logos and symbols are far more than a visualization of the mission statement. They imply a customer experience so critical to 21st century marketing. If a customer views your logo and it doesn’t visually compel him to look further, you have lost your sale.
Think of business cards as your professional attire. They might be a first and only impression. The choices of color, design, paper, and print leave a profound statement as to the currency, quality, and appropriateness of your brand. The same applies to your stationery, which may include, but is certainly not limited to, letterhead, envelopes, and shipping labels. Carefully think through how you will use them. Cards with tiny type, or letterhead with a format that restricts content, will prove impractical. Be certain to consider both digital and printed formats of your logo and letterhead. This will conserve time, energy, and your marketing budget whether you are a startup or an established company.
One of the most important attributes in developing a successful corporate identity is the consideration of color. Color is one of the keys to visual marketing. It can set tone or spirit, evoke emotional response, help create a lasting impression, and ultimately win a sale. Color theory as an element of design is just one consideration of the visual marketing that should be at the heart of your efforts.
Your brand is the most valuable commodity of all. Just like everything else in business you get what you pay for, so choose wisely when enlisting a creative firm to help with these tasks. Now extend this line of thinking to other elements of your company’s identity. These might include signage, uniforms, menus, interior design, and event marketing. Be relentless in your pursuit of a consistent and memorable brand image that differentiates you from your competition.
2. Collateral & Sales Materials
Whether appearing in printed or digital formation, these are direct representations of your business offerings. Large or small brochures, sell sheets, catalogs, and other literature are essential to making a great impression. Running a business without a strong visual emphasis on collateral is like having a party without guests. No one can envision how inviting your products can be, or how relevant and necessary your services.
Good collateral, designed in synergy with your brand identity, will support your brand image. It will provide your company with a polished appearance even as it provides vital information to potential customers and clients. Powerful, memorable, and informative collateral can be created in all shapes and sizes. Many enterprises today conserve vital marketing dollars by investing in powerful collateral, then limiting printing costs by delivering via digital download from corporate website, affinity sites, and blogs. This saves valuable printed copies for specific direct sales efforts.
3. Web Presence
Only a few years ago, the Internet was referred to as “New Media.” It is now the 800-pound gorilla in the marketing conference room. Yet for all its specific niche marketing opportunities and literal differences, every web strategy should begin with an eye to integration within your visual brand image. A website is a far-reaching visual; it takes your company around the world. When you travel, you prepare yourself with a proper wardrobe. It is the same for your website – it should be a clear, neat, concise layout with simple navigation encompassed with a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. Like a good map on a trip, this will enable your site to reach many customers.
A good web strategy should include:
- Appropriate visual integration with your brand image
- Page design creativity and navigation that respects the viewer’s needs and objectives
- Programming that takes into account both current and future site requirements
- Cross-platform, cross-browser compatibility
- Search Engine Optimization strategy
A site that ignores any of these considerations simply wastes valuable marketing dollars and opportunities to increase your company’s brand equity. To achieve them all, make sure your web development process seeks out web partners with the requisite skills to do the whole job. Few individuals can claim total savvy in brand management, graphic design, programming languages, and SEO. It is critical to demand and evaluate web developers’ previous work. Make certain the web house you select can illustrate relevant, effective sites that reflect various brands, audiences, and solutions. Assure yourself that they can provide cost-efficient on-line database management, e-commerce, and other specialized applications that your site may require.
Be certain your site can change as your needs evolve. With the ever-growing popularity and necessity of Search Engine Optimization strategies, it is critical to ask for a track record of success in those areas, especially given the rapidly growing expense of a good SEO program.
Many clients are best served by combining the talents of several resources working together. These resources include a design firm or ad agency for the brand integration and visual marketing aspect of web strategy, and a technically savvy web house to execute the site. Remember, it is only one mouse-click from your site to the next one. Make sure your site maintains visual impact and use it to capture your customer’s attention long enough to achieve your objectives.
4. Advertising & Direct Mail
Every advertising effort should be part of an integrated campaign that visualizes your brand’s relevant attributes in a way that hits the audience simultaneously in the mind and heart. Utilize various media, such as TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, web banners, and direct mail, or better yet, the most cost-effective combination of all them within your budget. While a unique differentiating message relentlessly told must be at the center of your brand strategy, the visual execution of that strategy is the key to getting your story told. Quite simply, how you say it is just as important as what you say.
A consistent visual style””appropriate to your brand, your key message, and your audience””is vital. Style should include original and consistent photography or illustration. Only original imagery can honestly speak the unique brand image you want to convey. This will contribute to the visual differentiation you are after. Too many times, the advertising budget fails to account for the critical visual element. The result is ads appearing ordinary, dated, or stale. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be well thought-out. Original art can be amortized across all media – including print, broadcast, Internet, collateral, and sales promotion. In this area, small investments can reap large dividends.
In truth, the power of branding really is in the eye of the beholder. Visual marketing will help you put your brand there and keep your company looking its best. The computer is the latest and most important tool for brand identity. Powerful logos need to be integrated to attract attention. Your organization’s marketing materials are best executed by employing outside creative resources. Choose visuals that have a fresh, novel, and strong impact to make your business stand out and succeed. Here are a few action items to get your started:
- Logo and Corporate Identity — Provide creative ideas/designs for a company’s symbol. Bring meaning to a company icon/logo/mark by utilizing symbolism.
- Collateral and Sales Materials — Assist in visually communicating a business or organizations offerings by gathering and understanding the company’s product or service.
- Web Presence — Assist clients in creating a visually compelling website and helping to sort through industry misnomers associated with Website design, development and E-commerce.
- Advertising and Direct Mail — Help businesses put together a well branded advertising and/or direct response/mail campaign by creating/suggesting photography, illustration or other creative graphics.
Learn more on how to manage your brand and other marketing secrets in the book: 49 Marketing Secrets That Work to Grow Sales.