Did you know that 55 percent of first impressions are made by what we see? Website visitors may form an opinion of your site in as little as 50 milliseconds. And experts agree that you have approximately eight seconds to get someone’s attention.
These stats may be true, but cognitive function is not the most significant marketing hurdle. The way to win clients and followers is by creating a compelling visual brand that makes you memorable.
So how do you do that? How do you develop a sharp brand image that resonates with your desired audience and highlights your unique edge?
This post will take you through how to achieve a cohesive, professional and polished look for your brand to establish credibility, trust and connection with your clients.
VISUAL BRAND RULE #1 – The Look
Can you list off the colours, fonts, text effects, layouts and image styles you regularly use in your branding materials?
These are the elements that make up your visual brand and become synonymous with your product/service.
As a result, it’s essential to put a lot of thought into how you want to present yourself or your brand to the world, as it shouldn’t change all that much over time. Consistency is key – see the Nike swoosh.
When crafting your image, there are a few things you need to consider:
Choose a colour palette
While secondary colours will come into play at some point, your core (primary) colours should be the foundation of all of your branding and imagery.
No matter what colours you use for your palette, make sure you identify their HEX or RGB colour codes. These codes consist of numbers and letters to help you recall the exact shade, brightness, contrast, and hue you want to use for your brand visuals.
Noting these colours also makes it easy to share with additional team members or suppliers when it comes time to scale.
For my branding, I’ve chosen black and dark grey for the text on my platforms. Cream, pastel pink and lilac are the core colours of my imagery. I use these colours across all of my brand touchpoints – Instagram, blog posts, Pinterest, my website – making for a seamless visual experience. I also use the same filters for my social media posts.
There are some fascinating resources available to learn about colour psychology – yes, it is a thing! Coca-Cola is synonymous with red for a reason!
You can refer to colour guides or stick with what you instinctively feel best represents your brand.
Next up, fonts.
Choose your typeface and fonts
Typeface and the fonts you use should be uniform across your marketing touchpoints – websites, advertisements, blog posts, packaging and social media visuals. Choose two complementary fonts that speak to and suit the identity and function of your brand.
For example, it might not make sense to use flowery calligraphy if you’re selling chainsaws. Remember, people need to associate your brand with your product/service without putting in much effort.
Choose your imagery
Your brand colours come into play here again, especially when it comes to visual mediums such as Instagram and Pinterest.
Think of your visuals as part of a larger picture that would be uniform if pieced together.
You can achieve this by choosing the same style of photography or choosing a similar subject matter for every post’s images.
For example, some brands use people as the focal point of their imagery while product-based businesses feature still shots of the products they sell.
Other brands choose illustrations as their graphic and forgo photography altogether. Hospitality companies often use real-life locations, such as the mountains or sea, to inspire their target market.
The options are truly endless, but whatever you decide should suit your product/service/personality, and fit into a more extensive collection of imagery.
Helpful tip: Create a branding guide
If you are running a small business and doing all the things yourself, you will still benefit from creating a branding guide. I don’t know about you, but I can’t list off my HEX or RGB codes on demand!
An essential brand guide will list all the elements of your visuals to ensure that every aspect of your image follows consistent guidelines.
VISUAL BRAND RULE #2 – The Voice
Are you looking forward to designing your brand but dreading the task of nailing down your brand voice? I hear you. Branding is big business for a reason, but don’t think that as a small business owner, you have to shell out thousands to nail your voice.
In fact, even when you make your millions, you’ll want to be involved in your company’s voice because it’s you that makes your offering unique. So, get excited about injecting yourself in the words that bring your company to life.
You might be thinking, but how does my voice factor into the look of my brand? Your vision, values, and personality are as much a part of your brand as the colours and imagery – because they come through in your written messaging.
When crafting your brand voice, it should be specific and intentional in its tone and style. It’s a living, breathing thing with personality and distinct traits that will become recognizable in a crowd of competitors.
So, it’s crucial to think about the following:
- Length and wordiness – how do you describe your company’s products and services? Are your sentences short and to the point? Or do you paint a detailed picture with a lot of adjectives and a story?
- Vocabulary – what words do you use to describe your business? What words do your clients use to describe your products or services? What is their reading/comprehension level? Do they speak in jargon or use acronyms in conversation? Don’t try to imitate your audience’s words, but rather think of how to relate to them in a language you would use, so they respect and listen to you.
- Consistent style – do you hyphenate “must-have”? Do you capitalize all words in titles and products/services? Adopt a casual or formal approach? All of these things should remain consistent in all of your written communication on all platforms.
Here are a few other things to consider:
• Point of view – do you write in the first, second or third person?
• Punctuation – decide how you feel about exclamation points, ellipses, em-dashes, etc.
• Formatting – do you want writers to underline, bold text or use italics? Do you use specific spacing, dashes, ellipsis, etc.?
• Common words and phrases – are there common words and phrases you use to describe your business? For example, Michael Kors represented “jet set luxury” to his clients. These words or variations of them appeared consistently in marketing materials.
While some of these points may seem finicky, inconsistent approaches signal unprofessionalism and sloppy presentation, especially if you’re in the business of producing content for your clients.
Helpful tip: Pretend you’re speaking to a client, friend, or supplier and record yourself talking about your business. What words do you use? What is your tone of voice – excited, serious, optimistic? Listen to the recording and incorporate the words and feelings into your copy.
VISUAL RULE #3- Consistency
Are you being consistent with your visual brand? This is a critical question to ask yourself. Why? Because it takes five to seven brand impressions before someone will remember your brand. If the impressions are not consistent, you risk the opportunity to connect with them.
In the early days of your business, it’s natural to experiment and try new things. But I’m speaking from experience when I tell you you’ll save many hours if you decide on a few basic things first. You don’t want to have to backtrack and make a million formatting changes to your website, blog page, social media posts, email templates…. do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s not the end of the world to change up your visuals, and you will have to adapt with time, but it’s ideal to have a firm idea as to how you want to present your brand to the world.
Again, people need repeated exposure to a brand to become familiar with it. It only makes sense that it looks, sounds and feels the same every time.
Your visual brand is the face of your business. It’s what your current and potential clients and followers see and relate to when they encounter your company.
Of course, a brand identity is made up of much more than its visuals. Still, without a compelling, authentic and consistent look, your brand doesn’t stand much of a chance to build a following.
So, if you’re curious as to how your visual brand ranks, take a look at three to five of your marketing materials, and ask yourself if they meet the guidelines above.