First, let’s address the difference between “branding” and “visual identity”. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences.
Branding is the experience your customer (or anyone outside your business) has when they interact with you. It’s what they think you are whether it matches the image you’re trying to portray or not.
Imagine you’re a beauty brand selling natural skin care products. You’ve got an amazing, ethical, locally-sourced product. All of these things are important to you but they increase your running costs. So what do you do? You might DIY your website, product shots and packaging labels. You might stick to a generic email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these things, good or bad, will affect your customer’s experience and influence your branding. So, if you have so little control over your branding, why does everyone go on about it? Simple. You can influence your customer’s experience in a variety of ways; one of which is by establishing and utilising your visual identity.
Your visual identity consists of graphics and visual cues. It includes things like your logo, website, brand colours, shapes… pretty much anything your audience will see with their peepers.
A lot of psychology and research goes into creating a solid visual identity. How do most people react to certain colours? What sort of shape evokes a certain feeling? Does this typeface have enough personality whilst remaining easy to read? Does the paper stock for this business card match the experience of the product or service? And so on… These elements are carefully chosen specifically to influence the experience your customer will have when interacting with you. You are guiding them to see you how you want to be seen.
Now that we’ve established that, we’ll get to the good part: Tips (cha-ching!)
Ensure your visual identity is consistent. Maintain your brand colours, shapes, fonts, etc., as much as possible. Always focus on the feeling you want your customer to experience.
Luxurious? Think spacious. Luxury is rarely cramped!
Ethical? Think eco-friendly and earthy. Keep it simple. There’s no need for any wasteful elements here.
Not great at this kind of symbolic thinking? That’s OK! A good graphic designer is trained to think exactly like this and can help keep your identity on track. If you prefer to do a lot of DIY, you may want to ask your designer to create a Style Guide. This should outline your colours (including CMYK, RGB and hex), fonts, imagery, and in most cases, specific uses for each.
The best visual identities are the often the simplest because they’re the easiest for your customer to interpret, and the easiest for you to maintain. A simple identity is a flexible identity. Need to change your business name? No problem. Provided that your message and audience remain the same, simple elements will hold up time and again. This means you remain recognisable and minimise time spent re-establishing yourself in the brand awareness phase.
No amount of clever psychology or marketing knowledge can create an effective visual identity without purpose! A branding specialist can help you with this, but in the end it’s up to you to decide what your business is about. Who are you? What do you want to communicate to your customers? Are you fun? Are you caring? Let it show! This your foundation. Your writing style, visual appearance, audio, everything will come back to this. So really nail it down and be a light for your customers who are looking for exactly the experience you’re offering.
If you’re struggling to establish your brand personality we have a wonderful little workbook for that, and – oh yes – it’s free. So get on it, right here.
I hope you’ve found these three simple tips useful. If you’d like to explore how you can create better branding through visual identity in more detail, let’s chat!