Marketers and brand leaders agree: if their brand were always presented in a consistent way, they estimate that revenue would increase by as much as 33 percent — a stunning figure. In the same 2019 report from template platform Lucidpress, 24.5 percent of those surveyed agreed that “inconsistent branding creates confusion in the market,” with another 18.6 percent saying it hurts a company’s credibility or reputation.
These figures are resounding testaments to the power of a clearly defined brand strategy, including a brand identity.
If a brand strategy is the entire iceberg, the visual strategy is the part that’s above the surface — the part that people can see.
But creating brand guidelines isn’t enough. Today’s content marketers are focusing on producing visual content above all else, to the point that many brand books are no longer sufficient guides as to the style or type of visual content to produce. The result? An inconsistent look and feel across assets that could hurt brand awareness and, ultimately, brand equity.
That’s why a visual strategy is critical to creating a consistent look and feel throughout your company. Let me explain how it can help your brand.
Defining Visual Strategy
Remember that classic metaphor about the iceberg? If a brand strategy is the entire iceberg, the visual strategy is the part that’s above the surface — the part that people can see.
Your brand strategy can comprise a variety of different elements — all of which are at the core of who your brand is. Your audience won’t see all these elements. But a visual strategy is what your audience does see. It’s how your brand comes to life visually.
Here’s how we’ve defined it at Killer Visual Strategies:
Visual strategy encompasses the creative and analytic decisions that inform any visual expression of a brand. That expression could be a visual identity. It could also be art direction specific to individual product groups within a brand. Likewise, it could direct a visual content marketing initiative, strategizing on what content to produce, what it should look like, and where it should live.
The Brand-Development Process
When you’re working to develop a visual strategy for your brand, you want it to be goal-oriented. You want it to appeal to your target audiences, and reflect your company’s values. Let me outline a brand-development process where you can achieve all these things.
First of all, make sure you’ve clearly defined your company’s mission, vision, and values. These will guide you in clearly defining your goals as an organization. They’ll also help you determine who your main target audiences are, and what your brand personality looks like.
A brand personality can range from professional and serious to fun-loving and down-to-earth. Whatever direction you choose for your brand, make sure it’s going to appeal to your audiences.
Based on what you’ve learned through this process, you’ll be able to build a visual identity for your brand. A visual identity is a codified system of visual elements that express a brand’s purpose, values, ambitions, characteristics, and promise. It translates a brand’s identity into an easily-identifiable style, and is typically housed in a brand book or set of brand guidelines.
Elements of a visual identity may include:
- Color palette
- Design direction, including illustration, iconography, and photography styles
This visual identity will serve as a guide for all your marketing efforts. That’s why it should aim to anticipate most types of visual expression in which your brand will engage — from motion graphics to interactive widgets, maps, and sites. That way, your content producers won’t feel lost or find themselves unable to stay true to your branding.
Whenever unique goals and audiences are present, you’ll be best served by creating a visual strategy that will appeal to those audiences and achieve that goal.
That said, individual marketing campaigns and sub-brands have unique goals and audiences. That’s why, sometimes, you’ll need to develop a unique art direction for particular marketing efforts. This art direction is like a visual language for your campaign, and will be optimized for the specific needs of your campaign, but will at the same time stay true to your visual brand identity.
Juggling Sub-Brands and Brand Segments
Many companies have sub-brands or brand segments comprising different products or service offerings. Perhaps certain brands offer a more high-end product, while others are designed for the budget-conscious. Whatever the case may be, each of these sub-brands probably has a unique goal and target audience. So do you need to create a visual strategy for each?
The short answer is — probably. Whenever unique goals and audiences are present, you’ll be best served by creating a visual strategy that will appeal to those audiences and achieve that goal.
Whatever direction you choose for your brand, make sure it’s going to appeal to your audiences.
But this doesn’t mean each visual identity needs to be entirely unique. Depending on how well-established your underlying brand is, you may want to take a brand-extension approach, where your new sub-brand has a similar look and feel so it can capitalize on the success of your fundamental brand. But if your sub-brand’s audiences are truly distinct, they may not be swayed by any association with that original brand, and defining a truly unique visual identity may be your best option.
Every brand’s story is different, and every brand strategy is different, too. Talk with a visual strategy agency for expert insights and recommendations on how best to achieve your goals — and make your brand shine.
Find more visual marketing and branding insights on the Killer Visual Strategies blog.