Visual Branding … Different is Good. Better is Better.
With the midterm elections right around the corner, there has been an interesting trend in political campaign branding and signage. Most noticeably, many candidates are moving away from the traditional red, white and blue campaign logos and patriotic symbols like flags, eagles and stars.
What gives? We would intuitively think patriotic colors and images would attract voters, but according to the recent CNN article “Why midterm candidates are ditching red, white, and blue campaign logos,” candidates are now choosing different colors – purple, gold, pink and others – to represent their campaigns and brands. The goal? To signal that they are different and unique – from their opponents and from past and current politicians.
But is it enough to be different?
The need for effective, distinctive branding cuts across public and private sectors, from political campaigns to established companies that need to reposition or repackage themselves. And we know that successfully executing a differentiated brand can set you or your organization apart. Differentiated brands, however, take creativity, discipline and above all consistent execution – traits in which organizations can sometimes fall short.
In the business world, branding determines how companies and organizations are recognized, perceived and valued. A strong, well-defined brand can create stronger connections with customers and markets. It’s also essential to effective sales and marketing efforts, helping smooth the way to enter new markets, sell more products and services, and obtain premium prices.
While a clear and relevant brand strategy speaks to the hearts and minds, your brand identity is the visual and verbal expression of the brand. With this in mind, your visual branding practices should reflect the positioning, attributes, values and voice of the overall brand.
Role of the Visual Brand
Visual branding should be distinctive – making a company’s presence unique and immediately recognizable. Design is an area that has great influence on accomplishing this. The strategic use of color, typeface, imagery and composition is what makes an entire branding exercise and program cohesive and ownable. Think about Southwest Airlines’ distinctive, blue, red and yellow heart. Even without words, we tend to easily identify the company’s ad, email or other communications. A successful visual and consistent branding program:
- Cohesively links design practices to the brand strategy
- Increases clarity and consistency across all communications
- Makes it easy for customers to understand information and make buying decisions
- Maximizes the marketing spend across all activities and opportunities
- Builds brand awareness and recognition in a competitive environment
Building the Visual Brand
The most effective visual branding programs serve as a canvas illustrating a brand’s message, voice and vision. When considering design options for your visual brand, evaluate your concepts against specific criteria. Is it:
- Distinctive – to ensure your brand stands out from competitors
- Powerful – a design that serves as the optimal visual expression of the brand
- Flexible – a design that extends across materials, message types and cultures
- Manageable – ensures your brand communicators and designers can consistently execute the design
- Memorable – helps customers recognize the brand and create positive associations
Your company’s visual branding program is an asset that needs to be understood, managed, and embraced by all internal and external stakeholders. Each communication should stand alone as a clear representation of the brand, while also serving as a building block for your overall identity. Elements and executions of the brand should work together to create a logical, cohesive and integrated collection of materials. When it’s done well, your visual brand will consistently remind people what your brand stands for.
Although design elements and structure are the most visible manifestations of your brand, it’s important to remember that brand is still much more than logos, colors, typefaces and design systems. Your brand is really the product of many different factors – including design – that create an overall impression of the company in people’s minds. Your entire brand image is the way that people think, feel and respond when they see or hear your name.
It is not enough for a brand to simply be different from competitors, it must clearly be better.