The crux of the problem is the volume of marketing a brand needs to produce now – with an abundance of different audience touchpoints. Brands are producing so many pieces of marketing and communications now; no longer do we just have a website with some printed marketing. Brands now have bigger websites, which are very hungry graphic eating animals, they have social media, and sometimes 3,4,5 plus different channels, again all needing content. Plus we still have advertising, portable displays, event marketing, printed marketing. Add all this up and the volume of creative output is now enormous.
And without a more sophisticated, multi-faceted visual brand strategy, to deliver different creative options then our brands can quickly become staid, boring and ultimately all the marketing we are working so hard to produce is just too easily forgettable by our audience. A waste of time and money.
Key factors to consider
Our audiences are bombarded more than ever with marketing, advertising and messaging. Therefore your brand has to connect like never before to break through. When you are bombarded every day with lots of marketing shouting at you it is very easy for one brand to seem boring as there will be another more interesting, engaging and exciting brand to catch the attention just round the corner. It is obvious which one they will forget. We all know that most of our marketing and messaging has to stick, as the customer rarely makes instant decisions. We need them to remember us at the moment they decide to move forward with a purchase of a service or product.
For some brands this visual brand challenge has suddenly caught up with them. As the digital marketing age exploded so quickly (and is still changing) many brands have only had the chance to be reactive. For some brands they could see the challenge but the trials and tribulations of the last decade meant they only had the time, budget and staff to plan one job at a time. None of these observations are criticism and should not be taken that way, just the simple realities of life.
Very often it is only through a visual brand audit that the light bulb moment happens, and they realize the brand guidelines they had before are no longer clever enough or layered enough to cope with how much marketing they now produce. The business world is fast paced, as is life generally, so how many brands have time to take stock?
What exactly does a multi faceted brand have
One of the biggest over-riding brand requirements is to build guidelines that allows the brand to grow. Brand guidelines can look great short term but you can quickly see that in 6 months they will look tired and then become forgettable. Companies grow and evolve, as does the business world – so your brand has to be able to go on a journey with us and not be stuck in the past.
The solution for each company brand will be unique, so I can’t give you all the solutions here and now. But some of the easiest areas to look at are: imagery, illustration, typography, infographics and perhaps a core graphic.
For imagery, this can have a different feel online to offline and may need different approaches for each. You may need to combine colour images with black and white, but have clear ideas for when to use each one. Define different situations, services, audiences and have photography guidance for each. Create more indepth photographer’s briefing notes for portraits, corporate, sales, internal. And in particular for websites allowing for some more unusual proportions of photographs, especially wide landscape.
Illustration can be an under valued style, but actually has the ability to engage more with an audience. In the past brands often viewed this as a choice for the brand style, photographic or illustrative, but now you may need both with a strategy for when to use each one. Perhaps not at the same time but with enough consistency that each still builds brand recognition. The key is that having both gives the brand much more creativity.
Typography has always been a core element in brand development. In the past some of the decisions have been around if a brand just has one brand font with multiple weights, or two with a serif and san serif combination. But now there needs to be greater considerations in to online and offline – not just picking a token digital font to use in Word and Powerpoint but perhaps a Google font that has great online character for all digital platforms, especially the website. Perhaps your brand will benefit from adding character fonts such as a handwriting option used for certain situations or parts of the business. The key to all of these additional options is the guidance and strategy that goes with them. Without this it could look a mess.
Infographics now deserve it’s own section of brand guidelines and not left to bespoke solutions for each piece of marketing produced. As ‘infographics’ quickly became the must have item for brands their true benefit often got drowned out. The best infographics make content more interesting, dynamic and engaging; reducing the need for large amounts of words. But they can also add another style and dimension to a brand. The reason this links back to our multi-faceted visual brand strategy is that it should combine with all different aspects of the brand such as type and illustrative approaches.
The final aspect I mentioned was a core graphic and this can be the glue that holds everything together. Brands have had such things for a while, very often linked to their logo, a part of the icon etc. But a core graphic can be independent of the logo icon and ideally is not a fixed design but something more fluid that can be used in different ways. Perhaps a graphic strategy that can adapt and change. They can be used to link all other elements together, interact with imagery in different ways, to convey different sides of a business or different audience targets. A great brand graphic device can produce the miracle of both consistency for recognition and variation to starve off becoming forgettable.
So now what?
If this all sounds like a massive headache, don’t be put off, it does not have to be. As already mentioned a brand audit will help visualise any problem as well as giving direction to what is needed. Rome was not built in a day, and nor does your new visual brand strategy. The project could be approached in stages, rolled out over time, and does not have to cost the earth. Actually ignoring your brand’s visual challenges will probably create a migraine, let alone a headache. So the sooner you grab back control of your brand’s graphic needs the better.
If any of this insight has inspired you to take a fresh look at your brand contact us so we can chat through your specific needs over tea or coffee.