Articles

Does creating a strong visual identity matter?

Long Read

Crafting a compelling visual brand identity: the foundation to your brand’s success.

 

Some companies spend thousands of pounds (or dollars) on rebranding, but is it worth it? And how do you explain all that added value to the C-suite? In this article, we cover why building a brand is important for business growth alongside the fundamental pieces of the puzzle needed to create a strong brand.

 

 

Why build a brand?

 

Brand building adds long-term value, enhances business impact, and gets better with creativity and commitment. Building a strong brand identity is crucial for businesses looking to stand out and establish a lasting emotional connection with their audience. This is because a business’s brand identity plays a pivotal role in shaping how a brand is perceived by its target market.

 

In short, it’s your branding that helps to deliver the company’s vision; without a strong brand, you can’t have effective marketing.

 

A recent article in the Financial Times covered the analysis from marketing data and analytics firm Kantar’s global BrandZ report, revealing that, despite ongoing economic pain in 2022, the world’s 100 most valuable brands have seen their worth skyrocket during that year, despite people spending less. The power of successful brands lies in the strength of their connections with consumers.

 

When people buy from one business over another, it comes back to ‘brand’ and to have a strong brand you need to give your brand a meaning that others don’t have (this is the role of brand strategy and visual brand identity) and ensure you communicate that with your customers through marketing.

 

When you consider the investment in creating a new brand, often called a rebrand, it goes beyond an agency handing over a set of guidelines. The impact of delivering a clear message of what you stand for over time is key to ensuring you connect with your consumers.

 

In his article for Marketing Week, Jonny Corbitt observes that brand building is not unlike how compound interest works:

“Brand building works in similar ways to how compound interest works. It builds over time, incrementally adding more value as more time passes. When a brand first starts out and develops a set of branding components, whatever they might be, they start building memory structures in the minds of potential customers. Like compound interest, each one of those additional memory structures is small to begin with, but over time grows and grows. Each additional interaction adds more, both to the initial interaction and to the incremental ones. They build over time, and the brand benefits from the weight of all the previous interactions.”

 

 

Step 1: The importance of strategy

 

There is no point in spending thousands on visual branding if you haven’t landed on your values, business vision and the story you want to tell your audience; it’s essential to grasp the significance the right strategy has for a brand. Focusing on visual identity alone would be like illustrating a children’s book without understanding the story; you’d end up with nice trendy illustrations, however, the chances of the book connecting and engaging with the children that read it would be low. Becoming a beloved family favourite would also be low and long-term value would diminish. If you want to write a best-seller, you need to do the legwork on what the story is first. It’s the same with brand building.

 

The right arrow to hit your target

 

Much like an arrow or dart needs a shaft to help steer it on the right course to hit the bull’s eye. Strong research, strategy and visual identity ensure that your marketing is consistent, tells the right story and aligns with your target audience.

 

 

Understanding your business – the fundamentals

 

Before embarking on the journey of creating the right strategy, you must deeply understand your business — market research plays a crucial role in informing your branding strategy. Thorough research and analysis can provide valuable insights into your target audience, market trends and the competitive landscape. This information will help you identify opportunities and challenges, allowing you to tailor your brand strategy better to meet your target audience’s needs and expectations.

 

Using competitor analysis to aid standout

 

A comprehensive competitor analysis is essential for identifying market gaps and effectively positioning your brand. By analyzing your competitors’ visual branding strategies, you can identify areas where you can differentiate yourself and carve out a unique space in the market.

 

Start by identifying your direct and indirect competitors. What unique visual identity elements do they use to communicate their brand identity? How do they position themselves in the market?

 

At Nalla, we often find that a business’s visual identity can be seen to mimic other direct competitors. Take the sector for AI, Open AI is a market leader but there are a series of copycat brands that all look and behave identically to each other. You can see this in the image below that summarises the use of a hexagon in the OpenAI brand logo and within multiple competitors’ brand logos – creating a weakened standout for everyone with no one having a unique identity.

 

This is exactly what you don’t want to do. After all the very term branding means – to stand out. Doing your homework on your competitor analysis ensures you are aware of their positioning and allows you to zig where others zag.

 

 

Once you understand your customer, the market’s competitors and what would make you stand out from the crowd, it’s time to define your brand positioning. Setting your brand strategy core components of mission statement, vision, values and purpose that cements what makes your brand unique, and how you want to be perceived by your target audience.

 

 

Step 2. the building blocks of a visual identity

 

With a solid understanding of your brand strategy, which is akin to the foundations of a house you are building, you can begin crafting your visual identity. Remember that the visual and verbal aspects of the brand serve as the outward expression of the strategy you have set.

 

Visual branding is a powerful tool for building brand recognition and trust. Consistent visual branding across all touchpoints from marketing materials and social media posts to packaging design and web presence helps reinforce brand consistency and credibility. Ultimately, driving brand loyalty and advocacy, ensuring you are building up your brand compound interest!

 

The value of this consistent visual identity application can sometimes be overlooked.

 

 

The core elements of a visual identity

 

A brand identity’s outward expression comprises of brand assets these are, logos, colours, typography, imagery, and design elements. A strong visual identity distinguishes a brand from its competitors and fosters brand recognition, loyalty, and trust among consumers.

 

The core components of visual assets are;

Logo – an instantly recognisable symbol or shorthand for your brand

Colour palette – can play a pivotal role in helping you stand out. Brands such as Tiffany & Co use their Tiffany Blue colour to stand out and strategically differentiate from competitors

Typography – font choices reflect your strategy through traits such as modernity, tradition, playfulness, or sophistication

Imagery – when used correctly, photography, illustrations, or graphic design elements reinforce brand values and narratives as well as aid standout from competitors

Motion – adding interactivity and motion can enhance brand engagement and leave a lasting impression on your audience – whether it’s animated logos, video content or interactive digital design such as UI elements.

 

Avoiding the copycat trap

 

One of the bigger challenges in creating a successful visual identity is avoiding the copycat trap — accidentally imitating competitors’ visual branding strategies and visual identities rather than innovating and differentiating yourself. Or, having others copy you!

 

The key way to avoid this is by ensuring you have a unique brand and being consistent in how you communicate it visually to your audience.

 

When you conduct a thorough analysis of your competitors at the beginning of the project, check and record what elements they are using and how they are positioning themselves in the market. Identify areas where you can differentiate yourself and carve out a unique space in the market, whether it’s through design style, colour palette, logo design or messaging.

 

 

Step 3. consistency across platforms

 

Maintaining consistency across all brand touchpoints is essential for building brand recognition and trust. Whether it’s your website, social media profiles or marketing materials, consistency ensures that your brand’s visual identity remains cohesive and recognisable to your audience.

 

To maintain consistency across platforms, brand guidelines will outline the key elements of your visual identity, including logos, colour palettes, typography and layout guidance. By using your guidelines, you ensure that all the marketing materials and communications that are produced are from the same source of ingredients, reinforcing your brand’s visual identity and messaging.

 

But, beware. Consistency in your brand does not mean you do not evolve the application of your brand’s visual identity.

 

It’s vital that certain elements of brand visual identity, such as imagery, evolve to remain contemporary. For example, below are two images of a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member from advertising in the past 10 years. The hostess persona has changed, but the core values behind the messaging of being different and the use of red have remained steadfast.

 

 

 

Practical tips and best practices

 

Creating a successful visual brand identity requires a combination of creativity, strategy, and attention to detail. To help you navigate the process how to create a visual brand identity, here are some practical tips and best practices to keep in mind:

Start with thorough market research into your target audience and competitor analysis to identify opportunities and challenges.

Define your brand positioning with a clear understanding of your brand’s values and mission to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Choose visual elements that reflect your brand’s personality and values, not what’s on trend this year.

Maintain consistency across all brand touchpoints, from marketing materials to social media profiles, to build brand recognition and trust.

Don’t be afraid to update your brand’s expression of your guidelines over time to avoid being dated.

Sometimes a rebrand is needed to pivot your offering, expand overseas, merge or if market feedback shows that your audience is no longer resonating with your brand. Base this decision on research and ensure you understand your brand’s equity before you ditch it entirely.

 

 

Measuring success

 

To evaluate your brand, you’ll need to gather feedback on your marketing outputs, engagements and feedback from your audience. By using a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics you can assess the effectiveness of your visual communications and branding strategy and make data-driven decisions.

 

Some common questions for measuring the success of your visual brand identity include:

Brand recognition: do customers recognise and remember your brand based on visual cues?

Brand engagement: are customers interacting with your brand’s content and messaging?

Brand loyalty: are customers returning to your brand and recommending it to others?

Brand sentiment: what are customers saying about your brand online and offline?

Conversion rates: are visual elements contributing to increased conversions and sales?

 

By tracking these metrics over time, you can gain valuable insights into your visual branding strategy’s effectiveness and identify improvement areas.

 

Remember to adapt and evolve your brand identity

 

A good strategy can last years but good visual identity and branding is not a one-time endeavour but more of an ongoing process of adaptation and evolution. As market dynamics change and consumer preferences evolve, it’s essential to continually reassess your visual brand identity and make adjustments as needed to stay relevant and competitive. This especially applies to the imagery used within your brand identity.

 

Whether it’s updating refreshing your colour palette or redesigning your website, periodic updates to your visual brand identity will help keep your brand fresh and engaging. By staying abreast of emerging trends and technologies, you can ensure that your own brand image remains at the forefront of innovation and continues to resonate with your target audience.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Crafting a compelling brand is a multifaceted endeavour that requires creativity, strategy, multiple visual elements and a clear guide on how to apply it for teams to roll it out.

 

By understanding your brand, target audience and market landscape, you can create visual elements that resonate with consumers and set you apart from competitors. From your logo to the typography or layout guidance, each component of your visual identity uniquely shapes brand perception and drives engagement. By following the practical tips and best practices outlined in this guide, you can create a visual brand identity that not only captivates but also resonates with your audience, driving brand loyalty and advocacy for years to come.

 

At Nalla, we have deep experience in crafting brands for hundreds of businesses. If you need agency support in rebranding, just drop us an email to discuss.