Every business needs new customers – even if only to replace those customers, every business will naturally lose over time. But when markets are ultra-competitive – as they are now – it just increases the pressure on every business to grow to survive and prosper.
The way your brand looks is often the first impression your audience gets of your business. Even if they come across written content – it is still the way that content is presented they will register first – the imagery is processed by the eye and brain way before any written content is digested.
Many factors lead to growth, but perhaps one of the most overlooked is the importance of brand design.
Why is brand design so important?
- It helps you stand out from the crowd
- It attracts your audience
- It establishes your personality
- It shows you are professional
- It gives you authority
- It lets your audience identify your particular content quickly
- It creates an emotional response
- It can make your offer seem more desirable
- It can help with diversification
- It helps to generate loyalty
It's important to remember that the perception of your brand in the eyes of your audience is not just about how it looks; it's also about how you are perceived. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, once said: Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.
What they think and say about you will be affected by many factors, some of which may be outside of your control – which is why those elements of your brand that are within your control must be the most effective you can make them.
The World Wide Web has created a level playing field which anyone can enter – prices can be matched, offerings replicated – there are very few unique products or services left in the world. So, when implemented and managed well, your brand design is a powerful weapon that can differentiate you from the rest and raise your voice above the noise.
Brand design has never been more critical. In a crowded and competitive market, you may find yourself up against dozens or even hundreds of competitors. And with the global reach of the Internet, you may find yourself facing competition from businesses in other countries as well as more local rivals. Being different is a proven way to stand out from all those competitors.
Brand design is also a key factor in attracting prospects to your content. If your audience can't find your content or doesn't find it attractive enough, they will not engage at all. Your brand design has to attract your audience. (By the way, I am using the word attract not in the sense of being pretty or beautiful, but in the sense of capturing the attention. As an example, you could have an ugly advert that still attracts attention.)
Brand recognition and retention
Brand design is the key to brand recognition – the ability of your audience to spot your content and marketing and associate it with your brand. Crucially important because you may have an excellent reputation for the best products and services on the market, but if your brand is invisible and hard to spot – you will not gain the benefits. It is also a significant factor in brand-recall – the ability of people to remember your brand image so that they can recognise it the next time they see it. Both of these keep your brand in the prospect's mind when they are looking to buy.
When you developed your overall brand strategy, it will have included an idea of the personality you intend your brand to express. You will have thought about the character, tone of voice and attitude you want your business to portray to relate to your audience and engage with them.
Your brand's design is a significant part of establishing that personality. Remember, design is incredibly nuanced and very versatile, it's capable of communicating a whole host of ideas and emotions in a single graphic, so it's a powerful tool you need to use well.
Appropriate brand design can help establish authority and impart a sense of care and quality. Poor, ill-suited design will do the opposite – giving your audience the impression you don't know what you are doing, or that you are slap-dash in your approach or even amateurish. It is vital to get the brand design approach right. Design is the first step on the journey to positive brand perception.
Get the basics right
When designing content, get the basics right first. Start with a clear layout and a simple, uncluttered design with a distinct typographic hierarchy to headings, subheadings and text.
Whatever message you wish to convey – it will not come across if it's hidden beneath overly complicated design, illegible fonts, or a layout that doesn't flow.
You can start to use your brand design to personalise your content only after you have the basics in place – and that design should complement the message of that content – not get in its way.
Beyond the basics is where your business expresses its character, authority, culture, approach and point of difference through your design. This application of brand design is a delicate balancing act and needs a deft, nuanced touch to avoid giving the wrong message or alienating your audience.
One way to grow your business is to create new product ranges, develop new services or to go beyond that and diversify into complementary or even radically different industry sectors.
Without a strong brand, that challenge is made more difficult. But with a strong brand that's valued by your audience, you can leverage that brand to create credibility in other areas – a process known as brand stretch.
Using your brand design assets on new ventures means that your audience will recognise your brand – and if you are trusted, reliable and credible, they will then seriously consider you when making a purchase.
If your growth plan includes product development and diversification, then make sure you have a strong brand with a consistent identity and design, along with a positive perception amongst your audience, before you put those plans into motion.
Another facet of brand strategy that is often underestimated is the importance of brand design in your social media posts. Because engaging in social media is usually a constant interaction, with daily messaging and fresh content, it is probably your most active marketing communication.
It is also the most informal and interactive. For many prospects and customers, it may be where they see your brand the most. For all these reasons, you mustn't take your eye off the ball when applying brand values to your posts. So, appropriate tone of voice, adding your personality and maintaining professionalism – even when informal – are all vital to get right, along with applying consistent brand design.
According to Hubspot: A brand identity – one with a face, trust, and a mission – attracts people who agree with what your brand has to offer. But once these people become customers, that same brand identity gives them a sense of belonging. A good product generates customers, but a great brand generates advocates.
The most successful brands become like familiar friends – customers get used to you, they know you won't let them down, they feel safe when they see that logo, or those colours, or that particular combination of graphics.
If you do everything else well – do what you say you are going to do, deliver on time, fix any problems promptly, and so on, then your brand design will stand for something and customers will empathise with that and promote the brand amongst their peers.
One last point on brand design – things change; nothing stays the same. What was appropriate ten, five even two years ago may not be right for the market as it is now.
As a business, you may be different – you may have evolved or had different business objectives. Refreshing your brand design is imperative every so often. However, ensure you have a valid business reason for doing so. Don't be tempted to change the brand identity just because it is a few years old. Because doing so might destroy its value, losing brand equity by taking away the very elements your audience knows, likes and trusts.
Good reasons to refresh your brand and brand design:
- You have moved away from your initial products or services
- You have moved into a different market
- Competitors articulate better than you key solutions
- Your audience has changed
- Your business strategy has evolved significantly
- Your brand doesn't seem to be effective
In any event, you should review your brand design regularly to check it is still relevant and tweak, develop or revamp where necessary.
Brand design is crucial and needs thoughtfully implementing across every piece of content. Getting this wrong risks giving an undesirable impression – or worse – not even being attractive enough to your audience to get a chance to begin the conversation. Get it right, and it will lead to real business growth.