People are primarily visual creatures. Over the course of evolution, our brains have evolved to process visual cues much more effectively than other sensory stimuli. We also associate strong emotions with what we see and react to it subconsciously.
Marketers figured this out long ago and understood that they could build customer loyalty through visual branding. We all know the thrill of seeing the familiar M sign for McDonald’s in a country far away from home, and when we spot the white-on-green mermaid and giant blocky letters that read “Старбакс,” we know it’s the beloved Starbucks, even if it’s in Russian Cyrillic.
Why Visual Branding Is Important
Consistent branding is known to increase revenue by 23%, and its visual component is the best place to start as it’s the most tangible part of your brand. Visual branding is an extremely powerful way to communicate with your audience without having to say anything. That’s because the imagery speaks to the consumer on the most primal level.
Visual identity serves many purposes, and the most important ones are the following:
- To convey what your brand is all about;
- To arouse certain emotions in customers;
- To represent a brand and all its aspects in a simple, unifying way;
What your visual elements say about you has much more power than any “About Us” page. In fact, it takes a fraction of a second (0.05 seconds) to form an opinion about a website. By the time they even notice the “About Us” section or any copy for that matter, it’s no longer relevant. They already perceive you in a certain way based solely on the visuals.
That’s why businesses need to be extremely careful with their visual branding. It’s best to work with a skilled designer, introduce them to your brand, tell them what you’re about and what you want customers to see, and come up with visual identity elements that will age well.
Elements of Your Visual Identity
Your visual branding is not just about slapping a logo onto your website or storefront. There are several aspects to think about and interweave, and you need to give them a lot of thought — they’re not just about beautiful design.
The logo is the single most important element of your brand identity. It is like a company’s fingerprint, a unique identifier, but also a descriptor. It is usually an incredibly simple design, but each little line is full of meaning.
Think about the Olympic games logo, for example. Each circle stands for a continent, and the colours represent all the participating flags. The circles are intertwined to represent unity, friendliness, and the spirit of sportsmanship.
Then, there’s Coca-Cola: simple red letters spelling the company name. The cursive writing stands for long-standing tradition and trust, and oh, is there anything more Christmasy than the red brand name that has rebranded the holiday?
A signage firm has recently conducted a test where it has asked people to draw various famous logos from memory. Although many had trouble remembering even the simplest shapes and forms, most of them got the colour palette right.
Colours can boost brand recognition by a staggering 80%. We form an emotional connection with them, and even though we can’t remember if IKEA has blue letters on a yellow background or vice versa, we have no doubt these are the colours in question.
There’s a psychology behind each colour and what it inspires in us. For example, why do many food brands — McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, etc. — utilize the colour red? The answer is simple — red stimulates the appetite.
Graphic elements are what tie your entire visual identity together and give it more depth. You have your logo, colours, typography, but what’s your style? How will you make it all work together?
The use of different shapes, the placement of images, the structure of the page, menu, brochure — that’s all graphics, and it can convey a lot.
Take, for example, the world-famous fashion brand Ralph Lauren and its website. They exude elegance and luxury — the neoclassical font, subdued neutral colours, generous use of white space to put focus on model photos, use of basic square and rectangular shapes, etc.
We’ve touched on the subject of typography a bit already — Coca-Cola’s cursive that signifies tradition, Ralph Lauren’s classical font that oozes elegance. The use of various fonts adds a lot to your visual identity. In a way, the font you use defines the voice in which your text is read.
Strangely, your font of choice can say a lot more about your brand than the words written in it. If we take a look at some tech brands, e.g. LG, Netflix, Amazon, etc., we can notice that they tend to use solid, bold letters, usually clean-looking and without many curves. This type of font signifies that they are modern and even futuristic, casual but self-assured and strong.
Not all brands have space for pictures, but many depend on them. They need to be in line with the other elements of your visual identity as well, whether they’re illustrations or photos.
Circling back to Ralph Lauren; they use clean, straightforward images of people modelling their clothes against neutral backgrounds. However, a kids’ clothes brand might feature children playing in colourful settings or sunny parks to invoke happy and joyous feelings.
Finally, there are physical assets, i.e., physical objects that also contribute to the overall brand identity. For example, a food or cookware brand can have aprons, mugs, plates, etc. with the visual identifiers of the brand.
If your business works with a fleet of vehicles, you could brand these too (which is also a great way to promote your brand while driving around, running errands). Even if you lease a car in Ireland, leasing companies will allow you to brand them as they understand their customer needs.
As you can see, visual branding can help you interact with your audience in a meaningful and deep way, so take your time discovering your visual identity.