Keeping your brand visually consistent is key for people to quickly know that what they’re seeing jibes with their expectations of you. If your visual branding isn’t consistent, it throws customer’s off and impacts how they perceive you. There are several secrets you can use for consistent visual branding and unifying your marketing materials.
Your visual brand encompasses all of your visual assets from your logo to photography to color palette and typography. Even illustrations and other graphic elements like badges or icons are part of your overall visual branding. All of these pieces work together to build trust in what your company represents. Every time you use or don't use these visual assets in a consistent way, you are negatively impacting your visual brand, and losing a little bit of consumer trust.
First off, visual branding is a part of your overall brand identity. You probably realize what your brand identity is. You’ve either asked friends, clients, or networking groups to give you feedback on what they think when they see your website and marketing materials. Your brand identity is defined by how your target audience perceives you. People will always see things in slightly different ways, but you know your brand identity is on point when you start getting consistent feedback from people in your main audience.
I like to view your brand as a person, and this person is your audience’s friend who they come to for advice and suggestions. Instead of seeing your buyers as a horde of nameless, faceless people, I like to focus in on the one, ideal person that you’re trying to be friends with as a brand.
In order to make friends with your primary audience, your company must positively influence how they view you. Once you make that connection, consistency is the name of the game so that person will continue to be friends with you because you share the same values, they trust what you stand for, and you’re enriching their lives in some way.
This is where your visual branding comes in! Visual branding all starts with who is your audience. Your visual assets are how you show the type of friend you will be, and you use it to influence the perception of your company. The challenge is making sure it all works together and shows that you’re a reliable friend who looks & acts the same every day (not pull a Sandy at the end of Grease move and throw off people’s expectations).
For example, if I check out your Instagram page, and see it filled with inspirational quotes and tips (like mine) then I may feel like you value encouragement and like to be supportive. If I see behind-the-scenes photos of your store or office with employee stories and pictures, it may tell me that your team’s happiness is something your brand values.
This is why visual branding is so important. Your audience is always defining your brand and its human nature for us to use cues to keep everything organized in our minds. If the visual assets you’re using doesn’t’ match your brand values, it can disappoint, confuse, and over time alienate your target audience.
Here are 5 ‘secrets’ you can use to make sure your brand is visually consistent.
1) Your visual brand needs a curator.
There should be someone on your team who is accountable for your visual branding. Your team's curator is someone who sees most (or if possible all) of the visual work of your brand as these pieces are created. Their job is to make sure your assets and collateral work in concert with each other, and of course, follow company style guidelines.
If you’re working with an agency like Charisma, then your marketing plan will outline the creative direction the campaigns will take. That way, the visual work they create for you will stay in line with the pieces you already have. Cohesiveness is key to make sure everything makes sense to your target audience.
2) Select at least 1-2 colors for a color palette.
This will go from the color(s) in your logo and then will have at least one coordinating color that you always use.
Once you know your main color palette, then you can start curating sample imagery that will show your target audience and/or products. These images should include the colors from your color palette and all have a similar style. For example, you may have noticed that all of the images we use at Charisma Communications have a sun-washed look with a lighter color story.
Even if you don’t have a big budget for custom photography, you can find stock photography that looks more custom if you stick to a color palette. Here is a list of 22 awesome websites with stunning (and free!) stock images.
3) Keep it simple & pick 1-2 fonts.
You do not need to be a typographic guru to know what fonts look good together. Start with the font(s) in your logo and work from there to find 1-2 more typefaces that will look nice for the bulk of your text and your headers for print and online marketing materials. You can even use the same font as in your logo as long as it’s easy to read.
You can find great free fonts on MyFonts.com, DaFont.com, or Google Fonts; search by the key terms or core values you defined in your branding process. Pick a font that has thin/narrow options, bold, and extended options so you can use the same font in different styles to make your visual branding that much easier.
4) Have a style sheet that outlines visual brand guidelines.
At a bare minimum, your style guide should include all "approved" versions of your logo, the fonts you use with samples, and show your approved brand colors.
It is also good to have examples of how these visual brand assets all work together; you can take your homepage or a piece of marketing collateral and mark the fonts the colors and logotype. The goal is that anyone on your staff can see what your visual brand is supposed to look like and can make it look cohesive. Create a style sheet so you have clear guidelines you can stick to!
5) Keep visual brand assets organized & readily available.
This is a big one! I’ve seen it happen before where you need to post something quickly and you can’t find what you need for the marketing piece.
Store your assets in a common place that’s readily available to your visual brand curator and anyone on staff in case that person is out of the office. Have a shared folder or server where assets are clearly labeled as subfolders of the style guide, fonts, colors, photos, approved logos.
Once you have an approved set of visual assets and style guide and a curator who is in charge of approving their consistent use, then your visual brand will be a powerful tool in the overall brand experience for your primary audience.
Consistent visual identity is essential when it comes to establishing a recognizable brand. When users are flipping through their social media feeds, your images should stand out while telling your brand story and values. If you’d like help with your visual branding, contact Charisma today!