In our last post about using the competition to better understand your own visual brand we discussed looking at how the character of a brand relates to visual identity. Here we’ll talk about implementing some of what you might have found out in strengthening your own brand. Chances are that, of the business brands you might have looked at, the ones you locked onto are the ones with clearly defined visual character.
For example, and because it seems unavoidable when discussing brands, we’ll use Apple. Apple have both strong brand advocates and detractors. I have first hand experience of how heated a debate about the corporate giants can get. What remains true though, is that they create a strong enough emotional response, whether negative or positive, to engage people in arguments over what they stand for! This is because they have an unwavering devotion to certain character traits. They focus on the simple, the minimal and the clean. Their visual brand extends through their advertisements, stationery, online media and even into the very products that they sell. The phones they sell feel a certain way. They have weight and texture that evoke an unmistakable sense of minimalist quality. You could remove the logo from an iPhone and know it was an Apple product. This all adds up to attracting a certain type of person who can strongly relate to the character of their brand. They make no attempt to appeal to everyone, it would just water down their “style”. The power here lies in the congruity between the core values of the brand, the product they sell and the visual representation of all of these things and that these things appear to come from an honest place.
This is important to remember whether you’re a small business or a larger company. In life people have friends and those who they don’t get on with. Their character defines who likes them and who doesn’t. The most valuable relationships we have are built on mutual understanding and affinity. And in this time of social media, companies look to befriend customers and clients through shared values rather than just sell to them. The hard sell would seem to be becoming less and less effective as people appear to have grown more aware and tired of it. Think of cold calling and “junk mail”. The emotional connection delivered by well researched and executed design is integral to successful brand identity strategies. Staying true to your beliefs can be tricky when you’re weighing it against trying to survive as a business. Whether you believe in being unashamedly Chameleon-like in your approach or stoic in your beliefs is up to you.
However, an example of a somewhat obvious change in character of a company in order to connect with an audience came when McDonalds altered the colour of their shops from the full on ‘Fast Foody’ goodness of their bright red colour scheme, to a green, faux healthy colour palette. This can be perceived as a necessary marketing tactic to adapt and survive in an increasingly health conscious world. Somehow however, for me, the healthy association is at odds with the product. There seems perhaps to be a contradiction between the visual identity and the intangible character of the brand. I remember when the change was made I felt a little like I was being duped or patronised. Which made me even less of a fan than I'd ever been.
It’s worth considering these aspects when creating, refining or strengthening your own visual identity. It’s vital to reconcile emotional, intangible brand values with their visual counterpart. Staying true to your brand values throughout your offering will make it easy to connect with your audience as you are being true to them. They’ll recognise the authenticity in what you communicate with them which will strengthen their connection with you and lead to success in reaching them on a more substantial level.