Human beings are visual hunters. We get 90% of the information around us through our eyes. Your brand has to look like what your market is hunting for. To get that to happen, you need to work with an excellent – professional – graphic designer. You have to give that designer useful directions so that he or she can put their talents in full service to your strategic objectives. You need to share a clear creative brief with that person, a brief that is the result of a well-thought-out brand strategy. That way, the designer can leverage the immense power of graphic design to attract the market (and the employees) that you want. She or he can integrate your brand strategy into your logo, your retail interior, your packaging, your online presence and every other aspect of your storytelling. Here are a few tips to ensure yours is the best it can be.
1 – Recognize that your brand identity is not an expense. It is an investment in your marketing and sales process. It plays a huge role in converting leads into customers. You may employ inbound marketing efforts that drive qualified buyers to your website. That’s great. However, the design of that site should form an instantaneous emotional bond with your visitors. They should feel like, after a frustrating search, they’ve finally “arrived”. Think of your site as an oasis for your customer who has been wandering in a desert of unsatisfactory solutions. Design can give them a feeling of relief and security.
2 – Avoid those web-based markets where you get multiple people to design a logo and then you just pick the best one. First of all, it’s pretty dubious ethics to ask a number of people work for you but then you only pay one*. More importantly, you never get the best work this way, not even from the designer you do hire. It is a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach. You may save in the short-term but, without a strategic basis for the design, you’ll find yourself paying for a redesign before you know it. You’ll end up spending more than if you had just done it right to begin with. How do you do it right? Look for designers that know the city, region, nation or world in which you operate. Check out their websites. Do they work with clients of your size? How do you feel about their work? Don’t know? Ask others whose opinions you trust. Then talk to the designers. This will be a collaborative effort. You’ll be spending a lot of time with the design team. Make sure you’ll be able to easily communicate with them. Then talk about your budget.
3 – Consider that designers have to send their kids to college too. The fees they charge are not at all unreasonable when you consider the value they add. An integrated visual identity for your business (assuming its based on a sound strategy) will attract and delight your perfect clients. What’s that worth? I can’t swear to it but I’d bet, on average, graphic designers charge about half, in terms of hourly rates, than the typical business attorney. How many customers do your attorneys attract?
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4 – Remember, unless you’re in a trendy business like fashion or music, your brand strategy should last 15-20 years. That means it pays to invest in a professionally designed identity system that’s built to last. It’s worth paying more because it will last longer. Student designers, or those just starting out, may be inexpensive. But they do not have the experience to determine what kinds of design issues you may encounter down the road. If they can’t anticipate them, they can’t avoid them. Which means you’ll have to redesign sooner. Some budget-conscious businesses will invest in an experienced design firm to create and set up the identity system, then hire a young talent to manage the system. That’s a good way to leverage design to your benefit while keeping costs in line.
5 – Finally, remember that a strong brand strategy, expressed through a really superior brand identity system, will bring your costs down in the long run. The clarity with which your messaging cuts through your market’s noise and chatter will resonate with your perfect customer. As a result, you’ll be able to stop guessing at what kind of messaging connects with them. You’ll be able to stop reinventing the wheel with every new marketing campaign. That means advertising with more efficiency. A huge brand like Nike advertises everywhere but, in 1988, they adopted “Just Do It” as a positioning tagline and they never had to re-describe who they were ever again. They never had to bear the costs of conducting new agency hunts. They never had to spend millions coming up with new advertising strategies or new brand identities. They spent the money up front and found what worked, saving them millions on the back end.
Actually, the Nike example is probably a poor example of what I’m trying to advocate for here. Nike actually did the opposite of what I advise. They originally commissioned to a design student named Carolyn Davidson. She designed the now-famous swoosh and relinquished her ownership of it, along with all rights, for a whopping $35. And it was rejected! Nobody “got” it or how it related to shoes or what it was for. But, she did get more work from the company. And, later, someone incorporated the mark into a shoe design. That’s when the light bulb went off and the company began using the swoosh on everything. But, I hasten to add, the success on the shoe designs was pure luck. Davidson never planned for that.
Years later, Nike founder, Phil Knight, realizing the deal he got on the logo was bordering on criminal exploitation, presented Davidson with a commemorative award, a check with a lot of zeroes, and stock in Nike. The amount of stock was undisclosed but it is suspected to have been worth $1 million. The whole point here is, when it comes to brand identity, you get what you pay for. If Nike had been willing to hire a professional design firm to begin with, they would have had designers who anticipated all the uses of the logo, including on shoes. They might have gotten the same swoosh – or something even better! And it would have cost them less in the end.
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