When you think of the first brand that comes to your head, what can you see? Most likely what you are picturing can be directly associated to the type of design and branding that the company has pushed. Whether it’s their logo, associated colors, or even one of their ads, most companies are commonly associated with the visual graphics that are used in their marketing content. This type of customer connection is what digital marketing agencies (like us!) seek to use to empower brands to engage in their market, expand their digital presence, and increase positive associations with their brand. When we make these considerations for our clients, we like to begin with the basics.
Advertising is the ability to establish a human connection through different physical or perceived sensory mechanisms in an effort to encourage consumers to purchase, click, subscribe, etc. The most common sense that advertising seeks to stimulate is our visual/optical senses. The ability to engage with an audience through visual communication, whether static or dynamic, almost always depends wholly on the design and integration of the visual. Here’s some bad news: since this is the most common form of advertising, that also means there’s more competition. This has led to consumers’ senses being overstimulated with visual marketing as more companies attempt to take advantage of this phenomena. This has the potential to create a negative association by the consumer (ad is annoying = company is annoying = “I’d rather not buy their products”) and thus, lead to a situation where your advertising is doing more damage than good. This leads to our first point.
Simple sometimes really is better. When considering a design for your visual marketing content, it’s important to understand that visual communication tends to differ from written communication in that consumers will not be ‘reading’ your visual marketing content left to right. Rather, the consumer will focus on the things that catch their attention and that they can connect with on an emotional level. This makes it crucial for visual content to be simple, eye-catching, and intuitive. This includes using colors, tones, shapes, lines and textures that contribute to your content rather than distract the consumer from the message. By reducing visual clutter, the advertisement has the ability to guide the consumer’s optical senses through the message without increasing potential distractions.
Your Design, Your Brand
Looking past one aspect of visual advertising, the design of a company’s visual communication is a direct source on how that company would like to be viewed by the consumer. The perception of the consumer, molded by societal norms and regulations, informs them of the company’s values, target audience, and quality. That’s right—visual design is the brand in the eyes of the consumer. Every piece of visual marketing content that is published through a company’s media outlets—social media pages, email campaigns, highway billboards, blog posts, etc.—tells a story and creates a comprehensive image of the company’s branding. By implementing visual marketing strategies that tell an overall story about a brand, the targeted consumer will develop a bias towards that brand’s services, products, or content. This will then encourage word-of-mouth marketing, which is typically the most reliable mechanism of gaining traction as a brand. Once a brand’s story is ready to be told, how does one go about telling the story in a unified fashion through various outlets of visual communication? This leads to our next point.
Consistency is Key
Visual branding and communication strategies are an agglomeration of graphic art and cognitive science. Consumers tend to rely on what they perceive as familiar and recognizable to make a decision on who to purchase from or subscribe to. The graphics and visuals that are used in a marketing campaign are critical for creating an integrated experience for the consumer to absorb the story that the brand is attempting to tell. This consistency allows the consumer to make connections to the brand in their daily life and increases their interaction with the brand. By using consistent logos, fonts, color schemes, and patterns in their branding, companies can create an identity that consumers can relate to and distinguish apart from the competition.
21st Century Advertising
The key ideas discussed above are critical for a company to establish a presence in their market and maintain a competitive advantage. That being said, it is equally critical that the company or brand using these visual communication techniques identify where their potential consumers are. Even if your visual branding is consistent, simple, identifiable and relatable, if the targeted consumer is young adults or teenagers, would advertising through traditional media be a successful campaign? Most likely not. By understanding the targeted consumer’s habits, your visual branding communication strategy should be tailored to reach the appropriate audience on the appropriate platforms and establish the consumer connection that is so valuable in 21st century digital advertising.
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