‘Visual branding’ and ‘brand image’ can often be confused. They are very similar, but it is imperative to realise the fundamental difference. Visual branding is how the company hopes their consumer perceives them and brand image is how the consumer actually perceives them. These two key areas need to align.
People often look for the familiar. So excellent visual branding is the first step to your audience being able to distinguish you from your competitors. The importance of making your brand visually significant, outstanding and memorable to your target consumer is clear.
The following are a number of ways you can improve the visual branding of your company:
Find out what your competition is doing - and do it better! Review this area consistently so you are always one step ahead of competitors, showing your consumers you are attentive, ready to meet their demands and deliver the best customer service or product.
You want to invite your audience to really get to know your organisation. Putting a ‘face’ (in this case, a recognisable brand) to your organisation will personify it and allow your consumers to associate with you on a greater personal level.
Having a great brand is all about keeping it simple. If your audience can recognise your brand through a logo (even with no need for the company name) then you’ve nailed it. Think Twitter’s famous ‘bird’ logo (case study 1). Apple (case study 2) and Google (case study 3) are other great examples of very simple but excellent branding recalling visual identity with ease.
This is by far the most fundamental point of visual branding and links back to all the previous points raised. By setting out consistent brand guidelines, which include typeface, colour palette, layout and logo, your audience will easily be able to recognise and, in the long-term, trust your brand.
Of course, a visual brand will organically grow its identity over the years, but it is crucial to begin with a solid base with defined criteria in order for the consumer to be able to recognise the branding. Small steps over the years for visual brand growth are far preferable to a whole brand overhaul every three years, and your consumers will understand this and interpret your brand for the better.
Pictured above is Twitter’s famous logo as it was at conception and as it is today. This highlights the ‘tweaking’ of brands discussed earlier in this article, showing the importance of a strong initial brand and consistency. As you can see, the logo has been altered slightly in shape and colour, but the overarching visual branding of the logo is fundamentally the same.
Pictured above is a timeline of Apple Inc’s varying brand logos. The initial 1976 design was a prototype, so never actually made it onto any apple product. After that you can see the logo has changed very little indeed, with minor tweaks to colour and shadow. The Apple visual branding is, like Google’s, intended to be minimal and simplistic. They have a very strong visual branding that is very obvious to its consumers, trusted by many loyal customers and again reflects the company’s clean and efficient user interface.
From its launch in 1998, Google’s branding has only changed very slightly. Refinements have been made rather than an entire brand overhaul. Colour tweaks, typeface weighting and shadows removed. The simplicity of Google’s visual branding is applied throughout their identity. Their very basic premise is to allow customers to use Google products with ease and understanding, never overcomplicating their offering, which is reflected in their branding.
Google’s visual branding affirms a number of the points raised earlier: Keep it simple; appeal to your audience and make it recognisable.