Thanks to the ubiquity of social media these days, we are more exposed to photos, images, memes and illustrations than ever before. It’s not just social media, there are a multitude of websites, games, billboards, adverts, not to mention the apps we now rely on, all fighting for space in front of our eyeballs.
It’s one thing to be showing off your new puppy or latest culinary masterpiece to family and friends, but when so much of what you put on online is there to represent your business and your brand, the choice of imagery becomes very important indeed.
With that in mind, we thought we’d share our experience about what you look for when it comes to brand imagery, how it separates itself, how to choose images and more importantly, how they reflect on your business in this rapidly moving electronic age. Let’s start with the most basic question.
WHAT IS BRAND IMAGERY?
Brand imagery can incorporate almost anything; the images, colours, fonts, photos and general aesthetic that illustrates your brand’s core message.
Brand imagery isn’t necessarily limited to things you can see, it can also incorporate what you can smell, touch, taste or hear.
For example, the taste of McDonald’s Big Mac, the smell of your favourite Chanel perfume or the sound of an Apple computer turning on. All of these examples, and more, will elicit an emotional response in you, hopefully good, but not always!
The purpose of brand imagery is to connect the message you’re projecting with your target audience / customers. When they see (or hear, taste, etc), something you’ve produced they need to associated that ‘thing’ with your brand. Of course, it’s not always possible to smell, hear or taste these things all the time (not least when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic), so the one thing we’re often left with, is the visuals.
When it comes to brand imagery, sight is the most valuable of the senses. That’s why imagery is so crucial!
Your brand ‘image’ (as opposed to imagery) on the other hand is, at least in marketing and advertising terms, is the most important aspect. This is less about the nuts and bolts of your brand, and more about communicating your brand values and allowing it to grow organically over time and not wholly within your control. Your brand image also includes how you are perceived by the outside world and your reputation within it.
Whilst the branding imagery that any company exudes, like the logo, the tagline or their website are vital, and these do need to be consistent to promote feelings in the brand, it’s only when that happens and you really resonate with customers, that the buying decisions are made in their minds.
HOW DO YOU CREATE THE BEST BRAND IMAGERY?
OK, here we go! The big question. The first thing we do with new clients is ask them about their ‘perfect customer’, so let’s do the same exercise with you. Who is YOUR perfect customer?
We’re looking here for thinking in the abstract rather than specific details; ask yourself how old are they (as a range)? What’s important to them? What’s their gender? How much do they earn? What does their day look like? What do they do on weekends? You can ask all sorts of questions, but the answers will hopefully help you understand WHO this person is.
By being able to visualise them, you will be in a better position to understand the kind of imagery they’ll respond to. Think about the brands YOU connect too? What is it about them that you like and what gave you that connection?
Chances are you aren’t the only company doing what you do, so it’s also a good idea to look at the kind of imagery your competitors are putting out there. Not least so you can set about making yourself stand out from them or the marketplace as a whole. It’s this divergence of thought that will help you here. Let’s look at a real world example.
If you think about any of the larger corporations out there, if you can break down what they sell, it might sound like they sell the same thing, but it will be the imagery that differentiates them from each other.
Let’s think about electronics, as an example. Apple and Acer both sell computers, so they’re the same right? They’re going for the same market? Is the perfect Apple customer the same as the perfect Acer customer? Spoiler Alert - They’re not.
Remember, this isn’t a critique on the customer, but we’re focussed on the brand imagery. Apple’s imagery is designed to be sophisticated, technologically cutting edge and stylish. They want to appeal to a customer who is fashion-conscious, tech-savvy, ‘hip’ and financially comfortable, or at least, that should be how their customer seems themselves.
Their products are at the higher end of what’s available, because they want customers who fit their mould. Could they make a £200 laptop if they wanted? I’m sure they could, but they don’t; they’re a premium brand and the imagery they use always projects that.
Their products stand out from the crowd and customers who buy them want to be seen with them, they want the glowing Apple logo on their laptop lid, the white stem coming out of their ears and the mountain of apps for their iPhone.
Apple give their customers an identity and many of them have grown very passionate about the brand. They cultivate the emotions that using an Apple product makes you feel, it’s about a lifestyle, innovation, passion, dreams and aspirations. For all of those things it achieves, their imagery is clean, simple and effective.
Acer, on the other hand, looks to another market. They might both make laptops, but they aren’t looking to attract the same consumer, and that’s ok. Acer products tend to be much cheaper PCs, the specifications won’t be pushing any technological barriers, but that’s not to say they’re not good ones. Are they as innovative? No. Exciting? No. Could you pop along to an Acer store and speak to an advisor? No. Would you queue overnight for the latest Acer product? No. Will it cost you an arm and a leg to buy one? No! Which is good!
Acer do have a global audience, but you could argue those that buy an Acer laptop do so based on a different criteria. They’re not looking to spend a fortune for the latest and greatest, they just want a basic machine to get their job done. It probably doesn’t matter to those customers that it’s an Acer brand, it could be Asus, Dell or any number of other manufacturers.
They do tend to target younger consumers and younger professionals, so their brand imagery tends to connect to things that young pros like. For example, they’ve recently partnered with Alfa Romeo F1 team to further push their brand forward.
Whether it’s Apple or Acer, BMW or Hyundai, Chanel or Tweed, companies appeal to their target market through one simple facet; design.
When you’re thinking about your imagery, play very close attention to things like colour, content, style, typography (i.e. the fonts you use) and composition because they should all be working together in harmony to project the right message to your target customer.
Simple concepts like dark colours and heavy, thick fonts tend project an air of seriousness, whereas paler, more neutral palates feel more contemporary. It’s whatever suits your brand and what you are trying to portray.
Now you know who your audience is, you can begin to craft design elements that will appeal to them, but remember these are still people with their own personality. Not everyone in your target demographic is going to agree on the same thing, so come up with a few different designs and test them out with employees, friends and existing customers. The more people who see it, the more information you can glean from them.
Test them out on social media and see which creates the most engagement, then you’ll have a barometer to work from.
When you find the design that works and you’re happy with, stick with it. Whilst they don’t all have to look exactly the same (which will soon get stale), there should be some 'synergy' between them; either through the typography, colour palette or the style you use.
Remember also that we’re living in a scrolling world. On social media especially, people increasingly scroll through their timelines on mobile devices, so you want your imagery to be one that makes them stop and look, so it has to stand out to make an impact.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST IMAGERY
Wow, that’s a lot of words to get to the question you probably want answering the most, but we hope they put it all in context for you. Whilst we obviously can’t give you a clear cut answer for your business, not least because we have no idea what it is, there are three basic elements you should consider when choosing the best imagery for your own brand.
It doesn’t have to based on photography either; many successful brands use illustrations, just text or a combination.
Before you embark on your journey towards brand imagery domination, it’s vitally important you take stock of what it is you’re trying to achieve by the images you use.
Once you find an image you like, but before you use it, ask yourself (and your marketing team if you have one) what objectives are you outlining with your choice? What messages does it express or what values does it send out? Are they the same ones that you’re hoping for? Will it connect with your target market? What is the purpose behind the visual? Answer these kind of questions FIRST, before moving on to…..
When it comes to brand imagery, colour is the top of the food chain. Colour is probably the most memorable aspect when it comes to visual components. People may forget your words or website address, but they will remember the colours you used.
Colours will help to evoke those emotional feelings in consumers, this is known as colour theory. In fact, some studies have shown that colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%, so picking the right colour is key.
When it comes to design and colour theory (which is a whole other topic we’ll cover in another post), it basically boils down to the emotional nuances you get from 12 different colours; including those classed as primary or basic colours (red, blue & yellow), secondary (mix two primary colours equally), tertiary (mixing one primary and one secondary colour together equally) and, whilst not generally included on any colour wheel; the neutral colours like black, white and grey.
It’s not just a random assortment. Notice that the secondary colours sit exactly centred between the primary colours (red, blue and yellow), and the tertiary colours each sit between a primary and secondary colour.
There’s also colour psychology, which studies how colours impact on our mood and behaviours. It works like this; Eye sees colour - brain signals endocrine system - endocrine system releases hormones - hormones impacts mood - mood affects behaviour. Again, in simple terms, colours are signified like this:
Red gives off confidence, youth, and power.
Orange evokes friendly, warm, and energetic.
Yellow projects happiness, optimism, and warmth.
Green instills peace, growth, and health.
Blue shows trust, security, and stability.
Purple equates to luxury, creativity and wisdom.
Black is the epitome of reliability, sophistication, and experience.
White symbolises simple, calm, and clean.
It also has an impact on the vibrancy, or how light or dark that colour is. Whilst each of the main colours has its own properties, so does the shade / vibrancy of that colour. In other words, whilst red and blue will obviously illicit different emotional responses, so too will light blue and dark blue (and everything in-between).
Simply put, brighter shades tend to project more energy, whilst darker shades are more relaxing. So, of you have a spa or beauticians then you’re unlikely to project the right image with bright red imagery. The possibilities when it comes to colour are almost endless!
Shapes are often underestimated when it comes to imagery. Geometric shapes have the luxury of not being constrained by language, culture or race, so they are universally recognisable. This means they are very popular with businesses that work internationally.
By combining shapes with the right colour and / or typography you can easily increase how your brand is perceived and capture that all-important emotional response.
Logo’s, and branding in general, works best when it’s simple. If you think about the logos for the world’s biggest brands, all of their logos will be made up of simplistic shapes or outlines but are still easily recognised.
When it comes to your own brand imagery, go for the simplest design you can. Logo’s with lots of intricate details will get lost when it’s reproduced on a small scale conversely when it’s blown-up, it will look too busy.
Simple doesn’t mean it has to be boring, but by bringing together shapes, colours and typography simply, you can create something really appealing that is instantly recognisable.
THE FINAL WORD
There’s obviously a lot more that goes into brand imagery than can realistically be put into a one blog post.
There’s a lot of planning, time and hard work that goes into this kind of thing. The logos, images and overall visuals you send out into the world need to accomplish a lot of things; from building customer trust, influences buying choices and engages with your audience. You need some patience as it’s not something you can do overnight, at least not if you want it to work effectively on your marketing strategy, but have some fun with it and please don’t try and overthink it - you’ll tie yourself up in knots and spend your time second guessing yourself.
We hope you found this useful. If you need any help with any of this for your own business, please let us know. You can get in touch or connect with us via email or social media (all the links are below). If you have any of your own ideas, hints or tips you’d like to share with our audience, please let us know in the comments below.