We live in a flood of design. Flowing streams of images and icons are driving the reactions that fuel Internet commerce. The question is: will you be getting any of that revenue?
Tapping into consumer attention is becoming harder to achieve. It requires a creative blend of aesthetics, value, and trust. Done right, this blend can launch an infectious brand–one that becomes iconic to a community of raving fans.
Of course, the magic is in how you create infectious branding. What are the keys that can make this a repeatable process? We’re so glad you asked…
1. What are you trying to do?
Clarity is the most important factor in any strategic process and branding is no exception. The majority of failures in my career, as a marketer and entrepreneur, have stemmed from a lack of clarity.
That’s why I passionately recommend starting every branding exercise with a fundamental question:
“What are we trying to do?”
It’s a simple question that often gets an unrefined initial answer. Don’t get comfortable with your first answer. Ask the question and refine the answer–iterate until you get to the very core of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your business.
Very intentionally strip your business down to the most fundamental, single thing you want every customer to know and do.
2. Research, research, research
Given a solid foundation of why your brand exists, it’s time to do some homework.
No matter how creative your business–it has been done before. Don’t discard valuable insights others can give you. Never assume you’re plowing new ground. Instead, carefully study what has gone before you and use it to optimize your branding before you even enter the market.
I start my design research with the competitors:
What are they doing in the marketplace? Attitudes, perceptions, emotions, etc. What are their aesthetics, styles, shapes, sizes, typography, and colors?
How are customers responding to their brands?
How can we learn from their branding, while differentiating my own?
I love Google image search for this kind of research. A few quick searches can give me an historical timeline of competitors’ brand and brand systems. Likewise, a search of keywords related to my products and industry gives me a condensed montage of how consumers are already experiencing brands in my market.
Next, I expand my research to draw on the broader industry view.
In many scenarios you’re going to notice very quickly that markets often acquire a particular look and design approach.
This follow-the-leader design paradigm often becomes your first big decision–do you ride the wave or break new ground?
Keeping your branding in the familiar often keeps customers in a comfort zone and may even give you a halo effect from other successful brands. In contrast, a breakout design can be risky–resulting in a wide range of possible responses, from massive action to a complete non-response.
My recommendation is to spend a significant amount of time surveying and analyzing the market. The more you understand how design is working in the current market, the more you can effectively optimize your own branding project.
3. Style over substance
I’m likely to ruffle a lot of purist feathers here, but it’s important to inject realism in our branding strategies. One of the fundamental realities of design and branding is that even the very best product, service, or content will rarely succeed without good design. In many cases, the sheer force of style can overcome even the most marginal offerings.
In a media saturated world, your style has to captivate and reinforce your presence. You must capture that fleeting moment of attention to have any opportunity to pitch your features, benefits, and value to the consumer.
Without style–regardless of the importance of your message–you’re simply a whisper in a noisy room.
4. Culture crushes strategy
Culture is one of my favorite marketing tactics.
The energy and influence of culture is amazing. Depending on how you use this tactic, you can gain immediate trust, mistrust, alliance, alienation, love, hate, or any other visceral response you desire from your marketing campaign.
Injecting culture into your marketing campaign can be an effective way to create a multiplicative, even viral, effect into your brand.
Some notable examples include: Apple, Starbucks, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Virgin. Each of these brands have used culture to engage their customers in deep and meaningful ways (to the point of tattooing their branding on their bodies). Their customers become loyal and fanatical about the brand almost completely independent of what the businesses might be doing strategically.
A brand laced with culture takes on a personality, a value system, a responsibility and accountability, and a leadership that extends beyond the simple lines and colors of design–it makes it pulsate with life.
5. Colors yield emotions
Colors are far more than an aesthetic treatment within your brand. Colors draw up predictable emotions and typically trigger conditioned responses. Color theory is a real thing–use it intentionally to give your brand system energy.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet on color and emotions:
- Red – energy, danger, strength, passion, desire, love
- Orange – heat, enthusiasm, happiness, creativity
- Yellow – sunshine, joy, energy, freshness
- Green – growth, harmony, fertility, peace, healing
- Blue – health, depth, stability, trust, wisdom, confidence
- Purple – royalty, romance, nobility, luxury, ambition
- White – light, goodness, purity, perfection, safety, cleanliness
- Black – power, elegance, formality, mystery, evil, fear
Add to this the subtly of lightening or darkening the palette and you can radically alter the perception and reaction to the color.
In my experience, color is one of the most interesting and radical elements of design to test. For this reason, give color serious consideration in attempting to tap into your customers’ emotions and condition their responses to your brand.
6. Bring the Trust
The ultimate goal of any branding is to bring trust to the customer experience. The challenge being that trust can never wholly be achieved through design, but you must learn to bring it into the design.
Trust is mostly an experience, one reinforced by consistency over time. Bringing that into your brand requires you to bring elements into alignment with the actual experience–emotions, expectations, values–the customer is likely to have with your brand.
If you’re going to give them edgy and extreme, reflect it in your brand system–reds, blacks, hard lines, abrupt edges. If you’re delivering a calm, cool brand laced with culture–make it green and blue, flowing lines, and soft edges.
Either way igniting an infectious brand requires that you give it a personality, a value system, a responsibility and accountability, leadership that extends beyond the simple lines and colors of design–the design must pulsate consistently with life.
The key takeaway is: strive to create consistency between brand and experience.
7. Distinctive and Unique
We’re in a very noisy world. Your customers are being inundated with design experiences, not all of which are brand experiences.
Unfortunately, all of these designs will compete for your prospective customers’ attention–most are marginal, but still distracting. Add to this challenge the fact that consumers have a very refined filter for screening out commercial design–you have to get creative to breakthrough.
If you want to rise above the noise you have to bring distinction and uniqueness to your brand. This requires a commitment to:
- Create brand elements that have a notable contrast between you and the competitive landscape in which you operate
- Reinforce your branding in a variety of contexts, but with a consistency that creates familiarity
- Approach customers in a way that conveys a unique value proposition that goes beyond price and product features
Branding is so much more than a clever logo. Great brands become infectious by standing above the crowd in design, experience, and purpose.
Kaleidico is committed to turning your design project into infectious brands and campaigns.