Updated: Jun 7, 2018
A while back I was facilitating an executive retreat for a local non profit. When we came to topic on branding, one of the board members raised their hand and said this will be easy, we already have a great logo!
That opened a whole conversation around what goes into creating a brand and a visual identity. By the end of the discussion, it was abundantly clear that their logo, as nice as it was, was not their brand and only one part of their visual identity.
Today's blog is part one of the process of identifying the elements of your visual brand. Specifically, your fonts, photos and videos, filters, colors and logo.
I’ve heard from some of you lately that it would be very helpful to know the fundamentals of how to select these elements of your visual brand and establish a consistent style.
This is where a lot of people get stuck - because they’re not sure where to get started.
I was talking to a friend the other day and this is how she summed it up:
“When I worked for a corporation, it was easy to go out and speak on camera and talk to the media, I was great at it - because I knew who and what I was representing. When you are the brand, it’s a lot harder because the focus is all on you and all of that isn’t as clearly defined.”
Big corporations spend lots of time and money to develop a brand look and feel and you’ll need to make an investment in developing yours.
Your Logo is NOT Your Brand
Here are several quotes I think do a nice job of defining the more ethereal qualities of a brand, whether it’s a personal brand or for a small business or corporation. And it’s definitely way more than a logo.
Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Disney says:
“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures”
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon puts it like this:
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
And John Williams, founder of Logo Yes, defines it this way:
“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”
And lastly, my friend and marketing master, Mike Kim defines your brand as the visual, verbal and value proposition you deliver. He says all three must align with one another if you want a cohesive brand position. Here's a link to Mike’s blog on this topic.
Now that we have a working definition of what a brand is, let’s define a visual brand identity:
Your visual brand identity (combined with your verbal identity and the value you deliver) evokes a certain feeling, memories and emotions when people experience your brand.
It’s the visual story you tell to communicate your overall message, values, and brand promise through the images, colors, fonts, filters, and videos you consistently use.
And this even applies to what you wear and the locations you use for your images and videos.
These elements either support or detract from your values and brand promise. And your visuals need to have the same look and feel across all platforms.
Keep them simple and consistent to create cohesion.
Being aware of how your visuals affect your brand is just the starting point.
What Do You Want Your Visuals To Say About You?
To answer that you first need to answer some questions about your brand.
Here are three questions I ask my clients when we are working to define their visual brand elements.
1. Who is your target audience?
How old are they, are they married? Gender? Have Kids? How much to they make? What do they do? What level of education do they have? What do they do in their spare time? Hobbies? What do they read? Podcasts? Blogs?
The more specific you are, the easier it will be to establish the visuals for your brand because you know who they are for.
2. What sets you apart from others providing a similar service in your field?
John Williams sums it up like this:
“What are the qualities you posses, experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve developed that set you apart? What is value you'll deliver to your customer. What is the benefit your target audience will experience from the value you provide. It’s important that you are able articulate this.”
THIS is the unique value proposition that only you can provide.
After you create a list of your personal brand attributes, prioritize them and create a word bank. You will use this when you start to select your visual brand elements.
3. What characteristics and values do you represent that would be attractive to a future friend?
It’s helpful to think about your brand in terms of what one person who you would like as a future friend would say about you. It makes it a lot easier to envision who is in your audience when you think of them as a friend.
It also helps you come up with language to use as you describe yourself.
When people describe your brand, what do you want them to say?
Ask yourself how these words support your vision and values and how you deliver on that to your customers.
What words would they use?
Here are a few to get you started:
Are you? professional, trustworthy, reliable, efficient, dynamic, creative, strategic, influential, energetic, eager, courageous, confident, irreverent, future oriented, playful, optimistic, sincere, knowledgable, solid, engaging, experienced?
Write till you can’t think of any more. Then prioritize your top five.
Do your current visuals support this?
Then ask, what words would they use to describe how your brand makes them feel?
When you think about a friend, they are someone you can rely on, consistently. You feel a certain emotion when you think of them and share a set of values that sustains your friendship. Think about it, if those elements didn’t exist, you probably wouldn’t be friends for long.
Is your brand happy, serious, somber, comfortable, warm, accessible, joyful, renegade, spunky, or serene or?
Create a word bank of adjectives and emotions that describe what your target audience can expect from their relationship with you.
What does that look like visually? Using visuals is an effective way to convey abstract ideas.
What I like about these questions is, they force you to think about yourself from your audience’s view point.
I use this approach often as it’s so easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking about your business from the inside out instead of the outside in. So often, we are too close to our work and it’s hard to see ourselves as others do.
If you have some friends or clients you are comfortable with asking these questions, so much the better! Their words matter.
If you don’t have a word bank to work from, it makes it difficult to define your visuals.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Pretending we are looking at someone else helps to restore some of the objectivity we need to clearly define who we are and the value proposition we deliver.
Think about some of the personal brands out there that you really resonate with - what about their visuals tell you who they are?
Amy is open, approachable and her images exude the positive energy I’ve come to expect from her brand. Her visuals are clean and welcoming.
Jasmine Star is high energy, always put together, having fun, enjoying the places and the people in her life. She consistently uses the same filters and point of view on all of her images. You can tell her marketing materials are from her without even seeing her name.
Here are links to Amy and Jasmine's Instagram pages so you can see the consistent look and feel of their images. If you check out their other social media pages you are going to experience the same look and feel, and that’s how it should be.
Looking at big brands like Starbucks and Nike, you get a certain feeling when you see visuals related to their brand. And, some of that is residual from how you have experienced these brands whether it’s positive or negative.
Starbucks’ brand promise isn’t so much about coffee as it is to be that third place between home and office, so they use visual elements that represent a sense of welcome and familiarity and friendship.
Nike and their “just do it” energetic attitude is conveyed through their airborne swoop and other inspiring visuals.
There’s lots more examples out there - these are just a few to get you thinking.
Your homework this week is to check out several personal and bigger brands and really study their visuals - what common threads do you see throughout?
What do their visuals make you feel?
Would you want them as a friend?
What other details do you notice?
You can download a visual brand planner I created for you here, so you can keep all of your observations in one place and use it as a reference as you continue to develop your visual identity.
Summing it up:
Your visual identity is much more than a logo. It's the story you tell about your brand through your visuals, including the consistent use colors, filters, fonts, images, and videos.
This also includes what you wear and where you take your images.
Three questions you can ask to get started on your road to discovery your visual brand style are:
Who is your target audience?
What makes you stand out from your competitors, what is unique about you? What is your super power, your kryptonite your unique value that you deliver that makes you valuable to your target audience.
How would a future friend describe you? What are the values and attributes about you share and how do they feel when they are with you? How does that show up in your visuals?
Create a list of adjectives and emotions that describe your brand to create a word bank. Narrow your lists down to five and rank them.
Fun stuff, huh?! Even if you already feel like you have a well established visual identity, it never hurts to do a review to make sure you are still on point. We all evolve over time.
>>>Don’t for get to download your visual brand planner here.
In part two of this blog we are going to look at how to translate this into choosing fonts, photos and videos, filters, colors and logo with my guest graphic designer Jason Clement, owner of Jason Clement Design.
If you are feeling stuck on this and need some help from me, you can fill out this application and we’ll set up a 15 minute call to talk about your goals.
I always love hearing from you, if you have a question about being on camera, I’m happy to answer it in a future blog.
Until next time, remember you can create a consistent visual presence by knowing your target audience and what sets you apart from your competition, every time.
Val Brown is an Emmy Award winning television producer, story, visual and personal brand consultant, coach, and speaker. She consults and coaches high performing business professionals and entrepreneurs looking to up their game and increase their confidence and credibility on camera. Val teaches you how to use your story to support your brand in video and photos.
p.s. I’d love to connect on social media and hear your questions and concerns about being in front of the camera.