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What are you looking like that for?

We’re all aware of the importance of building a strong brand, so why is it that companies don’t give their visual assets the consideration they deserve?

It’s interesting that, both from a consumer or trade perspective, as consumers we are all looking to brands for emotional connections when we’re looking to buy.

Whether we’re seeking to form relationships with brands or with other people, we’re prepared to put in the groundwork, simply because relationships are important to us. We all love forging relationships as human beings.

There are those that will swear blind that they only every buy based upon price, but don’t believe them – even the most hard-nosed procurement officers will be influenced to some degree by their understanding of a brand and the product with the greater brand equity will always have a greater perceived value to them.

With this in mind, what I don’t understand is that, even with brands that have undergone well-executed brand development exercises, some companies seem quite prepared to produce imagery that looks exactly the same as their competitors. Large amounts of effort and expense may have gone into fine-tuning core values, tone-of-voice, personality and a proposition relating to a brand strategy in order to stand out from the opposition and make its offerings irresistible, only to create me-too imagery. This is a shame because we’re all attracted to photography and video and looking for something that we can identify with, especially if it reflects the perception that we have formulated about a brand.

Stranger still, if you compare companies’ social media feeds such as Instagram, you will see that it’s not just a few companies that are guilty of this behaviour, but the vast majority. If you were to take any sector in the military market, then take a screen shot of half a dozen Instagram feeds – if you were to swap the logos about, in the majority of cases nobody would notice! In that respect, rather than saying ‘look at us, we’re a bit different, manufacturers are saying ‘look at us, we’re all the same’. So much for differentiation in the marketplace.

How do we improve upon this? It’s really quite easy…

Implementing core values

If you’ve conducted a core values exercise and worked out what those values mean, then apply them to your imagery. For every value, there’s a photo opportunity to project that value. With a little more thought, your videos can start to play out the role of delivering your brand promises. By the way that scenes are lit and the environments that you use and possibly filters/background colours, your visual assets can support these promises and show that they are real … “Hey, we’ve promised that this brand stands for X, Y and now look – you can see that it’s true!”.

Creating unique assets

If you’ve formed a distinctive brand identity, put it to good use. Maybe your logo has been formed using a symbol which can be adapted into a graphic – maybe a frame that all your images can sit within, or be used to offer uniqueness to your visual offerings. It might otherwise look in some ways similar to the next guys, but with that stamp of ownership, you’re suddenly looking different and proud to say ‘this one’s ours’.

Social media feeds, with a little more brand consideration can become YOUR social media feeds, embellished with subliminal brand antiquity that’ll delight your followers looking for that little reminder of why they’re attracted to you in the first place and not your opposition.

It doesn’t have to be over-engineered. A simplistic look and feel can be even more effective. Take Apple for instance, who kept to clean white backgrounds and minimal type. You can spot Apple imagery from a mile away on posters, adverts and packaging - even if you removed the logo.

Keep it relevant

Avoid anything that is not relating directly to your brand claims or it won’t relate to your audiences. Images created for effect without consideration of your brand messaging can only lead to confusion and distrust. Scantily-clad models or other gimmicks that have been invented in the hope that you can catch someone’s attention will inevitably be a disaster for any brand and can only work for commodity products that are simply battling it out in a price war. Clothing brand, Benneton have stopped creating provocative, but controversial images due to a drop in sales. It now aims to celebrate “the beauty of everyday moments and everyday emotions”.

For imagery to work effectively, it needs to offer a reward to its audience. If you have an affinity with a brand, then the images and video that you watch should leave you feeling a little indebted – if you get a nice warm feeling after looking at great things, then you will remember it and want more. If a person made you feel better about yourself, you’d like to repay them with a similar gesture, but this is not possible with a brand of course. As such, the only way to settle the debt is to buy it. That’s how it works.

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