Visual strategy encompasses the creative and analytic decisions that inform any visual expression of a brand. Developing an effective visual strategy will be essential to the success of your next content marketing campaign, because it will ensure all the visual assets that comprise that campaign remain true to your goals and your values. So whether your organization is working with an in-house team or an agency specializing in strategy, you’ll want to make sure you lay out a clear plan for how your brand will be represented.
Here are 8 questions to ask when developing your next visual strategy.
1. Who is my audience?
Your audience should always be your first consideration whenever you are producing any content — whether it’s a single social media image or a year-long content marketing campaign.
Use all the tools available to you — such as your CRM system, market research, customer personas, segmentation studies, and customer interviews — in order to develop an accurate understanding of the audience you are attempting to reach. The more data, the more accurate a picture of your audience you’ll have.
2. What action do I want my audience to take?
A single piece of content should only ever attempt to tackle a single goal. Multiple goals can derail the messaging of any collateral, resulting in lackluster performance.
If your campaign has multiple goals tied to it, it’s important that each individual piece of visual content only targets a single action. Otherwise you risk muddying your message.
3. Why would my audience want to take that action?
The goal of each piece of content must be realistic and incredibly specific to your target audience. You must determine the single most compelling reason that your audience would take the action you want them to.
Significant time must be spent to truly understand the core motivators of your audience. You’ll want to identify how your product or service can solve that problem for them — and how you should communicate this. If you’re working with a visual strategy agency, they’ll be able to make informed recommendations as to what combination of visual assets are best suited for helping your brand build those connections.
4. Where does my audience live?
All the content you produce must always meet your audience where they live. What social media channels are they most active on? What’s their response rate to quarterly email newsletters? Promotional emails? What news websites do they prefer?
After identifying all these channels, your content should be produced in a way that is optimized for each outlet.
Determining which platforms your audience prefers naturally leads to insights about the types of content your audience likes to interact with. This will help you make design-related decisions as you develop your visual strategy:
5. Who is my brand?
Every piece of visual content you produce must stay true to your brand’s core identity and promise. A brand book is a great place to start. There, you can find guidance on typography, color, photography, and overall creative direction. Is your brand playful and lighthearted? Serious and sophisticated? Look for specific guidelines to steer your creative in the right direction.
6. How much room does my brand allow for creative?
A brand is a living creature. It can evolve and adapt over time. Therefore, while it is important to maintain brand integrity throughout all content production and strategy planning, always seek out opportunities for exploring new creative directions that remain true to the brand’s visual identity.
Visual strategy for a particular campaign will skillfully combine those new directions with your organization’s visual identity. By applying specific portions of the brand’s color palette in a unique way, or perhaps introducing a new series of iconography, you can visually highlight the newness of whatever product you are promoting. This makes your campaign stand out from the crowd.
7. What’s my budget?
Producing quality visual content requires significant time and expertise. Once you have identified your campaign goals and budget, the next step is to develop the right visual strategy to fit those parameters.
Your visual strategy will outline not just how all the elements you create should look, but also what pieces of content should be produced and how they should fit together in a larger content ecosystem.
If your budget is limited, focus on identifying the few key types of content that will most effectively deliver your message to your target audience, and invest all your energy into these. For instance, if a motion graphic that explains a new product offering is the ideal medium for your message, and if YouTube and other video-friendly platforms are your audience’s favorite places to interact with your brand, focus on creating a great motion graphic, and leave interactive microsites, infographics, and other assets for another day.
It is far better to produce a few high-quality assets than a haphazard collection of “quick-and-dirty” pieces. 94% of a consumer’s first impressions of a brand are based on design, so it’s important to prioritize quality over quantity.
How a visual strategy agency can help your brand
When you’re working with a design agency to produce your visual content, you’re likely to end up with some beautiful designs. But that doesn’t mean these assets will be optimized to achieve your goals or reach your target audience.
A visual communication agency is fundamentally different. Their designers are specially trained in the accurate representation of information through visual design. What’s more, when the agency specializes in visual strategy, they’re equipped to guide your brand to the most effective combination of visual assets for any given campaign. That can make a huge impact. It ensures you’ll see a real return on your investment in the form of higher engagement and conversions.
So next time you’re planning a marketing campaign, outline a winning visual strategy first. It’ll make all the difference.