The process of creating your brand is a necessary, thorough, and sometimes challenging process. The process of fleshing out your brand can be months in the making. It largely depends on the depth of your brand guidelines and whether they’re drawing from existing materials to define look and feel, voice and tone, and usage.
After all that, you may not believe you’ll need supplemental guidelines that move beyond your overall brand. Yet initiatives like launching a new product, creating a sub-brand, or reaching out to just one of the target audiences for your brand are often too specialized or unique to rely solely on your company-wide brand guidelines.
Imagine you’re a gaming company. Your brand guidelines are bold, but with a wide appeal. That’s necessary since there are so many types of gamers and so many types of games. You develop a first-person shooter game, a puzzle game set underwater, and a role-playing game. Would you choose the same fonts for all 3? The same colors? Do you feel that the target audience for all 3 would likely overlap?
No. That’s why each needs a unique visual language, apart from the marketing and branding you use for your game company. Each game should have a visual language with components that are carefully selected for that game’s audience and goals.
If you’re embarking on a visual campaign or launching a new product, you’ll likely need a visual language. But how do you know if what you’re doing is a visual campaign? And what is a visual language?
Visual Campaigns and Visual Language Defined
A visual communication campaign targets 1 goal, or a few directly related or non-contradictory goals. It does so by strategically producing and sharing visual content optimized for that goal. It also has a unified look and feel across all assets.
If you want multiple aesthetics, you’re working on multiple campaigns. Same thing if your initiative is trying to reach more than one audience, accomplish several unrelated metrics, or tell multiple stories. That’s an indication you need multiple campaigns. Alternately, if staying broad works for your goals, it could be a brand-wide initiative for which your brand guidelines make sense.
When you’ve got a focused initiative, it will benefit from its own visual language. A visual language goes beyond the fonts and colors that your brand guidelines encompass. It specifies a unique style for icons and illustrations, defines appropriate usage across deliverables, and may have unique voice and tone notes as well.
You May Need More Than Your Brand Guidelines If You’re Targeting …
A Specific Audience
Most businesses have more than one audience. For example, at Killer Infographics, our audiences and customers span nearly every industry. Yet even if your core customer is quite specific, you likely also have messaging geared towards specific groups. This could include your industry, the media, potential investors, and more.
A visual language can help establish the ways in which you visually communicate with distinct audiences for specific purposes. Investors, for instance, will be more interested in certain facets of your brand that the media isn’t as keen on. You lose focus and impact by trying to reach both audiences with the same visual approach.
A Specific Channel
Like your audiences, different outlets also have varying personalities. That’s in large part because their own target audiences tend to differ from one another.
Yes, people are often members of more than one social media channel. However, demographics (particularly age) do influence which channels people use. Your Snapchat messaging should probably be geared towards Generation Z and younger millennials. You can guess why: only 7% of adults 50+ say they’re on the platform compared to 78% of those 18–24.
Meanwhile, YouTube has high participation from both adults 50+ (56% use it) and adults 18–24 (94% use it). That means your approach for YouTube content can be broader. Alternately, you may choose to produce 2 unique campaigns for YouTube. That way, you gain that specificity back by creating a separate set of assets for each audience.
A Niche Offering Within Your Brand
Your company may have a core set of products or services that it’s known for or that make up the bulk of its revenue. Yet business is always evolving. Successful organizations often find themselves at a crossroads where they need to embrace a new approach, new technology, or new subset of offerings.
To prove that these departures are worth consumers’ attention, it’s important to distinguish them in the market. That includes visually distinguishing their marketing from the rest of your offerings. In that case, using the same branding will work against you. Creating a visual language for your new product or line of products will help ensure they stand out and gain attention.
Your brand guidelines are a vital asset for your business. That said, they aren’t the only resource you need to create great visual content. When embarking on a visual campaign involving unique goals, specific audiences, particular platforms, or niche products or services, invest in a visual language before you dive in. You won’t regret the level of clarity it brings to your marketing strategy.