Every successful brand has a clearly defined visual identity outlined in something like a brand book or brand guidelines. In order to be truly useful to your marketing department and your company as a whole, your brand's visual identity should include a codified system of visual elements that express your brand's purpose, values, ambitions, characteristics, and promise.
But how can you actually act on these visual standards? How do you know whether the materials you produce -- from conference collateral to social media marketing assets to internal communications -- accurately interpret your visual identity? And how do you make sure the content you're producing is resonating with your specific audience?
The answer lies in how you launch any particular marketing campaign or project. Your first step should be to develop a visual strategy for that campaign. Let's take a look at what that means, why it's important, and how you can achieve it.
Why You Need a Visual Strategy
With the right visual strategy in place for your campaign and/or your brand as a whole, you'll never again produce a piece of visual content that portrays your brand or message inaccurately. Instead, each motion graphic, interactive experience, and conference presentation you create will be strategically positioned to achieve particular goals. And with this goal-driven approach, success and returns are just around the corner.
Developing a Visual Strategy for Your Campaign
A well-defined visual strategy can assure the success of any project, whether it's a marketing campaign or an internal communication push. Why? Because it's fundamentally goal-driven.
A visual strategy looks at your target audience and the goal you want to achieve for a particular campaign or project. It then defines a visual content solution that speaks to your audience in order to achieve that goal. Part of that solution is identifying all the types of content you need to produce and where that content should be distributed.
Another factor that the visual strategy will define is the creative direction: the color palette, illustration styles, and other visual elements that will be most engaging for your audience, and best deliver your message. Your visual strategy must balance the requirements of your brand's visual identity, while also accounting for the unique needs of your specific audience and campaign.
Ultimately, your visual strategy will serve as an essential guide, ensuring that every piece of content within your campaign serves your end goal and speaks to your audience.
It should be clear by now why a visual strategy is so valuable for content marketers. You're trying to achieve measurable results. Maybe you want more people to fill out your contact form; or you could just be looking to build your social-media following. A visual strategy helps you develop content that is better optimized for achieving those results.
The Role of Brand Guidelines
Your visual strategy must adhere to the overall world of your brand's visual identity, but must also account for your audience, and interpret your brand's visual identity in a way that speaks visually to that audience. It can also introduce additional visual elements that aren't in your brand book. Or it can suggest a different way to use some of your brand elements -- say, your color palette -- than what is outlined in your brand guidelines. That's because your brand book can't possibly anticipate every potential use case.
This is where your campaign's visual strategy comes in. Every campaign has its own goals and character, and the visual content you produce should reflect that. If you're launching a particular product or sub-brand, it might only be appealing to a particular segment of your audience. That means that the look and feel of your campaign, too, must be more targeted.
For instance, imagine you're working at a shoe company that makes a broad variety of styles, from business-professional to casual and sportswear. What if you're launching a hip, new sneaker designed to appeal to Generation Z? Your visual strategy for that campaign needs to be different from your brand-wide visual strategy. You need visual content that feels youthful, energetic, and fun -- a very different look and feel from what you would need to market comfortable loafers.
Ensure that your campaign's visual strategy identifies style and usage guidelines for illustrations, data visualization, iconography, photography, animation style, and anything else that may apply. That way, it can guide the proper approach for every piece of content you produce.
A key part of your visual strategy will be the development of a visual language for your campaign. This visual language will serve as a style guide for your marketing campaign, outlining the specific usage of key brand elements, additional visual elements, and how all of those factors should be used to speak to your specific audience. You might want to only use specific colors from the brand's visual identity, and have each color only be used for particular types of content. Or you might add a different illustration direction that, while staying true to the brand's visual identity, offers a new approach for connecting with this specific audience.