In this article by Blue World City, the owner and Creative Director of Pontodesign agency answers all the questions you have ever asked about visual identity. Check out
Visual identity: What it is, where it lives and what it feeds on
First things first. So let’s get this straightened out, okay?
According to Agência Pontodesign, which has already been elected the best design agency in Brazil for Branding projects, a company’s visual identity is the set of items that are used in the company’s communication materials.
Among these items are: the logo, typography, graphics, colors, images and also non-tangible aspects, such as sensations, values and principles to be transmitted.
All this design and communication arrangement aims to identify and individualize the brand, making it unique in the market. It also helps to create brand memory in the consumer’s mind.
Why is it so important to have a well-developed visual identity?
We, agency owners, are very clear on the distinction between a good visual identity, and what is a “more or less” brand manual, which does not express any identity.
The problem is that our customers are not always able to understand this. So, we usually help them to realize this, forcing them to reflect on their personal experiences. Want to see it?
A commercial starts, cheerful music in the background. There are happy people around a table, who are of different ethnicities, ages and styles. The film brings a message of optimism, which inspires all people in the world not to give up and to face the horizon as a new challenge to overcome this moment.
If you were watching, for sure just by the direction of photography, even before the red background with the white letters appeared, you would already know that this is a Coca Cola commercial.
Coca Cola, McDonalds, Itapúa, Heineken, Apple and several other companies are examples of the communication strength that a strong visual identity has.
And what’s the lesson here? That the best brand design in the world cannot communicate anything without a coherent visual identity that is aligned with the values that the brand wants to communicate.
Visual identity x Branding
You may be asking yourself: if I recognize the brand by its visual identity, that is, its commercials and materials, isn’t that the same thing as branding?
No, it’s not. I will go through this subject very objectively, as this is not the focus of the post. But, in short, the visual identity is the set of elements that are able to communicate the brand’s values.
Branding, on the other hand, is the process of managing all these variables. Your goal is to get the brand fixed – or to position the brand – in the consumer’s mind, as intended.
The two things are totally intertwined and one does not exist without the other. It is impossible to manage branding if the brand does not have a strong visual identity. But the terms are not synonymous, ok?
Often a brand even has a strong visual identity, but it needs to go through a rebranding process, for example. This happens so that the brand can grow and expand to new horizons.
So what is included in a good visual identity?
Whether among designers, or between agency owners and their clients, this is always a topic that generates discussion. After all, what does it have to have in the visual identity?
The truth is that in addition to there being no consensus on this, there is no right or wrong. It all depends on the brand’s communication goals and this takes into account your market (who are your customers, competitors and suppliers). Therefore, each case is different.
But some items that are not usually lacking are: logo, color, and typography. It can also include the style of images that are used for advertisements, banners, and post photos.
When to create or update a branding?
This is another point that always raises doubts, both for us and for our customers. Should I redesign my brand or visual identity? If yes, when? In this article, the author simplifies Philip Kotler’s concepts a little, and points out the three things that, according to him, justify the need for change:
1. Change in the competitive landscape
Or, using Kotler’s concept of marketing environments, change in the company’s external environment. Sometimes a segment undergoes so many changes, in such a short time, that it ends up being almost disfigured.
In this scenario, especially for older competitors in this segment, it is difficult to remain relevant. Since changing a brand always has a higher cost of implementation, it is sometimes possible to make a presence with a branding update.
A practical example of this occurred a few years ago, when the market for transport companies was modernized, evolved and the segment came to be called logistics. BBM, a company with many years on the road, saw the need to update its brand and, above all, its visual identity. Only then could she start the subscription with the term “logistics”.
2. Changes in the organization
Kotler points out that sometimes, changes in the company’s internal marketing environment end up having such an impact that they demand a shock in the perception that customers have of that brand, so that this change is understood.
As an example of this, we can mention the change of the health operator Untimed Curitiba. Untimed even had its own laboratory, but there were only 3 points, always at the back of the service units and without much visibility. When they decided to migrate to 17 units, they had to change everything very markedly, so that there would be a quick and deep impact on the minds of their potential customers.
3. Changes in customers
Sometimes a competitor who wants to enter a competitive market or an existing player in that market, realizes before others that customers have changed.
This is certainly one of the most delicate situations of the three that we present here. This is because its success is closely linked to the company’s ability to correctly identify changes in the way customers relate to existing products.
An example of a brand that managed to capture this well was Maniacs Brewery, from Curitiba. The company had been working with importing special beers for over 15 years, so “you can say” that they were in the segment.
But at the end of 2015 they realized that in addition to the customers who bought the high-quality imported beer they distributed, a new – much larger – segment of people wanted access to good craft beer.
The problem is that these people did not want to pay R$ 20.00 or sometimes even R$ 25.00 reais to buy a long neck. Then the path became clear. They should create a craft beer brand, which expresses the quality that the product has, but does not deviate from a more rational approach to price.
And that’s how Maniacs emerged, with a much more cool and irreverent identity, which connects with its audience without failing to show the quality of its product.
Visual Identity and Digital Marketing
Ok, we understand that the visual identity is very important for a brand to be successful in its marketing strategies. This was clear, because as was shown in the case of Maniacs or Lab oratorio Untimed, without a strong visual identity, brands simply do not even communicate with their potential customers.
But we still have a question that customers love to ask, and we don’t always know how to answer. In Digital Marketing, is visual identity as important as in offline marketing?
The answer is easy: yes.
Let’s follow the same route that was proposed above, and let’s think about digital brands in our surroundings… Don’t you remember? Okay, we have a pretty good one to exemplify. Have you ever heard of RD Station?
So, for us who have been on the Digital Marketing journey for a few years, it’s even difficult to call RD Station the company Result Digitais. After all, we’ve been told thousands of times that one thing was the company, and another the platform.
But not anymore. Today, Digital Results is RD Station.
And guess what, the change was made just a few months ago and it was completely digital. As of this writing, we are in the middle of the pandemic and since it was launched in December 2020, there has been no physical event for the company.
So how did they manage, in such a short time, to position a new brand?
Certainly, this is the result of a very well-conducted branding work. But even more certainly, this was only possible because the entire visual identity was carefully created. It covered all fronts where this brand would be consumed and, more importantly, it was already developed with the digital environment in mind.
And taking advantage of RD Station’s work hook, what does it have to have in a visual identity for it to be considered good?
Looking at what they’ve done, there has to be a platform that can deliver what’s needed. In this case, they created a hotsite, which has a movie and presents everything about the brand’s new concept, for anyone who wants to see it.
The more the country and the world become unstable, the more the economy shakes and the more some players that were “holding on” tend to topple over. And believe me, this is something natural. Let’s propose another metaphor to help explain.
Let’s think of a forest fire, started by lightning, in an uninhabited forest. Many species will die, some large trees will fall, but after a while, various other life forms will emerge from the breaches and new spaces that fire has created.
We know that for some the scene above may seem a little sad, even aggressive, but that’s what nature is like, and the market is like that too. We human beings live in eternal change. This is the result of our constant dissatisfaction, which makes each day new solutions, products, flavors and experiences emerge, and change our opinion about something.
We, the professionals and companies that help entrepreneurs who need to be constantly connecting and reconnecting to their customers, have in our visual identity a powerful tool to achieve our communication goals.