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Stand out by Activating your Visual Brand

By Chad Gordon | July 28, 2021

Meeting outdoors about branding

You may have heard the phrase “Brand Activation” or “Brand Activation Plan.” Google it and you’ll find many different definitions, but it is essentially a process of generating brand awareness in order to build lasting relationships with your target audience through any kind of unique brand experience. Ok, yeah, it sounds a lot like Brand Marketing. And it is in some ways, but that’s a different subject for a different day.

Today, I want to borrow the word Activate to talk about your visual brand. And by visual brand, I’m talking about all the components people see: your logo, color palette, images, design, website, print collateral, etc. These components don’t just identify you, they play an important role in telling your story. 

What does it mean to activate my visual brand and why is it important?

No matter how good your logo is (old or new), just plopping it on a generic or templated website or marketing materials and calling it a day isn’t going to cut it these days if you really want to stand out. Why? Because that’s what everyone does. With stock images, off-the-shelf logos, templated websites and tools like Canva at everyone’s fingertips, it’s easy and fairly inexpensive to look professional and polished. While there is an appropriate time and place for these resources, it’s too easy to rely solely on them to tell your unique brand story. When that happens, your organization tends to look like everyone else – generic, unremarkable, unmemorable and lifeless. 

Modern, authentic and successful brands aren’t static, and they certainly aren’t templated. Activating your visual brand means creating a dynamic and engaging visual experience that is unique to you and that emanates through all your communications consistently. It’s not easy and it takes effort, but it is well worth it. 

What can I do to activate my brand?

It starts with the foundational piece of your visual brand – your logo. The importance of your logo goes well beyond simply identifying your name. It’s the cover of the book that is your brand story (How many of you have chosen a book solely on the cover art? I know I have!). This is why the logo is often the first thing developed when creating a new brand or rebranding. 

• Logos are the most recognizable brand identifiers at 75%, followed by visual style (60%), brand color (45%) and unique voice (25%) (RenderForest) NEED THE LINK

• 50% of consumers are more likely to patronize a brand with a logo that they recognize (Study Finds, 2020). 

• 60% of consumers avoid brands that have odd, unattractive or unappealing logos, regardless of if they received good reviews (Study Finds, 2020).

In the past, logos tended to be passive markers that were placed at the top of letterhead or the bottom corner of an ad. That has changed. Logos today are more dynamic. They play a more active role than simple identifiers. They move. They change colors. They grow and expand. They define, inform and interact with all of your visual design elements. 

As simple as logos are (and should be), they are comprised of the critical foundational elements of your visual brand: type, color, shapes and design style. Above all, every one of these elements should have meaning and purpose. Without that, your foundation is cracked and it’s going to be tough to build upon. 

A good designer will not only be thinking about how and where the logo is going to be used when designing, but also how these foundational elements can be expanded upon, in all communications, to create an immersive and memorable brand experience. This is activating your visual brand. For example:

Typefaces: Do not use the same typeface on all your communication materials that is used in your logo. You want your logo to stand out. Rather, pick a separate, neutral typeface that has a family of weights that complements your logo and use it on all communications consistently.  

Color: Your logo colors are your primary brand colors. Use these colors liberally as they become a major brand identifier. But remember, we want to build from that foundation to enhance your story. Pick a set of secondary colors that complement your primary colors. Keep your use of these colors minimal and use them as accents. Depending on how many primary colors you have, you only need two or three secondary colors. 

Shapes: Your logo is made up of shapes, whether it’s simply the shapes in your logos typeface or the shapes in your logomark (symbol). Pull individual shapes out of the logo and use them as patterns, backgrounds or supportive design elements. This can really tie a marketing piece or a corporate office space together.   

Design Style: Your logo should have a style and tone that reflects who you are as an organization. Whether its bold, friendly, fun, classic, modern, industrial, etc., this design style needs to be present throughout your communications beyond just the logo. Imagery and copy need to reflect this style and tone.

For Example, when we designed this logo for Endeavors we wanted to create an element in the logo that represented the systematic and intentional way they approach helping those in need. Their strength lies in being highly adaptable, to develop programs and services on the fly, and to solve immediate crises. The bars radiating from the custom designed E represent their system passion, their ability to plan, their agility and the energy that radiates from their central mission. 

To activate their visual brand, we used the bars and simple blue color palette from the logo as key design elements to further emphasize the brand identity and tie everything together visually.

Think of it this way, if you took out or covered your logo on a piece of your communications (website, sell sheet, tradeshow booth, etc.) would your audience still recognize that it’s yours? Would they still have the same visceral reaction or positive associations by what they are seeing? They should. And by following some of these tips, you’ll go a long way in activating your visual brand with purpose and meaning.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be one of my blogs without me mentioning brand guidelines. If you don’t have a way to define and manage all of these elements, it can, and will, go off the rails. 95% of companies have some form of brand guidelines but only 25% of companies have formal brand guidelines and actively enforce them. Why is this so important? It’s about maintaining brand integrity and consistency to maximize effectiveness. Consistent brand presentation can increase revenue by as much as 33%, and 60% of millennial consumers expect brands to be consistent across different platforms. So, yeah, I’m going to keep bringing this up. 

This article offers just a few surface-level examples of how to activate your brand. As always, we are here to help if you want to dig deeper, or need us to review your brand.

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Chad Gordon

Chad is the Creative Director, overseeing the development of virtually every original design. Chad studied photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a degree in photo illustration from Ohio University. In 1991 he worked with Reuben and Company as a photo assistant before joining designRoom as a designer the following year. Chad has received numerous national awards, has shared in his team’s many Addy Awards, and has had his work published in several international design publications. Chad is experienced in all phases of creative design, including concept development, art direction, photography, typography, print production, and website design. Chad’s specialties are photo illustration and identity development. His unique infrared photography has been shown in numerous galleries around northeast Ohio. He is an avid baseball man, a crafty pitcher with speed and movement on his fastball, and played on championship teams in the Roy Hobbs League.

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