It is undeniable that strong, consistent visual brand language is an important marketing tool. If we take a moment to consider the companies and products that most resonate with us as consumers, visual messaging is undoubtedly a key player in creating an image and an identity around a particular product that makes us want to buy it. The power of strong visual impact and brand identity is such that it can make us choose the branded product over the no-name product, even though both products may have been made by the same manufacturer and contain exactly the same ingredients.
But branding is more than just a label. Ultimately, it has to do with the consumer’s perception of a company or product. It communicates who a brand is, what they stand for, and what differentiates them from competitors. Branding also gives consumers a sense of how they will benefit by purchasing from one company instead of another. Brand consistency is critical for driving profits; in fact, brands that offer consistent visual messaging reported an average revenue increase of 23%. In short, branding drives profits. Therefore, whether or not a product strategy supports what a brand is communicating visually can either make or break that product’s success. So how can this be achieved?
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER
Successful product strategy involves aligning marketing goals and objectives with the visual presentation of the product and its packaging. Not only is this important when minimizing risk during new product development, but it’s the magical combination of forces that will ultimately drive revenues. To achieve this, all departments of a company must be attuned to the needs and wants of their target consumer and work toward the ultimate end of meeting the consumer where they are. Voice of the customer (VOC) research can be a helpful tool toward this end, giving product developers the chance to tweak new products before they go to market, or for marketing and customer service teams to adjust different elements of the overall customer experience according to their needs and wants. Ultimately, visual branding is a tool that conveys identity, toward the larger goal of making connections with customers. Quite simply, successful product strategy begins and ends with the customer.
COMMUNICATE BRAND VALUES
The branding process for new products should ideally begin with a strategic assessment of the target market for that product, as well as overall brand values. The design of a product and its packaging and messaging should be built around the target audience and the values that a brand wants to communicate to them. For example, Apple’s simple packaging and concise messaging communicates one of its core brand values, which according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, is that “we believe in the simple, not the complex”. Named by Forbes as the world’s most powerful brand, Apple is an obvious example of how product strategy and brand messaging can align to drive incredible profits. Its sleek, simple, easy-to-use products also connect seamlessly with one another. We can run our Apple TV system from our iPhones, and sync our iPhone music library with our computers, all with the touch of a button. Apple’s sleek packaging isn’t just good design; it leverages the company’s strategy to make things as simple as possible for consumers - and ultimately, fill homes with Apple products.
ANCHOR TO CORE IDEAS
While some might think of branding as simply visual identifiers of a product, a brand has to do with the overall impression customers have of a company or product, based on their own perceptions and interactions. Strong branding is built on strategic awareness, not just of the consumer and what they think, but on adherence to core ideas that drive the product strategy from behind company doors.
Successful brand strategy occurs when brands identify a space they can occupy where their target market already exists and that is not impossibly competitive. From here, brands can anchor themselves to core ideas that they want their customers to know them for. Consistent messaging supports these ideas, building over time a picture for consumers of how the brand will benefit them. The initial anchor point of core ideas and values is always a brand’s most important strategic position, and all departments should be able to tether themselves to it.
The digital revolution has created highly competitive markets in virtually every field. In this environment, it is more important than ever for brands to achieve alignment between product strategy and their visual presentation and messaging. By building strategy outward from core values and ideas, strong and aligned visual messaging can give lift-off to those ideas and ultimately continue to drive profits through audience engagement.