Over the last year we have worked with many investment managers on their brand positioning and messaging, and how they can get cut-through, particularly when it comes to sustainability. The key? You need to be relevant, differentiated and authentic.
Visual identity is a crucial part of your brand’s identity. It influences how your brand is perceived and creates consistency across all your company’s visual elements. It is also imperative for gaining cut-through. Your visual identity is the collection of all the visual elements that represent and differentiate your brand, including your logo, website, marketing material, and the imagery you use. Clients judge based on what they see, so building a strong visual identity for your brand is critical in order to be a powerful brand.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” Paul Rand.
Spot the difference?
When it comes to brands’ visual identity in the sustainability and responsible investing space, we would argue that differentiated and authentic are often overlooked. We have recently examined industry advertising for sustainability campaigns. We found that much of the imagery is the same, used by various brands (often, most likely, stock imagery of trees and green, landscapes and windmills).
While we may know the subtle differences among different brands (because we do this for a living) it is quite difficult to tell one brand from another if there wasn’t a logo. This also suggests that the imagery which many brands use is not authentic.
When you then think about the money and time that have been invested in planning and implementing these campaigns, you want to do all you can to ensure your brand’s messaging does not get lost in the crowd.
“An authentic brand is one that decides to be transparent and consistent in its messaging and branding initiatives. It has business values it remains true to, and most essentially, it is honest.” (1)
It is not only important that brands differentiate themselves, but they must be consistent in their visual identity (and other elements of their brand) in order to be authentic. This has a direct link to how clients perceive a brand. If the messaging doesn’t feel true, they will find another brand that does – a brand that they can trust.
So what can brands do to stand out, while remaining authentic to their brand and relevant to the sustainability theme? There are a few areas you can consider:
1 - Photography
By investing in photography, you can be much more creative with the imagery you choose and find a unique angle. Not only can you build a library of images that no other business can tap into, but it also ensures consistency. This is an opportunity to capture something different to what is already in stock image libraries. Take the time to really think about what is it that you're going to photograph, how and why. It is important that your photography ties into your overarching brand style, so that it feels authentic and true to the brand.
2 - Typography
A typography-led strategy could go a long way. It is a powerful way of making sure that your words are heard. If you’re saying something impactful, the words don’t need imagery to back them up. It’s quite a bold way to make a statement.
3 - Illustration
Far from being the reserve of children’s books, illustrations can be an incredibly powerful way of getting a message across. It enables you to tell your story graphically and gives your team the freedom to create something that describes exactly what you want to convey. Depending on your brand’s style, it can be stylised, realistic, expressive or technical, giving you multiple ways of differentiation a lot of scope to be creative.
4 - Colour
We see a lot of blue and green when it comes to any sustainability imagery. Naturally so. It feels relevant and fits the message. However, if everyone is doing the same thing, brands can look very similar. Consider using colour combinations which aren’t as obvious, for example pinks and browns. It is likely to be much more impactful among a sea of green.
5 - Less is more
If we think deeply about sustainability, the way we market it should be sustainable as well, right? The way we produce promotional material has an impact on sustainability. We need to think consciously about streamlining and optimising.
Naturally, not all of these options will be viable for every brand. The most important thing when it comes to your visual identity is that it stems from your brand strategy and rings true to your brand. When it comes to the sustainability space: what is your company's stance? Have you established what type of business you are? When we talk about being authentic, it’s being clear on who you are, what you stand for and your purpose as a business. It’s only after you have that straight that you can create a differentiated approach that gets cut-through.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about any of this, or if you’d like to find out how we can help you with your brand strategy and visual identity positioning, we’d love to talk to you. Get in touch here.