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Marketing for small business owners can present many challenges. One facet that is most difficult is selecting pictures and visual elements that clients and customers will enjoy and resonate with. Visuals and imagery have the potential to be personal to any individual. They highlight a wide range of emotion, both pleasing and unfavorable. In the current digital world where images are paramount, a picture’s worth far exceeds a thousand words.

The use of effective images will result in sales. The insufficient photos will steer consumers to your competition.

Obviously, you want to portray images throughout your marketing and communications that your target audience will be attracted to. Although, digital imagery is much more complex than just that.

This guide will explore what you need to know in order to choose photos and other various visual elements that set your business apart, maintain the positive mental image, and have your customers take the initiative you’d like them to take. (Buy from us! And buy more!)

Imagery: the foundation

Brand imagery is more than just choosing a photo, color, or other visual element because you personally enjoy it.

It involves translating the context, goals, and persona of your business. It takes a lot of careful thought and honest initiative on your end to do that.

Once you have a clear grasp of the personality of your business, you can adopt visual elements that communicate everything you need to your customers—no words needed.

Brand imagery is the visual depiction of your brand. It involves every element consumers physically see that they then relate with your company. These elements can take various forms, from your company logo all the way to photographs and videos.

The purpose of brand imagery is to bring forth the correct messages through visual elements to people inside your designated target audience. This is done so they may feel the intended emotions and take the intended action when they encounter your brand.

The strongest brand imagery would be multi-sensory. Consider:

  • Does a vivid, glistening picture of a Coke bottle make you taste the drink?
  • Can a tasteful and detailed picture of a fresh Domino’s pizza make you smell pepperoni?
  • Could an image of a Columbia puffer jacket make you feel its comfort on a snowy day?

Brand imagery versus brand image: the distinction

Although the wording is comparable, brand imagery is vastly different from brand image (which is also called brand identity).

Brand image is how society sees your business. The brand imagery you choose influences how your brand image is received. Imagery is a compelling, but more limited, aspect of brand image. Brand identity is broader and more important than brand imagery. Your company identity is predicated upon various factors, including how company staff is treated, charitable donations, the practices of your business, the press coverage it receives, along with the pictures it uses in its marketing.

Styles of brand imagery

Brand imagery encompasses many things, such as:

  • Animation
  • Background images
  • Color palettes
  • Composition rules
  • Emoji usage
  • Image filters
  • Icons
  • Illustrations
  • Infographics
  • Logos
  • Memes
  • Photos
  • Slide presentations
  • Typography
  • UI components
  • Videos

Certain elements of brand imagery are utilized by all companies, like color palettes, logos, and photographs. Others rely on a brand’s specific needs, such as videos and memes.

How brand images build brand image

Let’s examine a popular brand like McDonald’s to see the ways imagery boosts the comprehensive image of its brand. Consider McDonald’s use of:

  • Unmistakable golden arches
  • Pristine photos of hamburgers and french fries or other types of items on their menu
  • The exact shade of golden yellow on the “order now” button on their website and application
  • The signature red and gold in their restaurant design
  • The logo and coloring that appears on trash bins
  • The colors and pictures put on their packaging

There’s no need to see the name McDonald’s when you observe the items listed to know you’re at a McDonald’s.

The importance of brand imagery

In the previous McDonald’s example, the company has worked diligently to benchmark their brand in the brains of customers all over the world. That starts from its marketing agencies, communicators, architects, designers, and other knowledgeable visual professionals. From our first time at McDonald’s to our continued experience, people are aware of what to expect from the restaurant. Every location, every advertisement, and every online interaction is the same. The focus on consistent brand imagery has allowed them to curate a specific language that keeps it on the mind of people across the country, and the globe as a whole.

While McDonald’s is a large corporation, this approach to branding can ensure that your small business is above the rest in your industry or field.

Advantages of effective brand imagery use

Here are some of the advantages you can anticipate when taking the time and effort to make a brand imagery guide and be sure those who design work for you adheres to it:

  • The entirety of visuals lends itself to consumers’ idea of your brand, not just your name and logo.
  • Your individual style discerns you from your competitors.
  • You leave customers with a clear and positive impression every time they interact with you.
  • You can portray your mission without using words.
  • The design and picture choices can engineer positive feelings of your brand in the thoughts of consumers.
  • Relevant visuals give potential customers an avenue to connect with your brand.
    Using well-defined guidelines and enacting them reliably gives many ongoing advantages for your business.

Develop brand imagery guidelines for your business

There is no one true way to choose what your brand imagery should be. Although, pondering these questions can aid in your direction.

How do you describe your business?
What does your company provide for consumers, who is served by using your company, and why is it particularly special in the industry or area? The answer should be as straightforward and direct as possible and be easily expressible. These answers are your elevator speech because you should be able to sell a customer on choosing your business in the short length of an elevator ride. It also helps point the way to a visual look and feel that works for your own company.

What three words characterize the personality of your business?
The words will encapsulate the colors, images, and typefaces that serve your business. For example:

  • A smart business could use shades of elegant dark blue, charts and graphs, and a serious and professional font as its imagery.
  • An earth-friendly company could extend its virtues by use of the color green, photographs of nature, and a modernized typeface.
  • A folksy company could be represented through pastel color tones, photos of everyday people, and font that appears as if it’s handwritten.

What are your company’s values?
Your brand values are most important to its image. If you can bring forth these important business values, you will discover the ideals of your visual brand and what to portray.

Why do you like the brands that you do?
You don’t ever want to copy another company’s brand. It will seem disingenuous. However, taking note of other brands may help classify aspects that you like and could translate into yours.

What emotions do you want your brand to elicit?
Comprehending the emotions you want to elicit in your customers when engaging your brand aids in the development of visual guidelines.

  • A soothing brand will feature images of comfort and palettes of calming tones.
  • A dynamic brand entails breathtaking photos and loads of vibrant colors.
  • A patriotic one will use pictures of flags and uses the good old red, white, and blue.

Is your business related to a time or place?
Time and place plays an important role in visual branding for companies connected to a location, era, or both (think Philly cheesesteaks and Colonial Williamsburg). If this applies to your business, think about:

  • Usage of pictures that portray a period in history or storied location.
  • Selecting established or modern typefaces.
  • Choosing brand colors that tie to a moment in time (parchment beige) or a place (ocean blue).
    In many instances, history or location brings out strong feelings in customers.

Curate a visual style guide

Once you’ve picked all the aspects of brand imagery for your business, document these choices in a style guide. Obviously, most small business owners don’t have the knowledge to do this alone. Work alongside a brand expert or graphic designer such as the available ones through Sales Maven to do this. All you have to do is share the answers to the previous questions, in addition to any other insights about how you think your brand should be represented. A graphic design professional or brand expert can help organize them into a visual brand guide.

Upon completion, share it with everyone who does design work for you and educate them on critical points. It will enable everyone to consistently apply them to your branded platforms, including your website, social media posts, newsletters, etc. It will have a huge impact on how customers view your brand and business.