Start with an idea…
I’m listening to Leo Kottke as I write this. Each piece is different. Yet it’s all guitar (OK, except for a few crickets). It’s all (almost) music without words. Every note is his. Kottke’s style is distinct. There is no mistaking his music. It has a common feel to it, a common “thought”. That is branding.
To brand visually, it takes an idea first. What is the idea that the company wants to communicate to the audience? VISA’s new ad campaign starts a conversation with the customer about life. What does life take? The print, billboard and video portions of the campaign all carry out this thought. The look and feel of the mediums is similar, and it’s obvious in the print – same font, same font and logo placement, large photo. The “thought” rather than put into a lot of words, is communicated visually through photos. Words clarify it, or maybe I should say start the process. Yet an effective ad may also have more copy, but carry the same thought and feel.
It’s important to bring unity, visually, to a campaign, so that the customer recognizes it as yours. Yet is it necessary to have every ad look the same? In Cutting Edge Advertising by Jim Aitchison, Guido Heffels says “Everything you create for the brand should be driven by the same thought, the same idea. A few constant design elements may be helpful for a major brand to build up global presence, but if that’s all you’ve got, you will end up with a series of ads, not a campaign.”
Use similar elements – font, color, logo (of course) – to bring continuity to all of your visual marketing. But also vary the creative enough to capture the interest of the customer. You are creating a dialog with the customer, and good dialog means variety and inflection, and shuns monotony. In presenting a campaign, it’s the thought that counts.