We, as a species, rely on vision as our primary sense. The fact that you are reading this right now is evidence of just how visual we are. Further evidence is the fact that audio browsers and technologies that make the Internet easier to use for blind persons are often ignored and occasionally despised by designers.
Need more proof?
Try this test – think about the following brands: McDonalds | NBC | Chevrolet
Now what did your mind do?
If you are like most people your brain flashed visual cues about those brands. You thought of the Golden Arches, The Rainbow Peacock, and what is refereed to as the “Bowtie” but looks more like a squished little cross of some sort. Either way you probably didn’t think of a smell (well maybe when it comes to McDonalds) and hopefully you didn’t have a very strong emotional reaction that trumped the visual thoughts that flood most peoples brains.
When these giants of commerce work on their brand they want you to be able to picture things about them and from there for your thoughts to cascade down to good emotional feels – happiness, contentment, etc.
So how do you as a small business owner make sure that your taking advantage of and maximize your visual marketing?
The first thing you have to think about is establishing your brand – what do you want the world to see, to think about, and to associate you with? Once you have an idea of what you want for your brand you need to find a way to establish a visualization of those principals – if you can use a professional graphic designer to help you come up with things like a logo, letterhead, business cards, and so on. If you have a, or plan to open, a physical location it might be well worth hiring a visual merchandizer or at least an interior designer that understands how to translate your branding into a great looking space.
Remember the important thing is to keep consistent and never loose sight of your brand.
So what if you can’t afford a professional graphic designer and a visual merchandizer for your store?
You can do these things on your own but you must understand that it will be easier (and more successful) for some people while others will struggle. If you think that it might be too difficult for you ask around, see if there are any family members who can help or if there is an art school that has students who can help you.
What you don’t want to do is try to go it alone and fail. Nobody wants to look unprofessional. Aside from the loss of self confidence you loose the confidence of your customers and that’s not something that you can afford. If you think that you cannot, on your own, create an effective and all encompassing visual marketing plan then you need to start saving so that you can pay for help.
Here are some key components to your visual marketing strategy:
Your logo – Clearly if there is one thing that defines your business it is your logo. Make sure that the message that you want conveyed to your clients is evident through your typeface, type-thickness, letter spacing, your colors, all aspects of the design. Don’t neglect thinking about how that logo will look small and large, as a 4 color print, a small black and white piece of your letterhead, and as a web graphic.
Your website – Your website is your 24 hours sales person. Even if you don’t do e-commerce you still offer vital information about your business and no client should see a disconnection between what they see on your website and when they experience your brand off-line.
Your signage – Don’t forget about things like awnings or sales signage in your window, signage on your vehicles, and billboards when you think about your signage. Speaking of on vehicle signage – makes sure that you are the most polite driver on the road. All it takes is a little aggressive driving to upset the branding that you’re working so hard on and spending so much money on. Keep that in mind when you are evaluating putting signage on your vehicle(s).
Print and Broadcast advertising – I’d also add radio which we don’t think of as being visual but it really is. When you pay for a radio ad your paying for someone to help your customers form a picture of your business. I’m not a huge fan of buying advertising until you can afford to have a really well and slickly produced ad put together – this is something that reaches a lot of people so you don’t want to be one of the many small businesses that produce really poor advertisements. If you do choose to pay for broadcast advertising make sure that you keep to the principals of your brand.
Remember that the eyes of the world are watching.