In the eyes of your audience, images can add presence, power and clarity to communications, or they can be irrelevant, uninspiring and off-putting. Here, we explore the considerations in choosing a suite of images that will create positive brand associations and be the ‘call to action’ your business needs.
FROM LOGO, TO NO GO
In the world of brand identity and design, it is somewhat easy to choose a logo, colour palette and typeface for your business from a selection that your agency has presented – and think that your identity is complete. People often underestimate the power of visual imagery across the many different marketing channels available. In fact – the style of additive visuals will really help to further define an identity and represent the unique style and voice of your brand.
Imagery is often an afterthought to brand identity and yet it could be solely responsible for making or breaking a brand.
WHAT YOU SEE ON THE TIN?
Good visual imagery doesn’t always have to be directly relevant to your product or service, although many product lead businesses find this works best for them. Take a fashion brand like Gucci, where products themselves are heavily branded. It makes sense that they are consistently exposed in imagery in a stylised way – to create product demand and for the call to action in buying the product.
However, service lead businesses often choose to use imagery that reflects their brand personality or values, to connect emotionally with their audience and to influence their decision in using the service. In some very competitive industries, where the product or service is readily available from many businesses, brand imagery is a key strategy in differentiating from competitors and in the fight to create the strongest bond with the consumer.
So if your imagery isn’t directly relevant to your product or service, what is it relevant to? A brand isn’t just a visual description of your offering. Your brand should have a personality, a voice, and a set of values.
You need to create your ‘brand essence’ and your imagery plays a big part in this.
So if your brand personality is friendly and approachable, and one of your values is trustworthy – images that have connotations of these should both reassure and inspire your audience.
Just as important as product, service, and brand, is audience. Unless you use imagery that speaks to, and connects with your audience, you risk losing their interest. Make sure your images talk to your audience and show that you are offering the chance for them to engage and respond.
There are key elements to consider in your imagery which will influence the connection with the audience and give your brand an independent and unique identity.
You can work to a particular theme, or different themes over time. For example you may choose imagery that depicts ‘movement’ or ‘momentum’. For Clockwise, we chose a geometric theme for our new website imagery to portray structure, and attention to detail, and to give all the imagery a common thread.
You may want to consider black and white imagery, but in the case of colour photography, you may want to create different contrasts, or tints – or a sepia filter to apply across all your images.
This should also be consistent across imagery. Perhaps you want to use illustrations, or perhaps a type of photography – panoramic, motion, macro, or time-lapse are just some examples.
Manipulating images will set a mood for your brand. Consider tints, vibrancy, contrast, saturation and blurring.
BUDGETING FOR YOUR BRAND IMAGE
Maintaining a brand style to be ‘up to the minute,’ requires a budget. Investing in good imagery, and keeping it fresh is in some cases difficult to justify, but will always be money well spent in our opinion! The most popular way to buy imagery is via a stock library, like i-stock, Shutterstock, or Getty Images.
It is important to note that you are acquiring the right to use a photo in a certain way, not the property of the photo itself. The photographer holds the copyright, and the agency sells different types of licenses which govern how the photo is used. You may have heard of ‘Royalty Free’ Imagery. This refers to a license which allows the buyer to pay just once for a varied set of rights to the image use. Another purchase option is a licence whereby the customer must pay royalties to the copyright owner, the agency, or both, every time they use the photo. This is a more complicated option, as there is usually a requirement to work out the ‘reach’ of your campaign or photo exposure. Your creative agency will usually manage photo rights and calculate costs as part of each project. Finally if you really want bespoke imagery and your product and/or people in your imagery – you will need to commission a photographer.
In choosing your imagery, you will need to factor in the different marketing channels that you will be using, but this will usually only affect the format of your imagery. For example images for print will require a different format to images for the web.
The look and feel of your imagery should remain the same across all forms of media to ensure a strong and consistent identity
- Ensure your brand personality and brand values have been identified and you have buy-in from the rest of the organisation.
- Create a list of words that speak for your brand, in order to find fitting visuals.
- Create themed lightboxes in free stock libraries to make use of free photography.
- Don’t allow ‘imagery by committee’. Everyone will have different preferences when it comes to imagery and its important you stick to what is best for the brand.
- Choose bold imagery that sticks in the mind and provokes a call to action.
- Ensure that your imagery is relevant to your brand AND your audience.
- Beware of clichéd niches. The evolution of free online stock photography means a limited selection that many others
are also using.
- Use imagery of real people within your organisation to increase credibility.
- Ensure your images are of high quality. Large, pixel perfect, high resolution images look the best.
- Get the right balance of text and imagery.
- Set a budget for imagery and consider commissioning a photographer for imagery unique and bespoke to your brand.
- Make sure an ‘imagery section’ is included in your Corporate Brand Guidelines – so everyone working with your brand knows the rules!