As anyone who has started a company can tell you, building a strong and cohesive brand is not an easy thing. Of course, an appealing graphic design has been an important part of it since large commercial brands exist. The broad digitalisation of marketing has also put new techniques forward which have become a requirement, such as a solid web design & development and, more recently, factors such as social media performance and search engine optimisation (SEO). However, beyond the technological innovations that set new standards every couple of years, branding strategies have also had to adapt and transform themselves according to wider cultural trends and the set of changes in consumer expectations and desires that result from them.
Branding: New Consumer Trends
One such trend is evident in the shift of branding and marketing strategies towards inbound marketing. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the paradigm shift to inbound marketing signals a widespread change in consumer attitudes toward brands. People are generally no longer willing (or even able) to engage with the traditional forms of interruption-based advertisements and with brands whose main purpose is simply to sell their products and services. Up until somewhat recently (perhaps a decade or two), brands tended to be neutral on everything else besides business, and their main means to build a customer base was through either low prices or high quality. In other words, brands tended to assume a noncommittal stance toward social and cultural values. However, what trends such as inbound marketing show is that customers are expecting (and desiring) something more from branding.
Branding and marketing strategists have known this for a while now, and they have been transforming brands in accordance to these expectations. The nowadays widespread way to do this has been by building holistic and well-rounded identities based on values that customers can identify with. Admittedly, if you look at top-tier brands, this might not look like such a new thing. High fashion branding, for instance, has historically espoused values that go beyond functionality, but these have usually been either aesthetic or structured around class signifiers (exclusivity, sophistication, etc). However, new generations of consumers have demanded (either outspokenly or implicitly through their consumer choices) that brands take a clearer stand vis-à-vis the social, political, and environmental problems that abound in our contemporary world. In short, more and more customers are opting to put their money where their beliefs are. The buzzword in the title of this post is pointing precisely towards this new trend in branding.
The Consumer Demand for Conscious Brands
As branding strategist Shantini Munthree explains in a recent interview, a conscious brand can be defined as one that “takes a stance on a larger social, political or cultural debate”. Conscious branding can be understood as an umbrella term that encompasses other more commonly heard terms such as sustainable branding and responsible branding albeit emphasising the clarity and transparency that purpose-driven businesses have to assume when expressing their underlying values. Consumers are more attentive to the actions of companies than ever before, and they are increasingly unwilling (and rightfully so) to stand behind companies who don’t take a stand on social issues or which limit themselves to paying lip service to the most popular of them. If contemporary branding practices generally aim to remove the perceived distance between business and brand, with conscious branding this means that businesses have to be transparent and act according to the core values on which their brand image is built.
Getting Your Message Through
As a brand, assuming a strong posture, clearly-defined political values, and transparency in your actions is only half of the story. Beyond making things more visually appealing, graphic design is an essential communication tool to express these values and to craft a strong brand identity in line with them. A brand’s graphic dimension goes way beyond the design of an appealing or eye-catching logo. Rather, it is a matter of developing a visual identity with a cohesive concept and a close connection to the core values of the brand.
It is important to visually establish the identity of the brand from the beginning (defining things such as colour palette, typography, etc.) and stick to it throughout the different platforms. Not doing this is a common problem for many brands, and it is bound to cause issues farther along the road. Having a cohesive visual identity throughout the different platforms is essential for how your audience will perceive and engage with your brand as a whole.
Furthermore, to reach a target audience, a brand needs digital tools for web design and development and SEM/SEO strategies. In other words, you don’t only need a strong and clear message, you also need to get it through to the right people, that is, those that will identify with your values and also be interested in the service or product you offer. For instance, you might build your brand identity according to a set of clearly-defined political values (like Ben & Jerry’s does) and be transparent regarding how you act in line with them, but perhaps your SEO is not up to speed and you won’t appear on the search results of the people you would like to. Or maybe your web design is not clear, intuitive or engaging enough, and the message you are trying to get across is lost in translation.
Here at Wombat we can assist you with all these issues. We can help you implement a conscious branding strategy for your business and also help you to get the message through to the right people by using the latest digital marketing tools.
Would you like to have your business express strong values and political stances which your customers can identify with? Get in touch with us through our contact form to book a consultation!