A Panda Is Worth a Thousand Awws: Why You Click

February 20, 2015

8:00 pm

A great image has instant and lasting impact. Your mind probably jumps to breathtaking photos in National Geographic, but impactful and attractive imagery has a place in branding, too. Just think of the giant panda that represents the World Wildlife Fund. The cute face of the panda on the well-known logo elicits an emotional reaction and reminds you of the WWF’s cause.

Clear, attractive imagery builds trust in your startup. It tells your audience about your professionalism, your integrity, and the quality of your services, among other things. When that powerful visual element is missing from your branding, you risk alienating or boring your audience.

It’s hard to build community around an awkward, unclear symbol, but when you create a memorable logo — such as Starbucks’s famous Siren or Apple’s iconic fruit — you instantly turn viewers into followers. Use these five steps to craft the perfect brand image:

1. Understand your message. You need to decide on the exact message and set of values you want to convey before you start designing your brand’s image. What should people think when they see a piece of your branded content? How should they feel when they see your logo? Your brand’s tone and personality should resonate throughout everything you produce.

2. Get a designer on board. If you’re not a graphic designer, make friends with one, and bring him to your branding meeting. And even if you are proficient at design, sitting down with another design-oriented person and talking through your brand will uncover insights you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

3. Make a timeline and a branding document. It’d be nice if your absentminded doodles automatically translated into top-class brand messages, but unfortunately, they don’t. For your brand imagery to be effective, you need a plan of attack.

Craft a timeline that includes monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals for your brand. Map out your social media plan, blog post schedule, and newsletter strategy. Finally, create a branding document to complement your timeline. It should outline everything your startup believes in: its purpose, target market, pain points, etc. Let these documents guide everything you create.

4. Forge an emotional connection. People are four times more likely to buy from a brand with which they feel an emotional connection. For example, consumers see the Apple logo and immediately think quality and fun. They have an emotional engagement with the brand because Apple has put so much work into making itself a symbol of sexy technology. And when people see WWF, they just want to hug a panda. That works, too.

5. Field test in your network. It’s difficult to know how your imagery is going to be received until you expose it to others. Luckily, there are people out there who love meeting at coffee shops and talking about business. Treat some folks in your network to coffee, and see what they think about the direction of your brand. If they’re confused or unclear by what they see, you need to head back to the drawing board.

Use impactful, attractive images in your marketing, and you’ll cultivate a loyal band of followers willing to invest in your startup. You just need to define your message, nail your emotional connection, and be consistent. A picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure your logo is saying good things about your startup.

Image credit: Flickr/Chi King

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J.R. Garrett, co-founder of LogoGarden, a free DIY logo-creation platform, has years of startup and management experience, including early- through late-stage VC portfolio businesses. J.R. and LogoGarden are passionate about providing resources to entrepreneurs and startups.

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