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3 oft-overlooked branding lessons to avoid disastrous mistakes!

Happy day everyone,

This is such a key area of your business as we live in a visual world and as the cliche goes, a picture paints a thousand words so you need to choose your image well or who knows what story you will tell, as we will see when looking at the examples below!

We will discuss what business visuals are, why they are important and what happens when it goes wrong and what we can learn from those mistakes. Buckle in, pour a big mug of coffee as this is an important topic!

So what are Business visuals?

Business visuals are any visuals including photographs, graphics, and videos used in any aspect of your business. This means they span across your website, social media accounts, course content, promotional material and so much more.

Business visuals are any visuals including photographs, graphics, and videos used in any aspect of your business.

Including visuals can have a massive impact on your business KPIs including increased engagement, more memorable, and more shareable! They boost your engagement, get more views on your blog, help people retain your information and boost shareability of your content!

Visuals also boost your SEO efforts. Google promotes sites with good readability. Images improve readability according to Google and therefore Google will rank your web page higher.

Images also increase time spent on your page, which tells Google this is good content and it will rate it higher. Finally, if your images are pinned or shared across platforms, Google will again, see this as a positive sign and rank your page higher. So images really support all your SEO effort.

Your KPIs and ultimately the client experience is boosted by having a solid visual identity across your business. But it is so important to send the right message and connect with the right audience because high enagement is meaningless if you are not engaging with the right people! This is acheived by having a visual identity that is on brand. This lesson is really driven home when you look at times companies have gotten it wrong. But like all mistakes in life, we can learn from them.

When it is done wrong...and what we can learn from it - 2 examples of the many out there!

Example 1: Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner

Pepsi has had quite a few missteps in their visual identity but for me, the one that stands out is the advert they did to promote their new logo. They had Kendall Jenner leave a photoshoot to join some non-descript protest and give a policeman a Pepsi drink which somehow creates peace between the police and the protesters.

Aside from being awkward and confusing to watch - 'what does Pepsi have to do with social movements?', it was extremely tone deaf. This ad was released off the back of the rise of the BLM movement, the growing tensions between people of colour and the police, and touched into many extremely sensitive areas of vulnerability for vrious minority groups.

An overly cheery protest and Jenner facing the police in ways that mimic real-life protesters are some of the reasons this business visual failed!

This would have been fine, except they trivialised the movements such as BLM with creating a light almost parade/party like feel to the protest and then offered that a can of Pepsi was all it took to create peace.

They were aiming to connect with a younger audience - the infamous Millennials and they knew these issues and social responsibility mattered to them but what they missed was, they didn't matter to Pepsi as a company. It wasn't on brand for Pepsi to be engaging in social politics.

Pepsi failed to understand the depth of these issues, the genuine passion, fear, and drive for social change so to come out with such a shallow ad touching on these issues felt like a slap in the face of the viewers - the very people they wanted to connect with.

The brand visual - the ad, was not in line with a soft drink's brand and they failed to send the right message to the right people. People don't drink Pepsi to solve social inequality, they drink it because coke isn't available :P or well when they are thirsty.

In short, it didn’t connect with their demographic, it wasn’t on brand, or emotionally palatable. This mistake cost them a lot in terms of reputation but in sales also. They were at 33% of Millennials buying Pepsi and it hit an all-time low of 23% soon after that ad aired which it has stayed at since (bar a brief bump post a football ad launching a new flavour). (read more about this marketing mistake here & here The ad costing well into the millions to produce was pulled less than 48hours post-release from all outlets.

So what can we learn from all this as a small business?

Firstly, know your ideal client, not just in terms of buzzwords, but deeply. Remember, this will connect with them emotionally so thread carefully if touching on issues that are already emotionally charged. Don't avoid issues that matter, but do it genuinely, sincerely and when well informed on the issues and people's views of the issues. Seek diversity in your market research and experts in topics you are using in your visuals (and in your business in general).

Be informed and considerate when dealing with issues that connect with your ideal client! Remember, people, connect and react emotionally, so be sensitive!

People are creatures of habit that easily create emotional bonds to brands. So remember to view your visuals not just true logic and rationale but with heart also. How does it make you feel?

Secondly, always think about what message you are trying to say. Pepsi just wanted to connect with millennials and tried to stuff lots of buzzwords they knew related to millennials but they didn't actually spend time crafting a message. So the message they ended up saying was Pepsi is the solution to massively complex social issues.

Always be conscious of what message you are trying to convey!

Example 2: Wendy’s Twitter mistake

This one is fascinating to me. Usually, Wendys has a great Twitter game with quirky witty comebacks and light-hearted banter between competitors in the Twitterverse. Unfortunately, they were less clued in with the visual aspects of branding and tweeting.

Wendys was challenged on Twitter about their beef - was their beef fresh or not!. At first, Wendys responded in their usual clever quips but unfortunately, as it escalated they decided to add a visual, a meme to their next tweet.

The meme used is Pepe the frog. Unfortunately, Pepe had been co-opted and still used by White supremacists in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Wendys quickly realised their mistake and pulled the tweet, but sadly a lot of damage had been done by then as once on the internet it is always out there in the form of screenshots! This is such an easy mistake but also such an easy mistake to avoid.

Read more about the incident here!

The lesson: always google check everything you are going to use!

Try to never use material you have not created yourself. While I understand there are times it is extremely useful to use cultural references and memes etc it should not be done without care. Always do a quick search of any meme, reference, etc you plan on using to see what connections people will make. If only Wendys had done a 2-second search on Pepe the pig memes they would have seen all the top hits connected to White supremacy and the 2016 US political scene. So always, as a rule, google anything you plan on using no matter how innocent it seems to be, to be safe!

Do your research - google your cultural references, memes and images before using them!

But don’t panic when it is done right …

They can really transform your business, regardless of the size of your business and they can put you directly in front of the people that matter to your business.

They should be memorable and connect with your ideal client on an emotional level. It is a crucial communication tool that can convey a message much more powerfully than an Instagram caption ever could. People see images before they see a caption. This is true across the board but especially on social media platforms - scroll-stopping images is something we all want (and need)!

But we also need the right people to stop scrolling, not just anyone. This is where smart visual choices will get in front of the right people especially on algorithm-based platforms like Instagram.

But we have covered what business visuals are, why they are important, and 3 oft-overlooked branding tips that will help avoid the mistakes of the companies above.

Final sips...

So as I finish sipping my coffee, snuggled up in my blanket as it is freezing where I am, I hope you are cosy where you are also sipping your coffee.

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