End of financial year, our phone here at The Offices rings off the hook with clients keen to deepen their brand’s storytelling – visually and verbally.
It’s been a big week for brand storytelling. First, this story on Inc.com about the rise of the Chief Storytelling Officer. Then, this one on NY Times, about one brand’s brave decision to try a storytelling tactic completely opposite to its strategy of recent years.
As the gatekeepers of our clients’ brands, we’re hugely inspired by the stories – great and small – behind their products or services. In fact without those stories, there’s no clear place for us to start the creative.
So let’s look at the core visuals that support those stories. Assuming you’ve done the strategy part of your brand development, you’ll have some written guidance on your market position, audience insights, business values and brand promise.
Now you just need to paraphrase those big words into emotive, bite-sized phrases and visuals. Start with these four bedrock items:
There’s one simple place to start thinking about the expressive power of your next logo or wordmark. It’s called history. Iconography and typography have been around a long time, and they’re rich in associations.
For example, serif wordmarks usually suggest establishment (IBM, Volvo, Rolex). Cursive letters will connote creativity and warmth (Barbie, Disney, Virgin). Sans-serif writing expresses speedy modernity (FedEx, Adidas, Apple).
The variations in between are infinite. Think mirror finish: high nineties. Or crossed-oar logos: high hipsterism. But essentially, because of history, we’d never use robot-inspired lettering for a law firm, or Gothic lettering for a tech startup.
Curves or angles, pastels or monotones, cluttered or minimal, handcrafted or digitalesque – design decisions like these have a powerful effect on your brand’s expressive potential. So, when we create a peanut butter brand in fun primaries and not sombre neutrals, that’s deliberate visual storytelling.
Okay, so none of what we’ve said so far is actual, literal storytelling. Not in the way that a real story has words, a turning-point and a resolution. But through the photos that support your brand identity, you can start to tell a visual story.
Ever searched image libraries for something showing ‘dynamism’? And found images of light shards or speeding cars? Then you’ll know that it’s an art to find pictures that tell a story – a story that’s different to the one being told by your competitors. You don’t want to end up with those speeding-light shots everyone else has, because you’re not everyone else.
Put the above together across several materials, and you’re starting to see a story flesh out. But that doesn’t mean you tell every part of the story at the same time.
Say you’ve just launched an intelligent new tech tool: you’ll need to tell 10 different stories about this product across 10 different platforms. Your website will need the emotive image of Mars Rover using your product; your LinkedIn page will need snaps of your diverse workforce hanging out. Your presentation to the tech team will need the schematic circuits and infographics.
The takeaway for all this? Put simply: dive deep, then dive deeper still. It’s about drilling down, tirelessly, to find those visual cues that, put together, tell the very special story of your brand.