A brand refresh—or complete redesign—is a common trigger for a website redevelopment. In turn, the redevelopment project itself is another trigger: one that creates a huge range of opportunities to think about brand more extensively, to create a more meaningful connection with your audiences.
Brand is a fairly fluid proposition. There are many different definitions and perspectives on how brands should come to fruition.
Equally, there are many ways to approach branding work. As with any project, these are subject to constraints like timing, budget, resources, risk appetite, culture, and more.
Some refreshes are more extensive than others, for a wide range of reasons. In my experience though, the very first thing that happens is this:
In most brand redevelopments, you’ll get the fundamentals nailed down…
When a rebrand is completed, teams will typically define the perceived core elements of the brand. This usually includes:
- A logo.
- A colour palette of primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary colours.
- A family of fonts.
Depending on the nature of your organisation, it can take a lot of effort to get this far. So, if you’ve hit this point, congratulations! Determining these baseline elements is reason to pause and celebrate momentarily. Don’t rest on your laurels for too long though.
You’ve made good progress…
…but you’ll need a little more.
Or really, quite a lot more. An effective brand is the accumulative sum of many, many moving parts.
There are many elements required to bring your brand to life in a website interface, digital product, app, or beyond. This includes both conceptual elements like brand positioning and personality, and practical elements, like imagery style, functional animations, and brand graphics.
Let’s unpack some of the elements that are often overlooked, why they’re important, and how they serve your brand.
1. Brand positioning and differentiation.
Positioning should centre your customers on your brand’s unique strengths, so that they can quickly understand what you do and why it is valuable to them.
A good brand position means you will occupy a distinctive place in the mind of your target market. It should answer the question: ‘why should a customer choose us?’ Or, in an ideal world, makes that question entirely redundant. To quote Peter Drucker:
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits [them] and sells itself.”
There are many, many high-quality resources and accomplished people who frequently speak and write about positioning. One of my favourites at the moment is April Dunford, a positioning consultant, speaker and author who specialises with B2B technology companies. In this excellent resource, April starts with: ‘every company I have ever worked with has struggled to make their awesomeness obvious’.
That’s a nice summation of the role of positioning, and also the perfect rationale as to why it’s a priority. If you don’t establish a clear definition of why you’re awesome, what do your customers have to connect with?
2. Brand personality and values.
This is about ascribing character traits to your brand. An effective brand creates a feeling—a connection with people—in the same way that a person does.
So, it begs the question: how would you describe your brand if it were a person?
The best way to approach this question is with the last five words in mind: if it were a person. In my experience, it’s easy to run to vague descriptors that don’t actually articulate a personality. Examples to avoid include things like:
- Dedicated to high quality service.
The issue with these examples is they do not meet the utility of how the traits are used; they speak to value propositions rather than personality traits. When done effectively, brand personality traits are hugely useful in informing visual concepts, content tone-of-voice, and more.
For example, a disability services provider might define their brand personality traits as:
- Approachable: authentic, accessible and available for everyone.
- Creative: nimble, inventive, and optimistic.
- Adventurous: confident, refreshing, and energetic.
With these in place, you can start to develop visual treatments and graphical treatments that reiterate each personality trait. This approach ensures every molecule of your design is linked to the core qualities that define the brand; everything ‘feels’ like an appropriate and cohesive expression of your brand’s personality.
As a hypothetical example, designers might look to express the ‘adventurous’ brand trait by:
- Using large, full-bleed images of proud, confident people.
- Avoiding image masks that create visual interruptions or hide figures away.
- Embracing white space to convey a sense of freshness and potential.
- Using graphic shapes in bold ways to convey a sense of direction, excitement and purpose (see point 5, below).
3. Imagery style and art direction.
Your imagery and photographic style should encapsulate your brand’s personality. It should not be driven by the personal likes and dislikes of key members of the team.
Before a website redevelopment, it’s helpful to draft an overall rationale for imagery, including the stylistic conventions that are applicable for the approach and a conceptual justification for why each convention is important in the context of the brand. This step is relevant regardless of whether you use stock imagery or commissioned photoshoots and, ideally, should also include references to video content.
It’s about providing clear guardrails that outline an overarching approach. And crucially, that link back to and reiterate your brand personality or values.
For example, Animals Australia is all about emphasising the dignity and respect of all living beings, especially animals. As a result, some of the guidelines they might use in imagery and art direction include:
- Always portray animals with honesty: always be transparent and portray animals in their true environments. Use a soft depth of field with sharp focus on the animal.
- Avoid high saturation or bokeh effects: images of animals should feel natural and realistic, rather than overly curated or contrived.
- Be sure to highlight respect: strive to showcase images that capture respectful interactions between humans and animals. All interactions should feel natural and consenting from the animals perspective.
Of course, you might have different treatments for different applications or types of content. Sometimes Animals Australia requires an imagery style that is bright, optimistic and hopeful. Other times, there’s a need for more somber, investigative work, like you see in this type of content. (Please note, some people may find imagery distressing upon clicking the link).
As with much of the way your brand is defined, these guidelines need to be somewhat fluid in reflection of the fact that new applications will evolve and change over time.
4. Functional system animations.
Functional animations are distinct from conceptual animations (see point 5, below), in that they communicate information about the behaviour or action of the website. Examples of functional animations include:
- Call-to-action buttons, which invite people to complete goals like ‘read more’, ‘contact us’, or ‘donate’.
- Page transitions, which can provide a branded experience while conveying that you are moving between content pages or website sections.
- Loading animations, to highlight that the system is processing a request.
- Link animations, to highlight that something is a clickable element.
- Menu animations, used in navigation.
With the right approach, you can turn a sub-optimal aspect of a website (like waiting for a new content page to load) into something delightful that communicates and celebrates your brand.
Again, the styles you choose should align with and reiterate the core brand personality traits.
Let’s consider a loading animation. Depending on your brand personality, would your loading animation be sleek, luxurious and refined, like this example from Foresters Financial?
Or bouncy, vibrant and whimsical, like this example from creative web developer Patrick Heng?
5. Conceptual animations and brand graphics.
Brand graphics are an excellent way to add visual intrigue throughout your interface, while conceptually reinforcing the core principles of your organisation.
In short, they help people feel a certain way about your organisation, service or product, without you having to explicitly instruct them to.
As a vision services provider focused on supporting people to live independently move with confidence, Guide Dogs uses big, bold shapes to convey a sense of exploration and movement.
With a relatively simple animated graphic device, you get a clear sense that Guide Dogs is all about moving forward, exploring the world, and supporting people to make progress towards their goals.
For another example, consider an organisation like Fostering Connections, a joint initiative of foster care agencies supported by the State Government across metropolitan and regional Victoria.
While the animations in this site don’t offer any functional utility, they serve three important roles:
- They create a sense of visual delight and intrigue, incentivising people to continue reading and engage further with the content.
- They offer a sense of youthful warmth, playfulness and whimsy, in keeping with the nature of the site’s subject matter.
- With shapes overlapping, attaching, and reaching out to one another, they reiterate the sense of connection, inclusivity and support that is key to the Fostering Connections brand.
With these elements in place, you’re far better placed to convey your brand meaningfully in digital applications.
That said, this list is by no means exhaustive. There’s still much more to consider, with things like:
- Written tone-of-voice.
- Social media.
- Print and physical collateral.
- Outbound marketing collateral (like eDMs and campaign assets).
- And potentially more depending on your organisation.
This isn’t intended to act as an ominous to-do list, but rather to help you see the opportunities at play. Every single brand touch point is an opportunity to do something impactful, connect with customers in a meaningful way, drive action, and deliver value.
If you’d like to talk more about anything covered in this piece, or you’re on the cusp of your own brand rollout, I’d love to help. Get in touch using our contact form to tee up a conversation. Or give us a call for a chat about what you hope to achieve: 9445 0326.