You may remember a popular shampoo commercial that shamed people struggling with dandruff into buying their product by repeating the tagline, “…Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
That famous commercial made it clear that sporting a dry scalp when meeting someone for the first time could ruin your chances at living a fulfilling life. A slight exaggeration, maybe, but for a business functioning in a world where choices are everywhere, it is important to create impressions that last.
Businesses, large and small, already know they need to focus on what people think of their products, customer service, and innovation. In a digital world, businesses are learning that both happy customers and happy employees impact their bottom line. These things are certainly important for quarterly reports, but when do consumers get their first impression of your business? They size you up the first time they see your logo on your storefront sign, try to order something from your website, or while choosing your product on a shelf amongst a sea of competing brands.
It takes a person less than two-tenths of a second to form an opinion about your brand when they visit your website. It takes another 2.6 seconds for the eyes to fully adjust and respond to that impression.
Think of the brands you love, and what draws you to them. Do you love the bold red soda can from Coca Cola, the striking white space Apple uses so well, or the inspiring photography and bold color palette Nike uses alongside that famous Nike Swoosh (another great example of design)?
Graphic design is a critical element of any business’s branding, but… Design is not branding.
To clarify, branding and design are often thought of as one in the same, but design is just one key element of branding. A brand encompasses positioning, messaging, communications, design, marketing, voice and customer experience. Your brand is the entire experience consumers have when they come in contact with your business.
Technically speaking, design is the combination of illustrations, photography, logos, fonts, colors, websites, packaging, etc. to create a full visual identity for a brand. Often, usage guidelines (instructions) are used along with visual elements to create consistency across all platforms to help with the branding effort.
Design is often undervalued by small businesses. It is rare to find a dedicated designer on staff, and creative budget is the first to get cut when times get tough. Still, every business owner wants a great website and memorable logo to help them stand out in the market, so they often turn to the staff member who really kills it in PowerPoint, or that website that sells logos for $5. You may get lucky… but you probably won’t. According to a study done by Missouri University of Science and Technology, visitors to 25 websites spent 6.48 seconds of their 20 second viewing time on the company logo, but spent only 5.59 seconds on the written content.
Quality design does not have to cost a fortune, but it does make a difference to consumers. Have you ever seen the Twitter logo?
That baby came with a $15 price tag… but you probably won’t get that lucky either.
You do have options. Freelancers are everywhere, but before signing on the dotted line, check portfolios, speak to several designers about your creative needs, and sign a scope of work up front to prevent surprises at the end. If you are using an agency for integrated marketing and communications, you may already have creative resources. They know your brand, they know your needs, and they have the creative support your business needs to grow. Still not convinced?
It only takes a few seconds for a potential customer to size up your business. How do they come to their conclusion? They see your logo, they visit your website, they see your advertisement. They judge your entire brand with their eyes in just a few seconds. Humans are famous for judging books by covers. If they don’t like how you look, they will not come back.
Your brand should provide customers with a consistent visual experience across all platforms. The journey starts with your logo, and your story unfolds with the consistent use of fonts, colors, and imagery across your website, advertisements, print materials, stores, and packaging. A customer should recognize your brand at first glance, and visual consistency tells them that you have a high-quality product, and that they should give you a try.
A well-designed website guides visitors to take action – purchase, download, or learn more. Your site should be tailored to your brand’s values and guidelines. It should be quick and easy for a customer to find what they need, and to make that coveted purchase. High-quality images of products can persuade potential customers to buy, as well as the right colors and personalty. Make sure your site is responsive so customers can easily make a purchase from any device. 52% of website users choose to not purchase from a website due to poor navigation and the overall aesthetics of the website.
Large or small, businesses need high-quality graphic design to make sales. Brands communicate with consumers using colors, fonts, websites, photography and logos. If a potential customer is turned off by low-quality product shots on your website, a logo made from the same clipart they used on their child’s birthday invitation, or that stock photo of business men shaking hands that you posted on your Twitter page… you’ve lost them, and you may never get them back.
Spend the money up front for high-quality design, and visual consistency across platforms, including a well-designed, user-friendly website. It is cheaper to do it correctly the first time, than to catch up with your competitors after losing sales. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.