Consistency of visual elements helps drive brand recognition to your community – online and off
IF your brand isn’t well defined, you’ll be lost behind the hundreds of other agencies trying to sell the same services you do. You can have an amazing, hardworking staff. You can have loyal customers and a supportive community. But without a clear brand, your agency will lack focus and direction.
Large companies push their products and services to a whole new level through the power of a brand. And your agency can do the same. Some agencies already have taken time to re-evaluate their brand, and it’s now the driving factor for all of their marketing efforts.
To resonate completely with clients instead of simply making a first impression, you need to establish a powerful brand that’s displayed with consistency across all platforms; that calls for guidelines. We began to discuss this concept in the October Tactical Tech column, addressing the basics, such as fonts, logos, colors, and graphic elements. This month, we turn our attention to other visual brand elements, including photography and video.
Our agency branding guide includes photography guidelines that describe how we take photos or select images. We avoid using stock images as much as possible. Of course, there are times when we don’t have access to certain content and, in that case, our team uses Pexels.com, a free-for-commercial-use website that has a variety of professional photographs we can use for blog covers or certain visuals. We try not to select stock photos that show people as the focus because these images often include models who aren’t representatives of our staff or customers, and our audience can easily catch onto that.
Our focus with our photos is on the core values of family and authenticity. I have no problem sharing my family life with my clients, and I actually believe it’s a great way to build a relationship with our networks online. We want the world to know we value family, and that, at Paradiso Insurance, customers will be treated like other members of ours.
Additionally, I’m a firm believer in standing for something. As many of you know, I stand for this country and our flag. Therefore, the American flag or military service members are highly represented in our photographs. Not only does this show my beliefs, but it offers a sign of respect to those who gave everything for this country. A great man, Winston Churchill, once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
In addition to creating our own content, we’ve hired a photographer to join us for photo shoots once or twice a year, and at our Flag Day event. Not only are the pictures that are taken of high resolution and clear, but they speak to our brand by including our agency and staff in authentic settings or environments. These photographs contain people and their faces, and unlike stock photos, they’re genuine to our brand because they show a personal side of our office and community.
It is absolutely critical to showcase your staff, and be sure to include in the photos your customers interacting with your team members. Prospects need to develop an emotional attachment with your agency’s content and understand what it’s like to be a customer of your agency before they ever become one. This is crucial for capturing a positive customer experience in the initial steps of building new relationships.
Of course, not every agency will have the budget to hire a photographer to shoot professional photos. If that’s the case, use your smartphone. Our marketing team uses iPhones to take video and pictures in and out of the office all the time. Again, people like to see authenticity in content, so don’t be afraid to take a picture with your agents and organically share it on social media.
Remember, every brand has a personal side, and if you’re not showing it, you aren’t effectively selling your brand.
All of our videos feature a consistent display of our brand, as well. Thumbnails of our videos contain a still image with our branded blue overlaid at 50% opacity, and our basic white logo will also remain in the bottom right hand corner. This helps viewers recognize that the video belongs to us when it comes up in search results on YouTube or Google, before they even read the title.
Additionally, the ending sequences remain consistent in our video content. For example, when a video ends, it fades out to our logo, which then ripples out in a fancy animation. It may look like a high-budget project, but you can have your logo animated for as little as $15 through a service called Fiverr.com. Once you have your animated logo, you can keep it consistent by inserting it in all of the videos that your agency crafts.
Not only is this part of how we brand our content, but it defines the ownership and reminds our audience of who we are.
We believe it’s important to reinforce our brand’s story with video. Video gives us yet another chance to showcase our community—through our local businesses, activities, and charity events that inspire others to do good around them. Video can be a great tool for your brand—as long as you are consistent.
Video also gives you the ability to capture raw emotion and showcase special moments you can’t always define in still imagery. While a picture does speak a thousand words, a video makes your audience become part of the moment you captured.
It all comes together
When was the last time you saw the Apple Store run a sale? Of course, it doesn’t need to, because it has developed one of the world’s strongest brands. While Apple has the choice to run a sale (and chooses not to), that is not always the case for us as insurance agents. We can surely shop for the best price for specific coverages by going through multiple carriers, but that doesn’t mean we ever have the option to run a “sale.” This is why the consistent branding can help our agencies grow. To be honest, there really is no other option to get more people to believe in what your agency has to offer.
The average user spends no more than eight seconds consuming content when scrolling through their social media feed. This is especially true when users are viewing different media streams on multiple screens. With this limited amount of time that we have to capture our audience’s attention, it’s important to have a strong brand in place so that they immediately recognize that the content is coming from our agency. Because consistency is the king of branding, it helps individuals immediately recognize your content as soon as they see it.
In addition, a strong brand can always be recalled and understood, so before you start getting your agency some visibility, make sure you have well-rounded guidelines in place. If your brand isn’t well defined, you’ll be lost behind the hundreds of other agencies trying to sell the same services you do. You can have an amazing, hardworking staff. You can have loyal customers and a supportive community. But without a clear brand, your agency will lack focus and direction.
Branding will help you have a stronger impact on your audience and reach more people with your agency’s messages than you ever thought possible. By branding your agency, you’ll push the envelope with all of your marketing content, both traditional and digital.
After reading this column and the last one, I hope that you’re convinced your agency should have a branding guide in place. With the help of Agency Appeal, Paradiso Insurance set one up, and we haven’t looked back since. Since we implemented the guide, we have kept all of our marketing content consistent with our brand, and we’ve seen much more visibility online.
I can guarantee that your agency will experience growth as you build more long-lasting, rewarding relationships through stronger, impactful first impressions as you move forward.
Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, headquartered in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at email@example.com.