Strengthening brands and improving performance — this is how you square the circle
Fig. 1: Performance vs brand integrity
1. The brand communicates loudly and inconsistently – it may deliver results, but at the expense of brand integrity. 2. Social media communication complies with guidelines but fail to attract attention. 3. Both aspects are optimised. The goal for every brand.
You've got a strategy and relevant stories –
but is that enough?
A consistent platform and content strategy is the basis for all successful social media communication. It determines which content for which target audience should be posted on which channel and to what end (e.g. creating awareness, generating leads or selling products). However, such a strategy does not usually include a definition of the social media design language within the context of the corporate design guidelines. A surprising number of companies struggle to find a coherent visual and verbal tone, often resulting in vast untapped potential. Because good design does not stand in the way of performance; on the contrary, it enhances it.
Pay attention to these factors
When analysing the factors that influence design, we can identify four divergent forces. It should be noted that as well as the pure design issues of ‘brand design’ and ‘channel-specific tone’, factors such as ‘ephemerality’ and ‘performance measurability’ also play a role. We discuss these individual influencing factors below and explain how informed handling of these can help improve performance and strengthen the brand.
Fig. 2: The factors that influence social media design
1. Channel-specific tone; 2. Brand design guidelines; 3. Ephemerality; 4. Performance measurability.
Brand design requires sensitivity
Every platform has its own formats and own visual and verbal codes. The tonality of Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok and Linkedin, for example, couldn’t be more different. But how do we handle the platforms’ differing styles?
Because the aesthetics and user content of every social media channel also determine the style and define the brand, it is essential to consider these when creating designs and to adapt the corporate design to the individual platforms. It is important to preserve the character and authenticity of the brand. This may mean that the range of brand elements has to be expanded to include additional colours, fonts or key visuals. The extent to which channel-specific aesthetics will shape a brand’s social media communication must be carefully considered in each case. This requires a great deal of sensitivity and brand understanding on the part of designers, because there is a fine line between brand loyalty and interchangeable, non-brand-specific channel aesthetics.
Channel-specific rules are a must
We often find that companies’ existing corporate design guidelines fall short when it comes to communication on social media channels. Amazingly, guidelines are still primarily designed for ad space that can be completely controlled. While logo placement, fonts and aspect ratios are defined, there is no information on how to adapt guidelines and traditional content on social media. It is crucial that specific rules are defined regarding what is and is not allowed on which platform, and how and in what language we address our audience. In addition to understanding the individual platforms, designers must be able to play around with the guidelines in order to attract attention within the environment, without diluting the brand’s identity.
Ephemerality – when the deadline was yesterday
Both the fast pace and transitory nature of social media place high demands on the creative process. Given increasing time and cost pressures, there is a risk that the value of brand communication will fall by the wayside. Rapid design solutions that lack a central theme and branding elements are devised on the fly, on an ad hoc basis, and become lost in the feeds. But the quality of social media guidelines is particularly important when we need to act quickly. The clearer the definitions, the faster the post is created and the less leeway there is for queries. An efficient tool with a defined approval procedure helps speed up the process.
Performance measurability –
good design can be measured
Last but not least, reach and interactions, i.e. performance, can be instantly measured, as with all online media. Those responsible are under huge pressure to ‘deliver performance’ and it is tempting to initiate short-term, seemingly successful (and often loud) actions, in order to drive up KPIs as quickly as possible. However, such actions run the risk of causing long-term damage to the brand. But those who are willing to invest in a social media design process, channel-specific guidelines and an excellent design team will be surprised how quickly they can achieve positive results in terms of performance.
A consistent channel and content strategy is the basis for success – but is by no means sufficient. It is just as important to develop precisely defined design guidelines for individual audiences and channels. The above-mentioned ‘divergent forces’ should be consciously included. For example, the weighting of channel-specific design languages must be carefully considered when developing and adapting social media design. It is crucial that designers are familiar with both the brand and the individual social media channels. Our experience has shown that ‘squaring the circle’ is actually achievable if these points are consistently considered and that social media communication can exceed specified KPI targets by adopting a systematic approach. Performance increases without damaging the brand – on the contrary: if well-defined and correctly implemented, the brand gains authenticity, credibility and relevance.