Integrated communications is fundamentally about the message, and the consistency of that message across all touchpoints. It may be explained from different viewpoints, in different formats and across different platforms, but the core message, the key ‘take home’ for the audience, must always remain fixed and strong. If the message at the heart of a B2B campaign becomes fragmented and confused, the content built around it will fall flat.
And the same consistency applies to visual content. Telling effective brand stories means bringing together words, images and design cohesively across all content and all channels. Design is critical in effective integrated B2B campaigns. Whether for social media posts, customer publishing, print or digital ads, direct mail, presentations, leaflets, brochures, websites, e-shots, exhibition graphics, market insight reports (the list goes on…), good campaigns thrive on the combination of strong and relevant messages with appropriate and consistent visuals.
Business buyers are led more by rational and analytical thinking than by emotional response. Trust in the brand is fundamental, which means that design for B2B needs to meet three core criteria:
1) Support with brand recognition
All branded content designed for an external audience should be instantly recognisable (and not just by a logo). Consistent brand identities carry trust and authority. This doesn’t mean that every piece of design should look identical, but when placed next to each other, it should be clear that they came from the same organisation. B2B buyers need reassurance that the information they receive is from a known and trusted source.
2) Reinforce the core message
From imagery and fonts to layout, colours and pull-quotes, every element of a design should serve to support the core message. Design should work for the content – not the other way around. If the design starts to lead the thinking, it’s time to reflect on why the designed asset is being created in the first place. Fonts should convey the tone of the copy, imagery should be relatable to the specific audience demographic, colours should be sympathetic to the topic, the layout should help the viewer navigate the content and any pull-out information should grab attention and aid with recall.
3) Respect the audience
It’s important to consider the personas of the target audience with any piece of design, and to work in a style and tone that’s appropriate. Design that misses this point risks patronising, alienating or – worst case – offending the very people you’re trying to attract. Cartoon-style infographics or simple illustrations are not likely to engage a C-suite audience, for example.
Talking about the role of design, Steve Jobs said: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
He may not have been referring to graphic design, but I think the principle applies. Well-designed communications assets aren’t just visually appealing – they work better.
To hear me talking about the role of visual communications in the digital age and why the universal language of “visual” resonates with audiences, watch our video Why Visuals Are Important
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