If your goal is to improve your brand image, first accept that it is a process rather than a set of tasks, an art rather than a science. Your understanding of your brand will naturally deepen over time as you get feedback from customers and explore new ways of expressing your ideas through marketing and product development.
However, when I’m asked to review a brand’s materials and make recommendations, there are few areas where I look first. These are typically the easiest wins to improve your brand image and make a favorable first impression on potential customers.
This post is also available as a podcast episode
These 5 simple ways to improve your brand image assume you have a pretty good idea of where your brand fits in the marketplace. If you don’t, you may want to start with this guide
I’ve also put together a quick reference “cheat sheet” for reviewing the major points in this post.
Browse any high-end magazine like a Vanity Fair or Vogue for a reminder of how much premier lifestyle brands value photography. It is one of the most important assets in your marketing arsenal and a critical factor if you want to improve your brand image
Generally, you can break your photography down into two categories (I’ll cover both):
- Product photography, whose primary purpose is to provide detailed views of the product to someone who may be considering purchasing it online or through a catalog.
- Lifestyle photography, which is meant to associate your products with desirable people, experiences, and feelings.
So lets’ explore which factors have the most impact on improving your brand’s image through photography…
Lighting is crucial to taking a high-quality photo. For product photography, this means bright lights that do not reflect off the product or cast any undesirable shadows.
When it comes to lifestyle photography, you’ll want to ensure that you have relatively flat, even light that does not cast harsh shadows across the product or the model. If shooting outside, you may require a reflector to augment the lighting of your shots. Here are a few techniques for getting outdoor lighting right
It seems obvious but I’ll say it anyway: attractive models make your products appear more desirable. You may not have the budget for a supermodel, however spending a little extra to hire someone with modeling experience can make a huge difference to getting great photos and improve your brand image.
Styling & Locations
There’s nothing worse than reviewing photos that you’ve just spent a lot of time and money on, and noticing that hair is out of place, or something is off with the background that makes an otherwise perfect shot unusable
If you’re doing a lifestyle shoot, you should carefully plan clothing, accessories, props and locations. Scout locations in advance to choose angles and backgrounds before models are standing around waiting. Consider having somebody at the shoot dedicated to keeping an eye on makeup, hair, upturned collars etc. It will save you a lot of grief in post-production. If you want to up your game, you could even choose a theme that will inform your location and styling choices.
When shooting products, you’ll want to shoot as many angles and use cases as possible. This’ll give viewers on the Internet more confidence when purchasing a product that they have not seen in person. If you’re selling clothes, you may need to consider whether you will show them on a model or off – or both.
In either case product photography works best when shot against a white or neutral background. You might consider purchasing a light box that ensures a consistent background and flat lighting, if appropriate for your products.
Design and Layout
The main principle I apply to design and layouts is minimalism. Minimalism is not just about showing less, it’s about clarity. It is much more difficult to come up with one statement, image or design that represents your brand then simply throwing in as much as you can fit on the page – but if your goal is to improve your brand image, the effort is well worth it.
By surrounding your images or messages with negative space (or white space) , you’re unconsciously communicating a sense of clarity and focus that is typically associated with desirable brands.
Less is more, and taking the time to refine your message results in a premium perception. Avoid hyperbole and work hard to remove any words images or design details that are superfluous. Where appropriate, try to use a single image to convey an idea.
Strong brands understand their essence and do their best to communicate this in every medium. If your photos, fonts, and overall design share a common visual aesthetic it will give your brand a perceived premium value.
You should choose no more than 2 or 3 different fonts and be very intentional about their use. The style of photography and other visual assets should also be consistent across all of your materials.
Most people respond strongly to social influence. In other words, they are looking for cues and clues that whatever actions they take and believes they hold our aligned with society as a whole. In aligning your products with notable people or publications, as well as the positive sentiments of previous customers you will be improving your branding by giving it support and validation.
Sometimes the main value of press coverage is not the coverage itself, but the ability to leverage that coverage as social proof. SoYoung features the logos of major publications that have covered us on our homepage. Currently, these include the Washington Post, Martha Stewart Living, Oprah Magazine, and People Magazine. Are you impressed? Yep, that’s how it works.
Even if you haven’t been covered by major publications yet, you can solicit testimonials from satisfied customers to increase trust with prospective buyers. If possible, feature the full name and an image of the person – anything that increases legitimacy.
In today’s celebrity-saturated culture, some opinions are worth more than others. SoYoung happens to have photos of celebrities using our products, so this is incredibly valuable in building brand credibility and improving your branding. If appropriate, you may consider gifting products to celebrities in an effort to get photographs of celebrities using your products. The photos typically take care of themselves (Most of the photos we have were found on celebrity gossip sites, which customers and retailers alerted us to)
Brand Messaging & Copy
Your messaging needs to strike a balance between describing what your product is and illustrating its benefits. I am often surprised how often taglines leave me with no idea what the product actually is or how it is different. In the early stages of your brand, being able to powerfully summarize your business in one sentence is more important than having a catchy phrase.
Your first task is to clearly describe your product in unambiguous terms. Explain what your product or brand is, who it is for and what it’s primary value is to the purchaser. Use this format to start with.
Our product/brand helps _____(who)_________ to do/feel/achieve ____(what)_________ so that they can _____(why)_______
This may end up sounding a bit generic, but it will give you a good start. Feel free to use it as a foundation for crafting something more creative:
Once you have created a clear description, you should develop short statements around the unique benefits to your custom. I like to choose three main benefits that focus on the emotional needs of your customer in the most aspirational terms possible. Common areas to explore are: saving time/money, convenience, freedom, attractiveness, wealth, health, and safety.
As a general rule, I like to begin all benefit statements with an action verb such as “get”, “achieve”, “create”, etc. These types of words help you focus on clearly communicating the transformation a buyer can hope to receive by purchasing your product.
At the finest level of detail, you will need to list your products features. Statistics and hard facts are the way to go here. This type of information is most appropriate on a product page, once people have a high-level affinity for your brand and products.
Video can be very effective at deepening affinity for your products and allow you to improve your brand image. You don’t need a Hollywood level production to make an effective video, however, you should have some baseline quality standards – the 10-year-old camcorder in your closet is probably not going to cut it.
Fortunately, the equipment required in making a professional looking video is becoming increasingly affordable and user-friendly. Shooting video is something you can undertake yourself. However depending on your ambitions and budget, you might also consider outsourcing. There are many talented and affordable videographers who can save you a lot of time and help you get something that you’re happy with.
If you want to get deeper into producing your own video, Wistia has some great tutorials. (We also use Wistia’s video hosting service)
Most recent smartphones take decent HD video. However for superior results, consider a digital SLR or mirrorless camera with a high-quality lens that will provide some depth of field – a true professional effect. We use a Sony a6000, which costs about $600. It takes excellent video and has the added bonus of autofocus in video mode (which many digital SLR’s don’t have), ensuring your subject is always in focus.
One of the biggest giveaways of an amateur video production is poor audio – usually resulting from using the built-in mic on the camera itself. For best results, you’re going to want to use either an external boom mic or a lav mic which can be attached to the person speaking. We use a $200 Bluetooth clip mic designed specifically for our camera that does away with the inconvenience of wires and delivers
As with photography, having the right lighting can make a huge difference to how your video turns out – though modern cameras are more forgiving in lower light. Still, if you’re shooting indoors you will probably want some lighting equipment to ensure the shot looks bright and crisp. The main principle is to ensure your foreground subject – especially if it is a person’s face – is well lit. Here’s a good tutorial from Wistia on putting a simple lighting kit together.
As with photography, you’ll want to ensure you have a list of shots and a script, if relevant, before your shoot. You should also scout your locations in advance and plan your angles.
If you want to take your video production to the next level, you’ll need to cover a few different perspectives and mix in what is called B-roll. This is supplemental imagery that supports the narration and gives you an elegant way to edit together a couple of different takes. Shooting from different angles and distances also helps break up the shots and add visual interest. You can see all of this demonstrated in a video we shot for SoYoung’s Charlie Bag
Assuming your video is primarily for web consumption, you’ll want to make it as short and focused as possible by editing it down to the essentials. Build around the narration or visual script and break up your shots, so that the viewer isn’t just watching a single view of someone speaking at the camera the whole time.
In terms of audio editing, some light background music can help create an overall mood and elevate the video, particularly if it’s short. Just make sure it doesn’t overpower any narration.
Finally, improve your brand image by making sure you add your logo and a call to action to the beginning and ending of the video, in case someone is watching it on a platform like Youtube rather than your website.
How to Improve your Brand Image: Conclusion
This is a high-level overview on how to improve your brand image, however, I hope it gives you some motivation and insight on where to look for the quickest wins. If you’re planning on outsourcing any of these tasks, the downloadable cheat sheet will provide you with talking points to discuss with your provider, and ensure you’ve got everything covered.