Design | 10/03/2017
The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Branding and Colors
As temperatures drop and summer recedes, we’re starting to welcome signs of fall. The autumn equinox marks the official beginning of fall, but in Nebraska, the season begins and ends with Husker football. Every September, Saturdays become sacred, Husker-red shirts turn up en masse, and if you’re lucky, you might just score some tickets to one of the perpetually sold-out games.
The Huskers are not only a beloved football team; they’re an iconic brand. The colors, the history, the fan experience – it all comes together to create the Husker brand.
When you wear a Nebraska shirt, you’re not saying you’re going to suit up and hit the field. You’re saying that you’re part of a long-standing tradition of sweat, tears (so many tears), and state pride.
You, as an advisor, also have a brand. Your client experience, services, and values all come into play. Your brand may not draw 90,000 fans to Memorial Stadium, but it’s just as essential to your business as the products and services you offer.
What is Branding?
Brand is the catch-all term for what makes you, you. It’s a somewhat ambiguous, multifaceted term. Rather than unpacking the definition in its entirety, we’re going to focus on how your brand is communicated visually. We’re talking design.
So, if a brand is an abstract jumble of values, services, and experiences, then design is what makes it concrete, tangible, and recognizable. It’s a visual representation of your identity, composed of typography, colors, logos, and images.
Design serves as both a communication medium and problem-solving agent. By employing effective design, you can communicate the intricacies of your business’s identity to clients and prospects.
Does each page of your website have a clear call-to-action? Can prospects distinguish you from your competitor? These are examples of problems design aims to solve.
Why Should I Care?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of aimlessly throwing together your brand, or bypassing aesthetics altogether. However, both of these practices do a tremendous disservice to your brand.
Our brains are wired to process and respond to visual stimuli. Consider this: about 20 percent of your brain is dedicated purely to vision.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, design influences our lives and impacts decision-making. By tending to the visual aspect of your business, you’re addressing a key piece of the client and prospect experience.
Your brand is the face of your business. It dictates how your clients and prospective clients perceive and interact with you. In that way, design can determine the clients you attract.
Great design establishes trust and authority by demonstrating precision and consistency, and commanding attention.
And lastly, great design distinguishes you from the competition. By having a clearly defined brand, you can stand out to your ideal clients from the myriad of advisors.
The Non-Designer’s Guide to Design
Great design starts with the eight design principles. These tenets served as a framework for all the top designers – from Saul Bass to Paula Scher.
Alignment – Keep your designs clean and organized by aligning objects and text.
Hierarchy – Give the most space visually to the most important message or action.
Contrast – Add emphasis, organize information, and guide the viewer’s eyes with contrast.
Repetition – Unite design throughout a piece and establish consistency.
Proximity – Group similar or related elements together.
Balance – Distribute text and graphics evenly throughout your design.
Color – Dictate the mood of your design with color.
Space – Utilize the power of negative space.
Perhaps the most obvious of these design principles is color. When selecting colors, choose hues that convey your desired meaning. This is referred to as color psychology. For example, you may use blue to communicate trust and tranquility, or yellow to communicate energy and joy.
For advisors, the question of color can be quite difficult. Most advisors prefer to avoid the color red because it connotes being “in the red.” In addition, a lot of compliance departments have a problem with green logos as they could create an unconscious association with making money in the minds of consumers, so that’s out too.
While that only eliminates two colors, it significantly limits the color palettes advisors have available to them. Not many shades of orange, yellow, purple, and indigo traditionally communicate professionalism, trust, and security. Black, grey, and brown don’t tend to catch the eye.
That leaves us with one color: blue.
We’ve been customizing these posters for evidence-based advisors for a while now by adding firm logos and colors. Out of the more than 150 that we’ve done, our designer Jennica says at least 70 percent of the advisor logos are some shade of blue.
That’s not a bad thing. Blue is a great color to use for your logo – it’s bold, confident, professional – but it’s something to keep in mind when it comes time to pick your brand logo and colors. How can you set yourself apart?
Tips for Creating Beautiful Brands
Are you updating your brand? Or creating a brand from scratch? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Start with strategy. Since great design solves problems, one way to strategize is through the five stages of design thinking. Begin by gaining an understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. Define and analyze the problem, then generate ideas. Produce a few solutions from the best ideas, and finally, test the solutions on your audience.
Make it transitional. Choose design that is classic, rather than trendy, to create a lasting brand. That said, you should also be willing to update with time. Keep your basic brand elements, but refresh images and fonts to stay current and relevant.
Keep it consistent. Here at Mineral, we often create brand books for our clients. They include fonts, colors, imagery, and more, and are the standard by which we design everything. While that might be a little technical for the average advisor, after you’ve established a style, you should keep it consistent across all branded elements: your website, advertising, social media, and handouts like fact sheets, brochures, business cards, and letterhead.
Stick with simplicity. French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (Basically, he was the original “keep it simple, stupid.”) Keep the number of fonts, colors, shapes, and images to a minimum. Every aspect of your design should serve a purpose. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t need it.
With a little strategy, and some basic design principles, you’re well-equipped to create an effective, communicative brand. And as always, if you need some expert advice, don’t be shy. We’d love to learn more about you and your brand.
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