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How a 'Look and Feel' Redesign Can Upgrade Your Stale Corporate Image

Nov 21, 2007
Way back when I started my own business, I hung out my own 'shingle'. One of the first things I did, and one of the smartest, was to have a professional designer do my business cards. I could have done it cheaper by using business card templates and a quickie print shop, but I didn't. It was one of my very first business decisions and continues to be a very good one.

Years later I find my card stuck on the office walls of many of my past clients. That card and its design is a constant reminder I am still here and a phone call, or more likely with me, an email away. Although a simple card, I get compliments to this very day on its strong visual appeal.

I forget exactly what I paid to get the design but I decided on quality because my card represents me. Some years later, now I find it is the first and only thing I give people since I use my Googleprint instead of a resume, portfolio or PowerPoint presentation. As the only thing physically tangible that I give, I need my card to project the 'look and feel' of my company.

Basically you have three choices with your marketing collateral: 1) go cheap because you can 2) nickel, dime and hassle yourself as you barter, piecemeal or do the work yourself or 3) contract someone that can create a design that fits your needs or perhaps even someone that can offer you a better idea or concept.

Just as you pick up a first impression of someone you just meet, you also get an impression of a company's look and feel by its marketing collateral. Just as one would be suspicious of a professional that uses a gmail account, a poor design can in a matter of milliseconds irreparably tarnish your image. Bad design detracts from your company's message as well as your desired look and feel.

In my opinion it is better to not have any marketing collateral at all than to have bad marketing collateral. The reasoning is straightforward and as far as I can see applies universally. If you have no collateral at all your prospect will wonder; if you have bad collateral your prospect will know.

So how does a company go about getting their look and feel?

The first step is to determine, from a business and marketing perspective, what result you want to put as your goal. If you have a current business and marketing plan that is working, then find someone that can translate that into visuals.

"I translate the look and feel of the company into graphics," says Margaret Di Maria of Di Maria Design, "in Silicon Valley that translation part is how the designer distils the essence or statement of a company into the design."

The difference between a 'close' and a 'bull's-eye' in marketing collateral is exponential. As that sweet spot is approached the intensity increases. Shortchange your marketing collateral, and you shortchange all of your other efforts.

So how does one actually start this process?

With my business cards I had some idea of what I wanted and the designer was able to work that idea into a design. Most designers will come up with some preliminary drafts to make sure the result is clear. Getting that 'feel' part of look and feel is the trick...a mixture of art and science.

The actual process of how an image is perceived in the mind is the interaction of a very complex matrix of neural networks. These networks are so vast that it may be a century or two before humans get a clear picture of how just how this system works. But despite how it may work we know the results; how we think and feel determines what we buy.

"Often companies don't know what the possibilities are and ask for suggestions, "says Di Maria, "the process requires a bit of going back and forth but here in wired Silicon Valley most of it is done online. The key for me is to start out on the right track and have a clear picture of what the design is supposed to do."

Sometimes the marketing collateral is designed to support a new look and feel. As companies grow their needs change and often they will 'reinvent' themselves by coming up with the 'new' look and feel.

One of the big changes in Silicon Valley is the paperless marketing campaign. Since many companies now have everything except their business cards online, the look and feel and design becomes even more important.

Prospects can now easily click between competitors to pick and choose with whom to do business. This means that many previous advantages, such as a professional sales staff, presentations, portfolio, etc, are now of lesser significance as more and more marketing moves online. This is happening because consumers and businesses are finding online information about the products and services they want.

If you are unsure, do a quick gut check; Google your competitors. If they are way ahead, try to catch up. If your image is looking sad and feeling tired, try to gain distinction with an upgraded look and feel. In the days of instant competitive click comparisons, you simply can't afford to look and feel badly in your marketplace.

It shows.
About the Author
Jack D. Deal writes marketing articles and is the owner of Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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