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How to conduct B2B visual identity and logo research

How to conduct B2B visual identity and logo research
Contents

Why you should invest in developing a strong visual identity

Best practices when conducting B2B visual identity and logo research

Why you should invest in developing a strong visual identity

A brand’s visual identity system is more than just a logo. The logo may be the most apparent element of a visual identity, but visual identity systems also include color palettes, photography styles, illustration styles, document templates, web page templates, and type systems.

And when developing a brand, you need to prioritize developing its visual identity system as much as defining what the brand stands for.

Your target audience will make a judgment about your brand in 50 milliseconds, so your visual identity can significantly impact first impressions.

The wrong visual identity system can negatively impact the perception of your company. You can quickly lose prospects’ trust or give the impression that your company is outdated.

Your visual identity can also help you stand out in a competitive market and help you take advantage of opportunities created by your sales and marketing efforts. For example:

Of course, the best visual identity systems and logos aren’t just picked up off a shelf. They have to be carefully developed to ensure they:

  • Follow certain design principles, e.g., the versatility of use
  • Are distinct – the more they stand out from the crowd, the easier they are to ‘own.’ You can signal that “we’re different,” allowing you to cut through the noise
  • Are appropriate for your sector and target audience. That will ensure that your brand is seen as different but still relevant and credible
  • Are in line with your brand positioning and say the things you want them to say about you. This will support the rest of your brand-building activity
  • Use aesthetics to trigger positive feelings. This will help to build positive sentiment towards your brand
  • Stand the test of time – allow you to evolve without needing to change your logo every few years

Market research can support the development of a new brand visual identity system (including a logo) by identifying:

  • How the target market reacts to different logo, strapline, or identity options
  • The messages conveyed by each of the options
  • Potential revisions to optimize its impact

Best practices when conducting B2B visual identity and logo research

Be clear about the goal

As with any B2B market research project, you need to start by working out what you’re trying to achieve. For example, are you refreshing an existing system or overhauling it? Or are you building something new from scratch?

This will significantly impact the questions you ask and the methodology you use. For example, if you’re replacing an existing system, you should include questions that compare the new identity/logo to the status quo.

Similarly, if the goal is to refresh your current visual identity, the focus should be on testing a narrow range of options. On the other hand, if the goal is to overhaul an existing system or build something new, your approach should be more exploratory.

Regularly communicate with stakeholders throughout the process.

Visual identity systems are emotive. As a result, internal stakeholders have strong opinions about logos, colors, and type, and change is not always welcomed.

Internal stakeholders can be particularly resistant if they feel like they have been left out of the process. Therefore, to smooth the path to acceptance, you need to take internal stakeholders on the journey.

That includes:

  • Asking them for their input at the beginning of the project
  • Updating them during the project (e.g., introducing draft outputs to get their input)
  • Presenting the final product to them before it’s fully approved so that it doesn’t feel like a fait accompli

It’s worth noting that these discussions should be with a wide range of stakeholders, including senior management and employees in a wide range of functions (e.g., creative, sales, marketing, product, and operations).

Look outwards as well as inwards.
A brand owner or design team cannot judge the impact of a logo or a strapline – only the target market can do so. Therefore, any development needs to be supported by insights into the target market.

Don’t over-rationalize.

When researching customers and prospects, you can do qualitative or quantitative research.

Quantitative surveys help to ensure that the findings are robust, but there are limits to how valuable surveys are in visual identity research. Quantitative research can kill creativity by encouraging survey respondents to over-rationalize.

For example, asking individuals to rate a logo out of 10 may help you to present headline stats to senior management – ‘67% of survey participants gave the new logo a 7 or more out of 10’ – but aren’t that useful in helping you to decipher what the visual identity means to prospective customers. It also won’t give you much information about how the visual identity should be tweaked.

Qualitative research is far more valuable in this sort of project as it allows you to limit over-rationalizations and unlock natural reactions. For example:

  • You can use eye-tracking techniques to understand which visual elements interviewees are focused on
  • Rather than just asking direct questions (e.g., ‘what do you think of the logo?’), you can indirectly explore things. You can ask what they want the visual identity to stand for, what they think this visual identity stands for, and whether there is a disconnect between the two

Don’t try to keep everyone happy.

The perfect logo doesn’t exist. If you try to develop a visual identity system that keeps everyone happy, you’ll never complete the project. Or you’ll create an identity that is so ‘designed by committee’ that it pleases no one.

It’s already challenging to get all of your internal and external stakeholders to agree on something objective and straightforward, such as ‘does Feature X make your life easier.’ It’s even more challenging to get their agreement for something subjective like brand identity.

The focus should not be on trying to satisfy as many people as possible. Instead, the focus should be on creating a visual identity that follows best practices. I.e., it’s distinct, and it’s in line with your brand positioning, and it’s appropriate for your business and industry.

Be strategic about how you share progress with internal stakeholders.

Change is difficult. There’s a reason that consultants can make a living by selling their expertise in change management.

Change is especially difficult for visual identities and logos, which can be very emotive for company employees.

If you want internal stakeholders to be on board with change, you need to be strategic about how you share progress:

  • Don’t start by showing the new visual identity. Start by reinforcing the brand narrative that underpins the visual identity. Without a straightforward narrative, it is harder to understand why it is even necessary to make a change to the visual identity
  • Demonstrate how robust the research process was. Specifically, make clear that the recommendations are based on feedback from customers, prospects, and employees. Internal stakeholders may be resistant to change, but it is more difficult for them to push back if you have communicated that the recommendations are based on what customers want

Summary

Why you should invest in developing a strong visual identity.

A brand’s visual identity system is more than just a logo. And when developing a brand, you need to prioritize developing its visual identity system as much as defining what the brand stands for.

Market research can support the development of a new brand visual identity system (including a logo) by exploring how the target audience reacts to different options and identifying potential improvements.

Best practices when conducting B2B visual identity and logo research

We recommend the following: be clear about the goal; regularly communicate with stakeholders throughout the process; look outwards as well as inwards; don’t over-rationalize; don’t try to keep everyone happy; be strategic about how you share progress with internal stakeholders.

Chris Wells
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