By Edward Coram James, CEO, Go Up
As marketers see it, the effective promotion of a brand is powered by return on investment (ROI) and key performance indicators (KPIs) — plus many more acronyms that sum up the grisly corporate side of marketing. But this is a far cry from the customer-facing image that is portrayed to the general public. From the sleek, minimal aesthetic of an Apple TV spot to the particular shade of purple used on a Cadbury billboard, the world’s most recognisable brands’ marketing efforts all have one thing in common — and that’s distinct and brilliant creative design.
A strong visual identity serves a number of vital functions in a brand’s promotional strategy, and as a result, many roles across the marketing landscape demand skills in design. But what is it that makes good design so important? Let’s take a look at its role in marketing and how you can use creativity to set your own brand apart.
What is creative design?
“Creativity” is one of those buzzwords you’ll see thrown around often in the corporate world, featuring in anything from a client strategy document to a LinkedIn job description. But how can we explain truly creative design?
Put simply, we think of it as the use of imagination and skill to create compelling visual content. Creative design can be used in photography, illustration, staging, video production or any other kind of visual arts — but its core tenets are that it engages the viewer and tells a story.
How does it apply to marketing?
Creative design is incorporated into many of the central aspects of marketing, helping to bring ideas to life and express brand messaging through visual media. In practice, this can look like anything from a memorable logo to an innovative billboard design that draws the viewer in and evokes an emotional response.
Any kind of engaging visual content is drawing on creative design to grab consumer attention — and this is more important than ever, with our reported attention spans having dropped to an average of just eight seconds in the digital age.
But once a compelling image has caught that coveted consumer’s eye, what purpose does it serve?
The truth is, visual identity has a measurable influence on decision-making at every stage of the customer journey. According to recent data, up to one-third of consumer purchase choices are made based on product packaging — with design influencing decisions right up to the moment that a customer sees a product on a supermarket shelf.
Therefore, it’s crucial that brands communicate who they are from the very moment that a consumer lays eyes on their marketing materials, lest they lose their attention and a prospective sale.
What are the benefits of creative design in marketing?
Creative design serves the end purpose of selling a brand’s product to the consumer, achieving this through a variety of means. The power of effective visual marketing is that it can influence each touchpoint of the consumer’s purchasing journey, encouraging them to progress further down the sales funnel. Let’s take a look at how this works.
1. Raises brand awareness
When you see a great poster on the side of a bus, do you rush out to purchase the product it’s advertising? With the exception of some fairly niche scenarios, the answer is most likely a resounding “no” — but this isn’t the purpose of great creative design. Instead, it encourages you to remember the brand being advertised — and further down the line, when you have a need for their particular kind of product, they might well be the first name that springs to mind. This is the power of brand awareness.
Marketing your products and services so that they are instantly recognisable is the key to securing loyal customers. In one survey, 82% of consumers claimed loyalty to a particular brand of product, but the first step to achieving a recurring sale is to have familiar and cohesive branding that helps your products to stand out from the competition. This way, customers will be drawn to your familiar brand wherever it’s marketed and sold, online or offline. Awareness can be raised by having a uniform colour scheme across marketing materials, alongside complementary fonts and styling choices that are unique to your brand.
2. Communicates brand messaging
Another function of creative design is to convey brand identity. Cohesive visual communication across different channels will tell a story to prospective customers, sharing your USPs and building trust in your business. Any marketer worth their salt will be doing this with words, too — but the reality is that images are processed far quicker than text — in fact, up to 60,000 times faster. As a result, eye-catching design can grab a consumer’s attention and start to generate leads in seconds, providing a great return on investment for a business’ visual marketing efforts.
The way that your products and services are perceived is largely determined by how they are presented. In this sense, we’re all guilty of judging a book by its cover — packaging expert Meyers reports that up to 52% of consumers have switched brands due to a change in packaging design. This is because a customer’s decision to stay loyal is rarely entirely dependent on the intrinsic quality of the product, but also upon the way that it makes them feel. If a consumer feels aligned with the aesthetic, value and identity of a brand, they’ll be more likely to purchase — and marketing is the most influential factor in this.
3. Improves customer experience
The customer experience of your brand is directly linked to how you market your products. While fields like web design might not be the first priority that springs to mind when we consider marketing, many modern businesses have no brick-and-mortar premises, meaning that a website serves as their front of shop. Ergo, creative website design is an integral part of any good brand marketing strategy. The numbers don’t lie — 42% of consumers will exit a website that isn’t easy to navigate, and a further 21% will leave due to a visual element as seemingly insignificant as having “outlandish” colours.
So, even for businesses that don’t rely on print or other physical marketing materials to sell themselves, good design is essential. And not only does it take creativity to create a striking visual identity, but also to solve common design challenges that risk losing out on conversions. Good web design strikes the balance between visual cues that are both pleasing to look at and functional, so that website visitors can easily find their way around and won’t prematurely abandon their customer journey.
Marketing roles that provide creative design
So, we’ve established that creative design is an essential ingredient for good marketing — but what kinds of roles at your typical agency provide this? Here’s the rundown of some common positions.
Graphic designers are responsible for the visual output within an agency. They are primarily tasked with creating the assets used for adverts and other marketing media, and on any given day, this could include designing logos, infographics, typography and even animations. In order to produce visual assets that stand out and engage consumer attention, a creative flair is a must — as well as heaps of technical skill.
Many designers, and even some writers, choose to upskill to design for user experience (UX). The responsibility of a UX designer is to make a product or service as easy and enjoyable for consumers to use as possible. In the context of a website, this can be done by optimising content layout, designing accessible customer journey maps, and conducting all-important research into the visual elements that users find the most appealing.
Social media marketer
Thanks to the rise of short-form video content, the social media advertising market size is expected to exceed $262 billion by 2028. With so many of us using these platforms each day, there’s plenty of content vying for our collective attention — but creative design is what separates the wheat from the chaff. The very best social media marketers will know what eye-catching elements to include to get people watching.
Beyond the all-important metrics, forecasts and targets that clog most marketing strategies, creative design is an essential tool that is not to be overlooked. It serves a number of essential business functions, from communicating who you are as a brand to bolstering your customer experience.
To add it to your arsenal, you’ll need the right people on your team — from a graphics wiz to a TikTok guru — and you’ll need to be committed to making your brand stand out from the competition. It’s creative design that holds the power to do this, by turning heads and turning passersby into loyal customers.