Principle 4: Engage the Eye

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

Continuing our reading journey of Sticky Branding, we reached Principle 4. In case you missed the first three principles, you can find them on my website. It starts with a brief Introduction to the book and continues on a weekly basis with Principle 1, 2 and 3.

Let’s dive into Principle 4 and the law of attraction. 

Whether we want it or not, there is something about the first couple of seconds that shapes our opinion of someone or something that we can’t deny. 

I still remember the first time I consciously saw a Mini Cooper. I fell in love with this cute, colorful, and spirited little car. Each time I saw one I got all excited. I associated a lot of positive feelings with it even before I had driven one. 

When Miller writes “Attraction is magic” (page 67) his words exactly describe my emotional experience with the Mini. Attraction plays to our primal instincts and our lizard brain. In other words, we can’t avoid its grasp. If we find something attractive we notice it, we’re drawn to it. We like to associate ourselves with these products or groups or persons because they reflect who we are, they are part of our identity. Miller writes: “We also choose products and brands to enhance our own sense of self-worth.” (page 67) Guilty as charged. Here’s a little example from my world: 

I’m sure you’ll agree that a Mini Cooper is mostly a fun car. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you intend to drive kids to soccer practice or if you need to go grocery shopping the car quickly reaches its limits. Knowing this full well, I still couldn’t resist its charms and bought one. I loved it because I could customize it to my liking, when I ordered it (yes, I had to wait eight excruciating weeks before I could pick it up), the sales rep made a couple of great suggestions that I incorporated (no, it didn’t cost more money), but most importantly, each time I drove my little Mini, it was pure joy for me. I loved every moment of it, and getting into the car and driving it made my day. 

My favorite car, my cinnamon and black Mini Cooper

Why is this so important, especially if we’re thinking about prospective customers? Because we judge products or services at every visual touch point. In a blink of an eye, we decide if we like a product and find it worth a second look. This very first impression guides our next move: are we interested, or are we not interested? Did the visual presentation catch our attention or not? Did it tell the right story? And for our purpose: how do I tell my visual brand story. It’s not just about the logo or color; it’s about all visual aspects of your product or service. It’s about the font on your website, images, icons, the overall design of your website or printed material, the navigation of your website, and all your marketing material such as brochures, flyers, newsletters… you name it.

Every one of these components tells a story, and, when combined, they tell your (prospective) customer your story. What you stand for, what you are like and what your product is like. The more unique you are, the easier it will be for customers to distinguish you from the crowd. To pick you or your service for a reason.

In order to find your uniqueness you have to dig deep. Miller recommends to work with metaphors. They are universally known and easily understood. They help us make sense of the world and our experiences and guide our actions. One of the best known ones is the hero story: Harry Potter, Star Wars and the like. But don’t drift into clichés. Dig deep, and find what really matters to you and your customers. Miller quotes Gerald Zaltman from his book “How Customers Think”: “Marketers who wish to influence the stories that consumers create must build stories around archetypes, not stereotypes. A story built around an archetype involves a universal theme, that is, a core or deep metaphor simultaneously embedded in a unique setting.” Zaltman distinguishes between seven deep metaphors which he labels: balance (or imbalance), transformation, journey, container, connection, resource, and control. (page 74) 

LEAPJob, Miller’s own company, researched where career transition and job-hunting fit in with these seven metaphors. His team often heard words like “I’m stuck” or “change directions” or “go down a new path” and realized that a career transition or job change is a journey. The next step for LEAPJob was to determine how they could help their clients on this journey. They found that they often used the words “We don’t just guide salespeople to find their next job, we help them leapfrog to the next stage in their career.” (page 74) The words “leap” and “leapfrog” became the basis for their visual identity, and Leapy the Frog, their mascot, was born.

To make the point here, a strong visual identity tells your story and speaks to your customers on an emotional level. It attracts their eyes and tells them without words what experience your company will deliver. Like in Principle 1 “Simple Clarity,” simplicity is queen. Pay close attention to any feedback, especially when testing different versions. Ask industry outsiders what they see, what they feel, and what story your images tell them. 

Did I mention that Sticky Branding is an ongoing process? That’s also true for your visual brand identity. Like fashion, it has a shelf life. Not only because styles change over time, but also because you, your company or your offering may have changed. You want your brand identity to look fresh, inviting and up-to-date. Miller says: “Make your business stand out by really working to enhance the visual appeal of your brand. Look to each customer touch point – website, marketing materials, your products, your office, and any other areas your customer engages with regularly – and consider how you can deliver a compelling visual experience.” (page 78)

Before I close this chapter, let’s have a final look at the questions you should ask yourself when creating your visual brand identity. They are mainly the headlines from Miller’s exercise section: 

  1. Pick a story
  2. Select pictures
  3. Share your story
  4. Listen to the feedback
  5. Find common phrases
  6. Identify your deep metaphors
  7. Pick your metaphors

Now it’s your turn. How did you come up with the pictures, colors, font, etc. for your brand? Do you find Miller’s approach helpful or did you take a different approach for your visual presentation? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Until next week

2 thoughts on “Principle 4: Engage the Eye

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