Insight Into Crafting a Visual Identity

We often talk about the importance of written language. Words are powerful, but so is design. As digital platforms have become increasing visual, design has become increasingly important. It’s another form of language to communicate your brand; an extension of it, really.

Consumption today happens in a split second. Consumers scroll, tap and move through their social feeds without giving things a second glance. As they scroll, content needs to stand out. It should be clear which team, brand or league the content is from with or without a logo.

Visual identity matters because social is the front door to your brand. If you want to put your best foot, you must create a look and feel that is ownable and stands out. Below are a few examples of NFL teams this season:

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

LA Rams

Creating a visual identity like the ones above takes a team effort and a commitment to the cause. Below, Tyler Trout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sr. Designer, Graphic Design) and Kenton Olsen (Director, Digital) from the Seahawks give some insight into how they’ve invested in a visual identity and made it happen.

 

Why a visual identity matters.

Tyler: It is important to have a visual identity because your brand is the first thing viewers see before making a decision to buy in or not. If your message or look is all over the place and not consistent with what they saw the first time then there is a sense of disorganization and separation. Almost like a dividing line between when the company had a vision and lost its vision. Starbucks, Target, Apple, Nike all give you overwhelming visuals of different branding, but their looks looks are distinct and undeniably memorable.You can picture each brand without even seeing them. If they did not focus on their visual identity, then their brands would not be as recognizable or as memorable.

Kenton: From a digital and social perspective having a consistent visual identity is important for us because it differentiates our content from others in the digital space. It also allows our online content to mirror creative in the physical world.

 

The keys.

Tyler:The key to keeping things consistent is to focus on your brand first and then push the fundamentals. Once we establish the identity, then we can push ourselves to be as creative as possible within the parameters we’ve set. By pushing fundamentals like typography, composition, hierarchy, imagery, color, etc. we can expand and reinforce our brand with new ideas that all look and feel like the brand but are noticeably different from the last time you presented it.

Kenton: Great photography. We have some of the best photographers in the NFL. They make all of our content feel fresh, while keeping visual style the same.

 

Creative’s role.

Tyler: I am lucky enough to work with 4 graphic designers (3 fulltime and 1 intern) and each are a necessity to our brand. Some of us have specific responsibilities like designing for events around the region or designing for a corporate partnership. When it comes to social, we all help to create content that get used throughout our platforms. We understand our brand and all try to develop new ways to push it.

Kenton: We work very closely with our Marketing & Brand team. They are tremendous in involving us with developing the creative direction for each season. Having a creative team that involves us in the process is helpful because we can ensure all of our digital designs compliment those our fans may come across in the physical world. It also allows us to provide input on what creative wells will work well on digital versus elements that may be tough to work with.

 

Gameday flow.

Tyler: We have two designers working every game. One designer will focus on scoring drives and quarter graphics and the other will focus on content/photos for IG and IG story. Our contracted photographers give their cards to a runner on field who then loads and sends to us to use throughout social. As far as tools that make it easier…We use Photoshop, Dropbox, Topaz, and sometimes AP Images. We’ve looked into getting wireless for our photographers so we can instantly get the photos but we’ve heard through other NFL teams that the connection becomes an issue and they have to revert back to card running.

Kenton: We are fortunate to have an extremely talented social media producer and amazing designer that is dedicated to our digital content. They collaborate together to ensure we have consistency across our content. On game days specifically we have a system in place where our photographer(s) will add photos to a central repository. With technology in modern cameras (and improved connectivity) we can often see a photo from the field within a minute of it happening. Once that photo hits our repository our team collaborates over Slack where that photo will be used. Our digital designer will handle more intense graphics, while other staff members will take on less intensive tasks. These treated images are then sent to our social producer who will distribute as he sees fit. The current process is very focused on photos, but we are in the process of integrating more video into this same workflow thanks to an amazing new control room at CenturyLink Field. Another key to our consistency on game days, and throughout the week, is our designer has put together templates that are easy enough for anyone in our department to use. Pretty much anyone can take a photo and turn it into a graphic that is consistent with our visual identity.

 

Tips for making it happen.

Tyler: My tip to any team trying to find a visual identity is to create a style guide to your brand and push yourself within it. Reach out to different departments and help them understand why this is important and how they can help to maintain this identity and vision. Focus on the QUALITY of your brand instead of quantity. And always challenge a traditional project and ask why it is done that way and can it be done more effectively. So many designers just do what is asked instead of thinking if this is actually effective.

As far as any other tips, it would be to hire a project manager. That position is so crucial in the creative world because it allows us to do what we were hired to do.

Kenton: I have two pieces of advice for others looking to improve consistency. First make sure you work with your organization’s overall brand team. While it is nice to be consistent on digital, being across all channels should be a focus. Invest in resources. This can be anywhere from having a dedicated designer, to building templates anyone can use, to equipment to allow you to get content faster.

As Kenton and Tyler’s answers show, creating a visual identity and seeing it through to execution takes teamwork and dedication. But, it’s work that’s worth it. After all, you want to put your best foot forward.

Thanks to Kenton and Tyler for some fantastic insight. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter: @Kentono and @TheHooksta.

Why It’s Time To Abandon “Digital First”

It’s time to make “digital first” no longer a thing and “brand first” the focal point again.

It wasn’t long ago I was guilty of creating decks that had “digital first” plastered everywhere. But this industry evolves and changes. And when you think about the origin of the phrase, it caught fire because companies didn’t quite know how to tackle the space. They didn’t get how to build strategies around it. They didn’t get how to build teams for it. And, they didn’t get how to embed the thinking into their culture.

“Digital first” was a loud statement because there wasn’t enough investment in it. Something radical needed to shift within companies. Brands needed pioneers, renegades and wizards (hope you sense some sarcasm) to shape thinking that digital was the future.

Somewhere along the way, digital became this separate thing. A separate thing that often feels disconnected from a brand’s DNA. There’s this pressure to be everything to everyone or to resort to gimmicks for vanity metrics. “Digital first” became a very slippery slope.

It’s time to throw this thinking out. Digital is no longer new enough for new to be an excuse. It’s almost 2018. There are more than 3 billion internet users in the world. Digital should be innate to what we do as marketers.

Let’s step away from the gimmicks and get back to building our brands (through a customer-centric lens). We need to break down silos and bring marketing back to a 360 approach. Your digital channels shouldn’t feel separate from everything else.

All great marketing strategies start with a brand strategy. This means having a firm understanding of your mission, your values, your voice, your why. It’s not about gimmicks, retweets or short-lived vanity metrics.

Pivoting back to “brand first” means creating a more cohesive experience. Yes, digital will most likely be a driving force in the strategy, but the execution will reflect the brand through and through. And, that’s the business we’re in.

Approach Each Season Like A Campaign

The power to connect brands with people is what attracted me to marketing. Iconic brands from Nike to Starbucks understand the power of authenticity, values and strong messaging. And, even more, the power of human emotion.

Good ads are an art. They don’t sell; they move people to stop, pay attention, share and (hopefully) convert. Good ads entertain and connect on more than a superficial level.

This idea of emotion in marketing has been a personal point of interest for me. Years ago I interviewed at Nike (before my time at UA). When I stepped onto campus I cried. Yes, literally. Not because I was a sneakerhead. Because as a marketer, this was the brand that had paved the way in making an emotional connection with consumers, especially in sport. They bought into the idea of entertaining and storytelling above selling. I felt a personal connection.

An quote article in FastCo said it best:

Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

Enough with the personal and embarrassing anecdotes though. My point is that as marketers — and as marketers in sport — emotion is one of the most underrated tools we have. It makes the subject relatable for the consumer and connects at a deeper level. We all laugh, cry, smile and cheer. That’s how we connect as people. And, that’s how people connect with brands.

The idea of storytelling is daunting though. It’s too vague, too big, too vast. Sure, teams and leagues can tell a lot of different stories, but how do you make it impactful? They key is to hone in and focus.

If you want to tap into more emotion, consider taking a page out of how consumer goods (especially sporting) approach their marketing. Product launches and company priorities come with campaign roll outs. A strong message, a reason, a rally cry that’s consistent across all channels.

To do this, think about every new season as a brand campaign. That doesn’t mean every season comes with a new tagline (although that could be a component). It means creating a compelling narrative through which content and creative filters across all channels. Below are two examples:

 

South Carolina’s Here

The campaign was not just about football and the gameday experience. It was bigger than that. The campaign was about the culture of the school and town, a retreat from the grind, the commonality that ties all Gamecocks together and the passion of the team and fans. Instead of just selling football tickets, South Carolina told their story.

 

MLB’s This

Back in 2018, MLB launched a creative campaign called “This is Baseball”. Focused on the word THIS, it was ode to the great things in baseball that need no explanation (exactly how THIS is used in social media). The campaign’s strengths was in its simplicity and ability to integrate across teams. THIS campaign was relatable to every fan, no matter which team they root for.

As you can see from above, creating a campaign helped the Gamecocks and MLB rally around a common theme. It made their message clear and strong. And, it helped them move beyond the scores to the emotional side of sport.

Campaigns like this have a revenue purpose too. They might not be a hard ticket push, but they sell an emotion and an experience. And that is more likely to get people to click and convert than screaming “buy this”. A great brand campaign paired with a smart paid plan has the potential to be a big win.

The process for creating a true brand campaign is long, tedious and collaborative. But, here a few thoughts to get going:

 

Know your brand pillars.

Even if you think about each new season as a brand campaign, the DNA of your brand should not change. A great campaign has a clear message hierarchy. One that starts at the core of what your brand stands for and cascades off of that.

 

Find the idea.

A brand campaign isn’t about a new hashtag. It’s about a thematic that brings to life the brand’s story. The best campaigns come from an insight. Pull insights from the current team’s personality and nuances, fan chatter or something rooted much deeper in the brand’s DNA. Find that big idea to rally around.

 

Simplify.

Too often as marketers we try to get fancy and lose our consumer. It’s important to talk with them, not above them. Go through the process of fine tuning and simplifying your message. Simple is powerful.

 

Create a visual identity.

Today’s world is increasingly visual, which means your visual identity plays an important factor in convey the message. A great brand campaign should come with a strong visual identity.

 

Think through tactical and creative executions.

Once you have nailed the idea, it’s important to think through how the campaign can come to life across all channels and executions. A brand campaign is about a cohesive story across all channels. Nail your idea and then execute well.

 
Teams and leagues have never competed with more attention than they are now. Every space is cluttered and it takes something special to stand out. If you can think of every season is an opportunity rally behind something more, then that’s a good place to start. Emotion matters. And in sport, there’s plenty of it.

What examples of a brand campaign have you seen from team or leagues?

5 Social Media Lessons From The 2017 World Series Teams

The games during this year’s World Series have been exciting and fun to watch. And, that’s not the only thing. Both the Astros and Dodgers have hit it out of the park (sorry) with their social coverage. Below are five takeaways, strong visual identities to carefully curated feeds.

 

Your visual identity matters.

Creative is a reflection of your team, league or brand through and through. When people see content as they scroll through their feed, they should immediately know who it is coming from.

The Dodgers and Astros are both great examples of what it means to create a visual identity for your team. The creative is sharp, consistent and feels right for their brands.

Social is the front door to your brand. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward visually.

 

Dry information is about the presentation.

Sometimes you have to plug information that’s simply not sexy. Things like game times and tune in info have to be pushed out, even if it’s not all that bright and shiny.

While the information might be dry, it’s still important to capture attention. Both teams have done a good job creating content around dry information that still catches the eye. The key is to focus on moving image and good design. A few examples below:

Almost game time! Some things to know ahead of first pitch. #EarnHistory

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

Remember, design plays an important role in standing out from the noise. Even with dry information, it’s all about the presentation.

 

Curate, thoughtfully & carefully.

When you work in sports, it’s not about what happens on the field or court alone. It’s also about everything that surrounds it… before, during and after. When a fan glances at your account, it should tell the full story of you team or brand. Think about it as a snapshot.

The Dodgers do a fantastic job selecting photos and videos that tell the full story, from the stadium to the fans to in action. And, they also do a good job of varying the photos in style and angles. Below are a few examples:

#ThisTeam!! #WorldSeries | 📷: @jon.soohoo

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Soon. #WorldSeries #ThisTeam | 📷: @jon.soohoo

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

#WorldSeries relationship goals. #ThisTeam | 📷: @jon.soohoo & @jill.weisleder

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

@awood45 is DEALING! He's through five no-hit frames. #WorldSeries #ThisTeam | 📷: @jill.weisleder

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

The Dodgers’ photography is outstanding. But on top of that, they carefully curate their feeds. They don’t share similar photos back to back to back. Instead, they focus on diversifying what they share both, both in subject and in style.

When you work in social, you play publisher. It’s important to think about the totality of all your posts and the story they tell together, not think of each one as a “one and done”. Curate thoughtfully and carefully to paint the full picture.

 

Hype is real.

Good content is about evoking an emotion or response in fans, especially when it comes to video content. And, nothing gets fans to share more than a good hype video. This below from the Dodgers is a perfect example of it.

World Series. Game 2. Let's go Dodgers!! #ThisTeam

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

Try new formats.

In the battle for attention, it’s important to try new content formats and creative executions. Mixing up content keeps things fresh and fans interested, especially in this 365 day world where there is no offseason.

If you need an example of what this looks like, the Astros do a good job mixing up their content and creative executions, from the use of stop motion to illustrations.

‪Countless heroes last night, but it was @abreg_1 that delivered the final blow. #EarnHistory ‬

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

‪The last minute miracle. ‬ ‪Here’s a look at @justinverlander’s road to the 2017 #WorldSeries. #EarnHistory‬

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

It’s important to push creative thinking throughout the season so content does not get stale. Take a page from the Astros and leverage all kinds of formats to get your message and story across.

 
When you are on a big stage like the World Series, it’s so important to be prepared. It’s an opportunity to rally your community, earn new fans and elevate your brand. Both the Astros and Dodgers have seized the opportunity and it shines in their work.

The examples and lessons above scratch the surface of takeaways from both of these teams though. What stood out to you in their coverage? Share your thoughts below.

Why The Lakers Get Instagram Stories Right

It’s time to face reality. The chronological days of Instagram are over. A new wave has surfaced. It’s a reality where posts might appear at the top of your feed three days after the fact. It’s annoying, I know.

This new reality isn’t going away though, and it means that anyone in sports must pivot their strategy. A win or lost, after-the-game post is not relevant three days later.

In-feed posts are no longer real-time. Instead, you have to think of them as evergreen. They are a news source anymore. They have to be able to be relevant 24 hours – even 72 hours after the fact.

The rules have changed. It’s time to pivot. This means teams must rethink sharing game previews, score updates and anything else that’s time sensitive in-feed. Instead, they belong on Stories.

The Lakers have done a fantastic job this season with their approach to Instagram Stories. They have leveraged them for game previews, uniforms, highlight and score updates. All things that are real time, instead of constantly forcing them in-feed. And, their visual identity is the best of the best.

Below are a few examples of the content they share:

 

 

Working in social is all about pivoting. We might not agree with or like all the change, but it’s our job as marketers to go with these changes. Pivoting with changes creates a better consumer experience. And in the long run, that’s how you create a winning presence.

So, it’s time to face the facts. The Instagram algorhithm probably is not going anywhere. How are you adjusting your strategy to reflect that?