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Why a Strong Visual Identity Helps Market Your Brand to College Students

By collegemktgrp | May 4, 2022 | Brands/Advertisers

With branding, a bad first impression is a hard one to shake. This is especially true when you’re competing for the attention of college students and Gen Z.

Studies show that within 0.1 seconds, a student can form a judgment about whether or not they like your brand, find it attractive, or trust it. And with 90% of buying decisions being made subconsciously, you need a visual brand identity that’s an accurate representation of who you are and what your brand is all about. 

Visual identity is the collection of imagery and visual information that expresses your brand — and what differentiates it from everyone else. These are the elements that students can physically see and help create a general tone or atmosphere for your brand, such as your logo, digital color palette, and website design.

Just as your content marketing strategy helps establish loyalty among college students, the visual aspects of your brand identity inform students about the nature of your brand and the services you provide. Whether good or bad, your visual identity creates an immediate emotional impression and response from the students you’re marketing to. 

Discover the most important elements of your brand’s visual identity and how to design elements that resonate with college students and their parents.

Elements of a Visual Identity:

Think of your brand’s visual identity as a language. Its individual elements — like the copy on your website — come together to create meaning for the students you are targeting. Each element is integral to creating a cohesive representation of your brand.

Graphics

  • These are the assets that are usually drawn or digitally designed. 
  • Graphics can be as simple as forms or shapes or more complex like logos, icons, or full-scale animations and illustrations.

Typography

  • This is the overall style of the text you use in your branding. 
  • Consider the type of font you want to use in your logo, email campaigns, social media assets, and website copy. 
  • Keep in mind that you’ll want this to remain consistent throughout your marketing materials.

Color palette

  • This is the color scheme you choose that best exemplifies the mood you want your brand to embody.
  • People often discuss how they feel about a brand versus how they think about it. Much of that can be influenced by the color palette.
  • Best practice is to stick to 3-4 colors.

Imagery

  • This is the collection of photos and videos that are representative of your brand’s personality.
  • Students want to see themselves in the brands they buy from, so it’s important to use imagery that is also representative of them.
  • Create guidelines around the voice and tone of the images or videos you use. 

Physical brand assets

  • These are all material objects that contribute to your brand’s visual identity.
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll want to consider how its layout and overall design are consistent with the rest of your visual identity. 
  • Apple is a perfect example — each store looks alike with their white interiors and glass storefronts.

How to Build a Brand Identity That Resonates with College Students 

Your brand’s general identity (its mission, vision, and values) should guide your brand’s visual identity. The visual elements should express the “who” behind your brand.

College students and Gen Z value brands that are transparent, diverse, and have tons of personality. To engage and convert college students and Gen Z customers, you need to earn their trust. 

They want to see the purpose and drive behind your brand — what makes you click and how do they relate to you? How do your visuals best tell that story? 

Checklist for Building Your Brand Identity:

1. Define Your Brand

  • What’s the mission of your brand? 
  • Who are the people or students you want to connect with the most? 
  • What tone of voice do you plan to use with them? 
  • What do you stand for? 
  • These questions can help you see the character of your brand.

2. Choose your Design Elements

  • How do things like color, texture, shape, type, framing, and lines best elevate your brand’s identity and messaging? 
  • Each element can impact the tone and meaning of your brand, and it’s up to you which are most important.

3. Tell Your Brand’s Story

  • Using compelling imagery can help convey the story behind your brand more than words. 
  • Brands like Dannijo, a women’s clothing and accessory brand, have built a massive following and celebrity-packed fan base using authentic visual storytelling. 
    • All of Dannijo’s social media and marketing assets often feature the two sisters who own and operate the business, making them an important piece of their brand’s story. 
    • Along with the imagery that features them, they also utilize user-generated photos and videos, ranging from everyday folks to celebrities like Ali Wong. 

4. Be Consistent

    • No matter the medium or platform, every aspect of your brand’s identity should look like it belongs. 
    • This is where having guidelines on your brand style can be super helpful.
    • There can be lots of moving parts, so be sure you’re documenting everything as you build things out. 

5. Keep it Simple

When building your brand identity, remember to show, not tell. How you communicate is a big piece of the puzzle, and how you portray your brand visually can be the difference between college students buying in or moving on to a competitor. 

Main Visual Brand Elements to Use When Creating a Brand Image

Now that you’ve worked through building your brand identity and figuring out how you can best leverage your visual identity, it’s time to think about how this translates to your branded content. Whether you’re starting with your logo or want to break into TikTok marketing, here are the main elements that make up your brand’s visual identity.

Logo

  • Your logo is perhaps the most memorable part of your visual identity. 
  • How can words, icons, and colors represent what your brand does? 
  • You don’t need a literal depiction of what you do, but your logo should be immediately recognizable as your brand’s.

Instagram Grid

  • Your brand’s Instagram account can act like a curated gallery of images and messaging that’s uniquely yours. 
  • On a crowded and competitive platform like Instagram, your visual messaging can make or break your ability to gain followers. 
  • Home and lifestyle brand Jungalow’s Instagram feed is a beautiful collection of bright colors, patterns, and bohemian inspiration. 
  • Each post is captivating and makes you want to learn more about their brand.

TikTok Videos

  • If you’re developing ads targeting college students, you need to be on TikTok.
  • TikTok is an opportunity for your brand to have a little more fun and showcase the lighter side of your brand’s identity. 
  • Thanks to features like stickers, filters, and other animated effects, you can bring your visual identity to the platform easily. 
  • Just remember to have some fun with this platform and not take yourself too seriously. 

Learn more about how to kill it with advertising on TikTok >

Email Design

  • Email marketing is one of the most direct ways to communicate with college students and inspire them to buy from your business. 
  • Make sure that your messaging and identity are consistent with every other platform they might be engaging with you on. 
  • Thanks to platforms like Klaviyo, you can easily create templates that feature your specific color palette and typography as well as an image library.

Website Design

  • Your website is the basis for your brand — this is where your brand and visual identity come together. 
  • Your color palette, typography, and imagery must all work together to grab and hold onto the attention of your audience. 
  • make sure your website is easy to navigate so that visitors know how to find out more about your brand, where to follow you on social media, and how to contact you.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to College Students

Understanding your brand’s identity is the first step in standing out to your target audience. The next step is knowing who your audience is, and what inspires them. 

When you’re marketing to Gen Z, you’re trying to reach the largest, most diverse generation. They’re unlike any other generation before, and marketers need a keen understanding of their specific tastes and interests to be successful. 

Learn the do’s and don’ts of marketing to Gen Z to avoid missteps and reach more college students this year.

Our top strategies for converting Gen Z students >


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