Images & Branding

The role of images in brand recognition

Recently I’ve been collaborating with Keith Riches of KR Design over on LinkedIn. Both of us have an interest in the use of images & branding. We wanted to do some soft research whilst having a bit of fun and raising awareness of aspects of branding. So, between us we did 3 quizzes. Keith started with an A-Z of brands using fonts associated with logos. I followed with a pictorial approach to brands focussing on colour and shape, removing much of the detail. The 3rd quiz was a joint A-Z of bands. Here we combined visual associations from the design and photography perspectives using parts of logos and associated imagery. This post and Keith’s post summarise some of our findings and thoughts. You can find some of the quizzes on KR Design LinkedIn page.

Here are the complete sets of font clues and image clues for the images & branding band A-Z quiz :

Images & Branding - full set of font clues for quiz
Images & Branding - full set of A-Z image clues

Many of us are familiar with things like fonts representing a brand, but there are other aspects to branding that play an important role. Keith’s initial quiz looked at logos. I wanted to test the role of images & branding, but more specifically shape and colour using a follow-on quiz. Using CGI mockups and minimalist photography I presented products by well known brands with just the basic outline of their shape and in some instances also used colour. We might not think of shape as being something quite as recognisable. But, as it turns out, there are some really iconic shapes and colours out there.

Simplified Marmite jar with just shape and lid
Campbells Soup Can reduced to just colour and shape
Kilner jar with illuminated outline
Simple CGI image of a red can to evoke the Coca Cola brand

If we are producing physical products, then it may be worth considering using a deliberately unusual shape. This is particularly useful for brands aiming at long term brand awareness on a large scale. If there is room to be slightly different to how most others are presenting their products then this allows for originality that could become a strong part of the brand.

Using guitars as an example, Fender produce one of the most recognisable guitars – the Stratocaster. It has a soft, curving form that has influenced many other manufacturers. To stand out from the growing crowd of imitators, brands such as BC Rich have produced more unusual shaped guitars that are far from the norm so also readily recognisable to those in the music industry.

Fender Stratocaster guitar silhouette lit only around the edge

In our bands a-z quiz my role was to choose images that I felt had a strong association with the band or artist. The idea being to explore the kinds of things that can be visual cues to a brand. In some cases this was something to do with a famous song. In others, it was album covers or props that were felt to be well-known.

AC/DC lightning bolt on black
Sex Pistols God save the Queen uk flag graphic

The more well known and popular the band, the more tangential or obscure the clues could be with participants still identifying the band correctly. Given that the letter from the logo was included with the image we can’t know for sure what the weighting of importance was for participants to recognise the band/artist. In some cases, it seemed to be that the letter of the alphabet was enough in itself to suggest the band. Some letters are used less frequently at the start of band/artist names, which reduces the options (we couldn’t come up with many band names beginning with X!), but to be thought of as a possibility from just a letter requires that the brand be pretty well known. Clearly, to get more accurate data a more scientific study would need to be done. But, for this low key approach it was important just to keep things fun.

Men wearing fake ZZ Top beards
Images & Brands - Bat in flight - Meatloaf clue

Part of the fun was to encourage people to post their answers in the form of a pun (partly to avoid giving the answer to those still working it out). In many cases, the puns that were given as indirect answers revealed more about how people recognise brands. Of course, for bands many of these were around song titles. Yet still, the point stands – a brand is far more than just a logo and there are many ways we can get our brands into people’s thoughts and try to lodge them there.

Guns 'n' Roses skulls

Having explored branding from several angles, it has become clear that many of the most recognisable brands have something about them that is different to make them stand out from the crowd. To be easily distinguished, a brand needs to have something distinctive about it. Perhaps one reason why some brands are not widely recognised is that they blend in too much. It can feel safer to follow trends and use established routes to success. However, brands tend to need a strong, unique personality to really make an impact and have a lasting legacy.

There is a strong connection between images and branding. This shouldn’t be surprising given the hugely important role images have in communicating powerfully. Once again there are many opportunities to stand out with a more creative style of images. Many businesses settle for plain product images on a white background. This may be fine for a basic e-commerce listing, but given how pervasive it has become, it lacks distinctive personality (see Keith’s post for more detail on brands as personalities). 

As creatives, our job is to help you build a distinctive brand that attracts customers and sells products. Take a look at some of the brands you admire the most and see if you can work out what makes them different. Having high quality images & branding isn’t just a nice to have – it is essential to build a strong business. 

If you aspire to create or maintain a unique brand please do get in touch. Images should be sales tools that make you money. Don’t leave any aspect of your branding to chance.

In case you were trying to play along using the clues at the top of the page, here is the grid of answers:

Grid of band logos used in the Bands quiz

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