Enhancing the aesthetic of your digital content
Last month Croud's Content Manager, Rae Sturm, spoke at iMedia's Brand Summit on how to enhance the aesthetics of your digital content. In this article, she explores this topic further.
When it comes to aesthetics, most of us associate the term with influencers who curate their Instagram feed with a consistent filter and an unrealistic expectation of everyday life. However, for the sake of this blog, I'd like you to think outside of the box and think of aesthetic as a bigger picture concept - rather than how pretty your favourite blogger's breakfast was this morning.
But first and foremost, what is aesthetic? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains that the term aesthetic has come to be used to designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgement, a kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. With this in mind, you can begin to conceptualise that aesthetic is much more than how something (your digital content, in this case) looks.
Aesthetic judgment in a digital age
Whilst the cliche 'don't judge a book by its cover' has a place in real life, in digital, audiences are far less forgiving and open. Think of today's average Google-searcher landing on a disjointed landing page to a restaurant venue they were hoping had the "best seafood in Australia." Instead, they find blurry imagery, mismatched colours, and no clear idea of what vibe the venue exudes. The scenario would anti-climatically end with the user clicking away, leaving the site and revisiting their search results for something more relevant to their query and a little less "fishy."
In today’s world of swiping and scrolling, our ability to form aesthetic judgements has transpired into the way we view digital content, and in turn, choose and purchase products and services.
Neuroaesthetics is a field of science that aims to combine psychological research with aesthetics. It involves the perception and response to art and other visual elements. A great example of neuroaesthetics at work can be seen in this recent experiment led by Google:
The experiment proved that intentional aesthetic details have a full effect on the body - physically and emotionally. Now I know this experiment and terminology seems a bit over the top when compared to the aesthetic elements of your average infographic, however, my reason for including this experiment is to reiterate that the term aesthetic encompasses something much broader than just “pretty” content. Through analysing human behaviour and emotion, we can learn more about how the brain works during an experience online. This can translate into the ways humans interact with digital content and tech, considering why we find some designs more beautiful than others, and how choices are made by certain influencing factors.
Your brand is exposed whether you like it or not
Now let's tie this back to how aesthetic affects brands. We know that there are over 25 million brand accounts on Instagram, with 80% of Instagram's users following at least one of those brands. That means that your content is out there, being seen and people are making aesthetic judgements on it.
Let it be known that it's not just Instagram posts that have an aesthetic. Every piece of content evokes a visual identity including videos, infographics, ebooks, GIFs, blog posts, landing pages - and more! Good aesthetic has the ability to affect mood, quality of life and purchasing power. The goal is to evoke an emotional response within your consumer, solely from your brand's visual identity. For example, over 40% of consumers say brand packaging makes them more likely to share a product image or video on social media. This means that the power of aesthetic not only affects the experience of your consumer but also affects the likelihood of that consumer sharing the experience and perpetuating your product.
How to know if your aesthetic is working
True branding means that aesthetic has to transcend every touchpoint in order to communicate an authentic experience and significance. It is more than a logo, image, or a package design - it is everything. By using aesthetic that creates actual brand meaning (not just a picture or way of speaking), we can use it to define the brand, drive sales and elevate culture.
A surefire way to ensure your brand's aesthetic is working, is to perform what's called the 'no logo' test. This helps evaluate whether an aesthetic is consistent, on strategy, and as effective as possible. The 'no logo' test asks that all brand assets (across every connection point) can be viewed without a logo to ensure that the brand is still communicated with radical clarity.
For instance, can you tell which brand these content pieces belong to?
Mystery brand #1
Mystery brand #2
McDonalds and Spotify, represented above, do an exceptional job conveying their brand aesthetic within their digital content. The pieces pulled above consist of content from their website banners, social channels, out of home advertising, and videos.
How to elevate your content's aesthetic
1. Write copy with an aesthetic purpose
It's not what you say, it's how you say it. Written copy communicates the meaning and experience for your brand. This tone of voice embodies your personality and set of values. Elements like text, word length, and white space all play a role in the consumer experience.
*Top tip: Try to narrow down your voice style into three words. You can also try to use something more succinct, such as: conversational but not casual or professional but not patronising.
2. Rethink your brand's imagery
This is the obvious step, however, it's one that needs to be reinforced. Imagery builds the base narrative for your brand. Consider colour, composition, typography, content and style. Imagery sells more than your product - it can sell the experience consumers could receive from buying your product.
Below are a few examples of imagery that we've created for our client, Thrifty Car Hire. This imagery ranges from photos to infographics - yet as you can see, it is consistent and ties nicely with the overall Thrifty style and aesthetic:
3. Make your videos work smarter
Video is the hottest piece of content right now. Here are a few videos from Glossier that have a recognisable and consistent style, yet are made at various scales of production. As you can see, even the simple slideshow of stock imagery with textual overlay blends perfectly with the user-generated video demonstrating the product on a customer's complexion. This seamless integration is all thanks to the recognisable and replicable aesthetic the brand has set in place.
4. Be strategic with colour
The purchasing intent of customers is greatly affected by brand colour. So much so, that 90% of customers' product judgements are based on colour alone. Creating a designated colour palette within your brand guidelines ensures your brand is recognisable and your content ties with the other elements of your brand.
5. Maintain consistency and continuity
Branding guidelines are essential for keeping your aesthetic in check. When creating content, maintaining recognisability across all forms of digital content is crucial. With clear guidelines in place, you're able to cross-check that your newly created content suits the guidelines you've already established.
Our client Butcher and the Farmer achieve a consistent aesthetic through their various forms of content. From landing pages to videos to infographics to the actual venue itself - the look and feel of what the brand evokes are consistent. Here a few examples below:
6. Nail your site's user experience
As humans, we process patterns and recognise details. For a website, we see this as the flow of interaction between pages, the grouping of CTAs, specific features, etc. Digital content shouldn't confuse the user. Your website should look like a website and be navigable.
7. Make creative content
Interesting and interactive content is a surefire way to make your website's content appear more aesthetically pleasing and convey a visual yet immersive experience for the user.
For example, recently, we created an interactive quiz for our client, Thrifty Car Hire. The quiz featured Thrifty branding, tone of voice and illustrated imagery, to guide the user on a quest to find the most suitable car for their next road trip.
Take the Thrifty quiz now to see for yourself!
Looking ahead to the future of digital content and aesthetic
Whether you like it or not, your brand is constantly perpetuating an aesthetic. Make it work for you, not against you. You should ensure your current content strategy includes a clear guideline of how your content should look and what emotions or experiences it should evoke. As new tech comes into play, embrace the challenge and use it as a powerful tool, but stick to your aesthetic strategy. Envision how people can experience your content on multiple levels.
- People will make opinions about your brand from your digital content within seconds.
- Visual aesthetics isn't just about being pretty, it's about making people feel something.
- Remember, your digital content is the face of your brand and it's always on.
To find out more about our content service offering and how we can help to enhance your digital content's aesthetic, get in touch.