Your Most Important Content Design Isn’t What You Think It Is
Where does your brand invest most of its creative resources? Probably in high-level content: your big campaigns, ads, and pieces for lead generation. Since they’re the most visible (and make the most money), that’s where your brand needs to shine the most, right? Not always.
While a flashy new video might convince your Instagram account to ring your doorbell, it’s the much less glamorous content that will keep them going through the shopping journey. Items such as newsletters, presentations, e-books, sales materials, and other miscellaneous content items are just as crucial to your brand experience, sometimes even more so than expensive items. Yet when it comes to design, this content is often overlooked, underdesigned, or ignored altogether.
If you’re trying to create a seamless brand experience that takes customers effortlessly from awareness to purchase, the design that you think doesn’t matter may be the only thing holding you back.
Content design is a brand experience
Although we often think of brand experience as customer service or product performance, every interaction someone has with your brand is part of your brand experience. This also extends to content.
Both large and small, your content communicates a lot about your brand: the copy, the format, the design all reflect who you are, what you do, and how you run your business. If you are unintentional about this, you may be sending messages you don’t want to send.
We have seen these problems both inside and outside organizations. For brands, it looks like…
- The sales presentation that brings Frankenstein together every time you have a new client to present.
- The sales brochure full of archival images.
- The generic CTA on your website.
- The annual report sec.
And that’s just for external communication. Content design can also play an important role in your employer brand experience, influencing employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention rates. This content is notoriously overlooked, yet it is something that employees regularly consume. Looks like…
- The less than inspiring About Us page.
- The annoying announcement for your next team event.
- The stock company greeting card.
- The text-only employee handbook.
Creating a consistent and engaging brand experience is key to lasting success, but if that content isn’t crafted consistently, you’re missing out on major opportunities to differentiate yourself, connect with people, and compel them to become a lifelong fan (or dedicated employee). At worst, you are actively degrading your brand integrity. Neglecting the power of design can even affect your bottom line. (According to research by Motiv and DMI, design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 228%.)
The power of good content design
So what is good content design, really? It’s about designing content in a way that increases its appeal, understanding, and retention, which will help you build a lasting relationship with your audience.
- Call: Suppose you are exploring a brand’s website and want to know more. You probably don’t want to go looking for their contact information. Instead, an intuitively placed and highly visual CTA would 1) grab your attention and 2) enhance your experience by guiding you to the next step (instead of wasting energy on finding it).
- Understanding: Good content design can transform the way you communicate. When done well, you make it easier, even enjoyable, to summarize the information you give them. Would you like a text-only manual that walks you through instructions for programming your new device, or would you prefer a nice picture that walks you through every step? Since the brain processes visual information much faster than text-based communication, a solid design can help you communicate better with people (regardless of their learning style).
- Retention: In a competitive market, you want to stand out. Good content design can foster instant connection by creating an emotional moment. We’ve all experienced a burst of joy at surprising branded content, whether it’s the confirmation email that made you laugh (thanks Native deodorant) or the clever copy on a CTA (Cards Against Humanity invites you to submit your bad idea). This type of content creates a momentary respite from a busy day and makes you want to interact with the brand even more. The more your brand can use design to make those moments memorable, the more memorable you will be. Whether your audience becomes a customer immediately or within a year, this is the first step to creating a lasting relationship.
Example: The Ben & Jerry’s About page is the perfect example of how content design can transform seemingly boring content. Instead of a dry mission statement, we navigate through a playful, entertaining, and creative timeline of company history. (BTW, we stumbled upon this page over a year ago and are still thinking about it – let’s talk about a memorable content experience.)
Similarly, Everlane’s About Us page features interactive data visualizations that break down their apparel price against the industry standard. This simple visual element communicates their brand philosophy and allows you to actually see the value they offer, at a significantly lower price.
While both of these brand stories could have been communicated through text alone, adding a visual layer elevates the content and has a stronger impact.
Start with the end in mind
“Begin with the end in mind” is Habit #2 by Stephen R. Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you want people to have a good impression of you from the get-go (and maintain that impression at every stage of the buyer’s journey), think about how your entire content ecosystem supports this or not. experience.
This is crucial, especially for early awareness content, which is often the first way people encounter your brand. The micro-decisions you make about this content design can have lasting effects.
A few things to consider when auditing your content design:
- Can you introduce more design? Beyond what’s present in a creative brief, there may be more opportunities to turn copy into compelling visuals. Consider how the format and visuals can enhance the viewer experience. (Here’s how to use design to communicate more effectively.)
- Who oversees content design? Things often slip through the cracks because no one is specifically in charge of overseeing them or because people don’t feel empowered to take ownership. Stakeholder identification is essential. (This is an area where brand teams can be particularly helpful. Learn more about how to build a brand team that will grow your business.)
- Do you treat all content the same? Granted, every piece of content you create may not require as much human power to produce, but every piece of content should be treated with the same level of analysis. Who is the audience? What should they know? Which format is the most effective? How can you add your brand personality? What next step do you want them to take? How can design support these goals?
- Can you design more efficiently? Even if you have limited resources, there are templates, tools, checklists, and other resources that can make it easy for your team to replicate all kinds of branded content. (For example, Face is a convenient way to create data visualizations and other content. You can also learn to master your content creation process)
Ultimately, building and growing a strong brand through content is a learning process. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect and you will continue to evolve as your business goals change. Even if you have many areas to improve, prioritize one and go from there. What matters most is knowing the experience you want to deliver, and then following the steps to get there.