What a wild time for brand managers, business owners, and anyone dealing with corporate branding and digital marketing. 2020 has been a year of constantly changing game plans when it comes to developing or creating any sort of content for your brand. To make the best of the situation, why not consider this a prime time to relearn your audience and develop a better mindset on how to communicate your brand? It can be difficult to convey the message you want to get across while also conforming to the various restrictions of your corporate brand guidelines. But taking a step away from strict rules and incorporating different fonts or colors may save your content from being ignored. Today, there is so much forced engagement and staged imagery in content that it often ends up getting treated as an ad. It’s time to give your audience something real for once. Not everything posted needs a call-to-action; sometimes your audience just wants to see what resonates with them in your brand. Even if there is a call-to-action, try not to make it obvious. Understanding what resonates with your audience will help guide the type of content or messaging that is appropriate to use.

Think about your audience and what they actually connect and resonate with

            Primarily ask yourself what you would want to see if you were in your customers’ shoes. Personalize the experience so it doesn’t seem like a template being used over and over again. There are so many ways you can trigger those little moments that inspire people and create that internal spark of happiness to build relationships. If you’re real about your messaging and tell actual stories about how this brand will make customers happy―even if it’s the little moments of their lives―you’ll create the connection that drives the relationship.

            Know your place as a brand, especially when trying to create these connections. If you try too hard with forceful engagement, your audience will begin to notice and call you out on your bluff. What is worse than seeing cringe-worthy content on your feed? Getting called out for it in the comments section. A bunch of random corporations or brands around the internet celebrating National Taco Day, for example, comes off as forced engagement. It doesn’t make sense to have Brad from IT dress up in a sombrero and eat a taco on Facebook Live. It is probably best for Brad to do a 30-second video talking about a really obscure technical topic that the company is super passionate about, because that’s what people are going to relate to. That’s what’s real. That’s authentic. The moral of the story is: your audience doesn’t want you to be the National Taco guy just to sell your brand. They want you to be you.

Don’t be married to your brand guidelines

            It has taken some time for the design community to understand that in some cases people really don’t care about your brand guidelines. They are not about your colors or your logo, and they definitely don’t want to go on your Instagram and just see a grid of brand brand brand brand. They are interested in what your brand represents and what it means to them. And that’s why it is so important to communicate with them artistically, not bluntly or inappropriately.

Conveying emotions through design can be accomplished by means of specific elements like typography and line weight. If your brand’s main font is set to a black typeset strictly for headers, but the design goal is to create a sensitive social graphic, what do you do? Think of the black type weight as screaming at someone (VERY SIMILAR TO THE ALL-CAPS EFFECT), and the light type weight as like a gentle little whisper of sweet nothings. Visually, the message can be misinterpreted as aggressive with a black type weight. Therefore, sticking too close to the brand may not be the best design solution for conveying something sensitive. Another great example of this is the poster, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.” IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE AN ORDER THAN A SUGGESTION. Respectfully, this poster has a great history you can learn about here. However, from a design perspective, the all caps and heavy strokes of Helvetica can come off as slightly aggressive, which definitely does not make me feel calm.

Many companies see their social platforms as free advertising to their customers. How do you keep your content from being ignored? If the main image has a logo and all these brand decals, it’s going to visually look like an ad, and the person scrolling through is going to skip past it―even though it may be valuable content. Everything will begin to look the same over time. Think of how people hate talking to a robot on the phone because of the lack of human connection and communication. They don’t want to see your work look like it was mass-produced either. If it looks like an ad, it will be treated like an ad. That human connection and communication is key to creating the foundation of your relationship with your customers. Therefore, it is best to go about each project independently, by pulling apart the message and branding to create a compromise with whatever design elements need to be used to make the message successful.

But what if the whole purpose of a project is to create an ad? Take a look at how Pampers won the hearts of many with this commercial. Their product is very subtle, they never once say “Pampers” in the script, and best of all, it is relatable. We all love a good sense of humor and poking fun at each other. Pampers shows the vulnerability behind diaper duty and how bursting into song is really the only way to deal with it. This video creates a relationship with their audience by sharing a very personal and intimate part of parenthood. Especially when the content is displayed with great energy and truthful fun, why not use their product? See what they did there?

Not everything needs a call-to-action

            Not everything you post has to be an advertisement for your product or services. Having empathy through your work and giving your customers a chance to breathe is always nice too. Sometimes people want to be reminded why they chose your service or products in a way that validates their decision beyond the financial or materialistic. People have loads of anxiety when it comes to spending their money and time on new services (especially during the pandemic), so nurturing your brand with empathetic content will help ease them into the marketing materials.

 Take a look at Boohoo[, an international clothing brand that seems to know exactly how to present themselves. Their main philosophy is to provide a safe community to inspire each other and celebrate each other’s beauty. They are involved in charity organizations and have donated over $300,000 tackling the forest fires in Australia alone, and they are also committed to sustainable fashion. Talk about being engaged in what matters most! On their socials, they don’t brag about what they do―they focus on building relationships through posting vulnerable content and sharing community content.

This post of Ariana Grande being complimented on her outfit by Jimmy Fallon is sometimes exactly what you need to hear and exactly how you should feel about yourself. This post was not intended to sell clothes from their store; it was to encourage confidence in their audience, sharing something with the community’s specific sense of humor. It creates an opportunity for people to emotionally engage and connect, which is how they will remember your product or service.

            For a better understanding of what is authentically appropriate on each social platform, try to stick to the following tips and tricks:

social media cheat sheet

            At the end of the day, just say it how it is. Communicating transparently with your customers is the best way to reach them. There is no need for bedazzling your message with logos, brand elements, or even worse …forced community engagement. Talk to your audience about what they resonate with, channel the meaning behind why they followed you in the first place and ride with it. Give them what they want to hear in a fashion that is most appropriate. Large fonts and flashy colours may be what the brand requires visually (for some brands) — but when CONVEYING SWEET MESSAGES it doesn’t necessarily work. Be mindful of what you’re putting out into the world because it is your brand! Having the mindset and appropriate gameplan of being more authentic with your brand is the best way to start.