Whether you DIY or let the professionals handle it, here are some basic design rules to follow to make sure your digital marketing design is hitting the mark.
People are spending more time online, as the numbers doubled last year with the average time spent online a, perhaps depressing, 7 hours. Blame the pandemic if you want, but the fact remains that if you’re going to reach new customers for your business, you need to tap into digital marketing.
It’s well known that good design can improve your digital marketing efforts. From eye-catching ads to a perfect user experience on your website, there’s no way you can succeed online without solid design.
However, suppose you’ve ever attempted to do it yourself or found yourself struggling to provide designers with direction. In that case, we’re here to teach you about the basics of good digital marketing design so that you can apply the lessons in your strategy.
The 4 basic questions to answer before you design
Before you try to DIY your designs or make a request with a designer or design service, you should have a clear digital marketing strategy in place. This will help make the design process quicker, but also make any necessary adaptations, so that your design is always in line with your marketing goals.
Every marketing campaign should have a clear goal, such as increasing brand awareness or lead generation. Knowing the goal of your campaign will help you measure its success with KPIs and make promptly tweaks if necessary.
Understanding your target audience will help you settle on a style and tone of voice that they respond to. Creating marketing personas for each of your campaigns will also allow you to place your ads better, for example, using the right targeting options in social media marketing.
You won’t run every campaign on all the digital channels you have. Reevaluate which channels are most relevant to your audience and your campaign goals.
Whether it’s professional photos, custom illustrations, or complex video production, knowing what you need designed will help you create better briefings and also find the right designer or service for your needs.
The basics of digital marketing design
Now that we have the theoretical framework in place, it’s time to deep-dive into the basic rules of creating high-quality marketing design. Here are some golden rules to follow.
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Stick to the brand guidelines
It’s no surprise that we often start talking about a digital marketing strategy with a reminder about brand guides.
Brand guides should contain all the visual elements (colors, fonts, illustrations etc.) as well as the tone of voice that are to be used in every graphic design created for a specific brand.
Think of it this way: if you create an amazing ad, people might click on it once, but soon they’ll forget all about your business. If you produce consistent designs made for a particular target audience, you’re en route to build a strong brand image and loyal customer base that will provide you with a steady income.
Use negative space
Non-designers often think that negative or white space means lazy or bad design. But the reality is quite different.
White spaces allow designs to “breathe” but, more importantly, help the key elements become more visible. A call to action button, for example, should usually have plenty of white space around it so that people don’t miss it.
Contrasts help attract attention
Getting people’s attention online is tricky. Not only is our attention span notoriously short these days, but as a digital marketer, you usually have a ton of competition to beat.
So, good digital designs need to command attention and get people to pause.
One big graphic design principle that usually helps with that is contrast. Warm and cool colors; big and small; old and new; unusual typography pairings. There are tons of ways to catch people’s attention on digital media using contrast, so make sure to choose one that fits your style and brand story best.
Consider the meaning of colors
The good thing about design for digital marketing is that you don’t have to worry about print and how the colors on your visuals will look. Although different screens will display them differently, there’s not much you can do about it.
So while you’re safe with the technical side of choosing colors for your designs, it’s still important to consider color psychology or what common meanings and emotions are associated with specific colors.
Of course, these findings are highly dependent on context as well as the different shades and hues of each color. However, it’s not a bad idea to get informed about some of the meanings and consider how they might impact the design of your marketing materials.
Create a visual language
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Still, in the world of digital marketing, this is actually proven to be true: a majority (32%) of marketers think visuals are the most important type of content. For example, Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without.
When it comes to design, try to use minimal copy when possible. Instead evoke emotion and convey a message through visuals. Presume you’re trying to sell your products and services in a global market. In that case, this might eliminate or minimize the need for translation. Next, remember that people retain 80% of what they see compared to 20% of what they read. So it’s much more likely that a message conveyed visually will stick longer than even the best ad copy.
For example, you’ll notice how cleverly McDonald’s uses its signature products for all sorts of different campaigns: from job ads to mobile delivery and McCafe, this company always finds a way to incorporate burgers into their visuals.
Deliver the brand story with each graphic
We’ve already said that you need to stick to the brand guidelines to create a strong brand image. But beyond just a visually coherent look, you should always strive for authenticity over being trendy or overpromising.
Instead of using staged stock photos to promote your business, use pictures of your actual customers. A graphic designer can help you out if the photo quality is below par which is often the case. Try to include diverse representation and use your brand voice to address issues that are important to your target audience.
For example user-generated content (UGC) is a tried and tested social media tactic that helps brands save money and build trust. It’s an incredibly prevalent trend in the beauty and makeup industry. A few brands that are hailing UGC are Glossier, Tarte, and Fendi.
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Consider the user experience
Digital marketing design is so much more than just visual appeal. Whether creating a social media presence or a user-friendly website, it’s all about the experience you make for your audience.
Crafting the best user experience will also depend on where in the sales funnel your leads are. For example, if they’re still in the awareness stage assets like blog post covers and visuals will encourage them to engage with your brand through helpful content. Consider the search engine optimization (SEO) tactics used to get them to your website and provide relevant content.
If they’re in the middle or bottom of your funnel, then well-designed case studies presentations and customer testimonials might sway them to make that purchase finally.
Similarly, when it comes to social media, you want each of your channels to provide a curated experience for newcomers as well as existing customers. A great example of doing this right is Dollar Shave Club. They gained internet fame with a superbly witty YouTube ad, but since then their social media game has been on point. Take one look at their main channels (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube) and you’ll notice how quickly they all convey what the brand is all about: easy grooming and self-care tips for modern men, with a necessary touch of humor.
Make it personal
Personalization is one of the biggest trends in online marketing, from email marketing to social media. Since we know our personal data is being shared online (of course, these days, it’s a little more regulated than before), we also expect brands to step up their game and provide us with a tailor-made experience. Epsilon found that an impressive 80% of people are more likely to purchase from brands that offer a personalized experience.
It’s fairly common to see personalization in areas such as marketing automation, with abandoned cart emails or recommendations for customers based on past purchases. However, a particularly creative example comes from the German railway Deutsche Bahn.
Their social media campaign “No Need to Fly” used an AI to identify what destinations people searched for and then showed them ads with similar-looking destinations in Germany (which you can reach by train for much less). The campaign was a huge success, with a 24% increase in revenue and over 850% click-through rate.