The Look of Clean-Tech: Differentiating Through Design
Gone are the days when images of blue skies and green grass communicated everything that needed to be said. Clean-tech marketing has grown up and requires unique visual branding in order to attract attention in increasingly competitive markets. How can companies and technologies better represent themselves through design?
Invest in creativity
News flash! Logo and visual brand development isn’t cheap. But it’s important to look at the development as an investment, not a cost. The logo sets the tone for your business – think of it as brand equity. The more you use it, the more equity your brand builds.
And don’t stop at a logo. A visual brand requires much more: deliberate use of typography, photography, colors and graphics. The fundamentals of a brand go a long way in clean-tech marketing as many companies haven’t invested the necessary time, money and energy into building their brand equity.
A logo cannot possibly tell the entire story of your technology, business or brand. Think of all the time and effort you’ve invested just to launch the company! Much like your business, a brand is a living entity. It is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time – the product of a thousand small gestures.
Know that your logo or visual guidelines are only one part of your greater brand story. You want the mark to be simple, easily understood and flexible. The logo must work across the web, print materials and future applications (such as on a product, billboard or clothing). Think about all the places where your brand may show up – a little planning goes a long way towards avoiding nasty discoveries. For example, a multi-colored, complex logo may look great on a poster. But what happens when you place it over a colored background? Make sure the logo remains strong in its many variations (black, white, large, small, one-color, etc.) to avoid any pitfalls.
Think of your brand as aspirational. The logo should communicate where the business aspires to be, not necessarily where it is now. When guiding a branding or design firm on its task, talk about your company as you envision it in five years. Are you a developer of wind energy struggling to raise funding and slogging through regulatory processes? Your instructions to your design team must focus on the future, when you might instead describe a sense of cleanliness, simplicity, stability and happiness.
Avoid Common Design Traps
We see many new companies falling into three common traps when using design to differentiate themselves:
Literally abstract:Your logo doesn’t have to communicate what you do. Rather, it can provide a symbolic, visual window into the business and its goals.
Example: The Geothermal Genius logo’s flexibility and forward-moving arrow don’t restrict its future to Geothermal solutions. That, combined with a professionally designed site, creates a solid visual brand.
No way cliché: A cloud can’t possibly distinguish you from another brand. Think beyond!
Example: Helix Wind takes an abstract design element to create the sense of moving energy for its logo.
In it to limit: A wave alone can’t represent your hydroelectric company, especially when the business grows to offer additional energy solutions.
Example: Namasté Solar’s offerings aren’t limited by some representation of the sun. Instead, the logo’s modern, abstract design speaks volumes about its clean, peaceful brand and its future.
Following such recommendations requires care, focus and oftentimes a significant investment in a talented design team. Such investment can go a long way in the clean-tech world, which is relatively young and unsophisticated when it comes to marketing.
With any investment, the more equity you build at the beginning, the greater the returns in the end. Brand equity is no exception.
Justin Hastings is the interactive strategist at HB, an integrated marketing agency focused on clean-tech, high-tech and medical technology markets. Justin specializes in using web-based strategies, tools and analytics to solve client challenges. Justin speaks on the role of analysis and research in marketing, most recently at his alma mater, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, in the fall of 2011. Outside of work, Justin can be found on a golf course or playing cribbage.