A company’s brand can be as valuable – if not more so – than the products and services it offers. Apple’s brand alone is worth $184 billion, while Google’s is $141 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a B.

While a brand identity is comprised of many qualities, visual identity is arguably its most important. This includes the logo, sure. But it’s also the typography, the icons and the illustrations. It’s the photos you use in your ads and the footage you use in your videos. It’s the color palettes and contrast methods you use on your site and various mediums of social media.

Despite visual identity’s remarkable significance, companies sometimes lose sight of what others see. Partners, customers and prospects are the ones who ultimately define your brand, but too many businesses fail to pay enough attention to certain elements of visual identity, which can prove costly over time.

Here are five key aspects of visual identity that are often overlooked:

1. Collaborate with your team.

Employees throughout your organization have a stake in its visual identity. Although the creative department and its design team may be developing the company’s visuals, they don’t necessarily bring the strategic insight on what the company aspires to represent that executives and senior marketers bring. When working in tandem, however, diverse thinkers will hatch ideas well worth pursuing to fruition.

Everything revolves around your “big idea”– the one key takeaway message your company wants etched in everyone’s mind. To ensure your visual identity adheres to its principles, develop a set of rules, guidelines or exercises that enable you to test new concepts. Lots of good ideas won’t pass muster; only the outstanding ones will.

2. Know who you are.

You can’t appeal to everyone, and trying to do so might guarantee that you appeal to no one. Who is your audience? Who are your customers, now and in the future? These are the first questions to ask when developing your brand, and how you answer them will have a direct bearing on your company’s visual identity. Trying to appeal to audiences outside your true company character sends mixed and muddled messages. Why complicate things?

Discover what you look like. Then return to the mirror frequently to maintain your good looks.

3. Never stray from consistency.

When it comes to cultivating a strong visual identity, a consistent aesthetic is critical. Your visuals must be identifiable over time, so when someone sees them, they know it’s you. The designs and images you use become part of the brand experience, so when they are used inconsistently, people don’t know what to expect, and your organization risks diluting its overall brand.

Ideally, your organization can create its own visual identity system and ensure that consistency is maintained throughout all collateral and content assets, online and off. This means checking off parameters related to your color palette, typography, illustrations and more, and making certain your brand’s visual identity encompasses a form of overall harmony.

4. Remember that uniqueness is a virtue.­

You only stand out from others by taking chances. Creating a distinct visual identity isn’t easy, and novel design ideas are often met with initial resistance. Innovation can be scary. But differentiating a brand is critical if you want to become an industry leader. Let others think differently, and instead take Apple’s advice to “Think Different.”

Coming up with a strong visual identity that sets you apart from the pack involves competitive research, and lots of it. What are your competitors doing right, visually speaking? What are they doing wrong? Most importantly, what are they missing altogether that can have a lasting strategic impact? Determining that last fact allows your brand to leap above all others.

5. Craft an ongoing story.

Always consider the role your visuals play in telling your organization’s continuing story, and how it shapes the big idea and the meaning behind your brand. When audiences encounter your logo – or other visual aspects of your company – they gain some sort of understanding, if only subconsciously, of who you are and what you do.

As time passes, these visuals take on more dynamic characteristics, and their appearance and subsequent recognition become components of a consumer’s broadening experience with your company – the different chapters of the book without end. When a retired steelworker eyes a can of Coke he’s drinking from on a hot summer day, he may very well flash back to the times he did so when finishing up his paper route a half-century before. His story, then, becomes intertwined with that of Coca Cola.

Once you’ve fully grasped and sought to optimize the above five qualities of your visual identity, your work is only just beginning. As your company evolves, so will its big idea. That means your visual identity will require constant tuning and the agility to shift in any direction. That said, when your organization always pays attention to these key aspects of its visual identify, good things will come.

Want to see how your brand performs against the competition? Set up a complimentary strategy call! We offer workshops too that help you align with the leaders of your organization to (re)ignite your brand and bring forth what is important.