3 Content Design Mistakes That Are Majorly Hurting Your Branding—and How to Fix Them Fast

Illustration symbolizing content design and content branding, depicting a hand with legs, holding a message.

Whether you’re using content as part of your marketing efforts to gain customers or are just looking to grow a loyal following as a publication, you should be considering your brand in every blog post, article, ebook, landing page, and more that you put out there. Think about it this way: You would never put out an ad that doesn’t align with your brand—why would you treat your content any differently?

Every single touchpoint you have with a customer is an opportunity to grow brand loyalty, and—for many—content is the first and most consistent touchpoint they have.

~50%

of companies indicated that customers and vendors or partners expect great design and consistent branding across the board

Lucidpress, 2019

But aligning your content with your brand isn’t just a question of consistency. In theory, you’re providing tremendous value through your content, be it through helpful information, an engaging story, or something else that’s serving your target audience. Good content branding is an opportunity to remind them precisely who is providing that value—and make them want to continue working with you in the future. In the same Lucidpress survey, over 60% of respondents shared that a strong, consistent brand is very important for every step of the customer journey: generating leads, nurturing leads, closing sales, and communicating with existing customers. And, when they maintain brand consistency, they estimate an average of 33% growth in revenue.

~33%

growth in revenue (average) you can get maintaining brand consistency

Lucidpress, 2019

So yeah, brand matters in every single piece of content you produce. Unfortunately, many companies focus too much on the content itself and don’t highlight who they are. Here are the most common places we see content makers missing the mark—and how you can make sure your brand shines through every time.

Your Images Don’t Match the Story at Hand (or Your Brand)

Visual elements are a huge part of content these days as content makers realize how much of a boon they are for engagement. The problem is, many publishers treat this as an afterthought, scrounging up the first stock photos they can find as they’re uploading the piece just so they can check the box of having included the right amount of images. Ultimately, this leads to a disconnect between the imagery, the content, and your brand.

In other words, if you’re just being generic, you might as well not have an image at all. Instead, you should treat curating the imagery for your work as a critical part of the content process and carefully select or create visuals that will elevate the story you’re telling (which, will in turn, elevate the brand experience).

This doesn’t mean you have to have a staff photographer or designer who can create custom imagery for everything (though that can be amazing if you have the means). But, instead of just slapping a mildly relevant stock photo at the top of an article, think strategically about what type of imagery will improve the user experience, either helping to explain a concept or conveying an emotion related to your content. Then, take the time to choose the right images or, where you’re able, create custom ones. And make sure to think across the whole spectrum of visual elements when you do this. Photographs, illustrations, GIFs, videos, infographics, and more can all play a part in your content and brand experience.

Art-director’s tip

Icons can work as a great illustrations. Use them from one pack (for example, check free icon-collector, The Noun Project), paint in brand color palette — it’s simple and fast way to develop branding consistency through imagery.

Screenshot of an icon-collector interface with a  brand color palette

Your Publication Doesn’t Have a Unified Style

Another common mistake we’ll see is that, even if companies are doing a great job picking out images for individual articles, the style will differ wildly from piece to piece, preventing their content from looking like a cohesive brand and making it harder for a reader to build positive brand associations.

In a world where most content makers are pulling from stock image libraries—with photos taken by very different photographers using different styles—it can feel impossible to have brand cohesion. Custom photography or illustrations are certainly one way to go for powerful branding. As Smashing Magazine explains, brand illustrations “let you build the world as the brand sees it,” keeping things consistent no matter the subject matter and creating an emotional connection between your company and the reader.

Example of unified style in illustration

Blog of Oscar Health. Example of unified style in illustration

But even if you don’t have the budget for that, there are ways to be sure your imagery connects with your company. At a base level, be sure you have a style guide for the types of images you choose, including subject matter, themes, coloring, mood, etc. That way, the stock imagery you choose can still feel cohesive. You may also opt to put a certain filter on all pictures or add illustrative elements to the photographs—like custom borders or backgrounds—to create more brand consistency.


Want to check your own work?

Download a free checklist to see if you’re taking advantage of all the best practices for improved content differentiation.

Illustartion of hand with a pen filling the check boxes

You’re Not Taking Advantage of Microbranding

Just putting a splashy header photo or adding an illustration or two into your content does not make a fantastic brand experience. Too many brands miss out on small opportunities to reinforce who they are and create a strong connection with the reader.

Every little thing you design for your content presents an opportunity to instill your brand. Every pull quote, every data point you pull out and highlight, every sidebar, and more. These should be designed thoughtfully with your brand colors and fonts in mind, and the styles you create should be saved in some way so they’re easy to recreate across content pieces (see point above about brand consistency). We call it microbranding, and it’s a small but powerful way to gently remind the reader who they’re interacting with.

Example of layout snippets and design templates from Bushwick Daily publication

Example of layout snippets and design templates from Bushwick Daily publication

Checklist

Use this checklist to see how well your content is encouraging engagement—or let us do the work for you by reaching out for a FREE CONTENT EXPERIENCE DESIGN SCORECARD, which includes personalized action steps based on the data for optimizing every part of your content, meaning happier readers (and better ROI).

Illustration of a Content Experience Scorecard example

  • Content features specially-created visuals
    Your photos, illustrations, GIFs, videos, infographics, and more should be tailored to elevate the story and hand and to align with your brand.
  • Design follows a unified and recognizable style
    All your visual elements—from photos to illustrations to font colors and choices—stay consistent through each piece of content and throughout the publication as a whole.
  • You’re using microbranding where it makes sense
    Pull quotes, data highlights, side notes, and more are also designed with your brand in mind.
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