Visual vocabulary is a key component of online brand identity and visual storytelling. Incorporating a visual vocabulary into your communication strategy has the potential to increase the appeal, comprehension and retention of the information you’re presenting. The lives of financial analysts, who are sometimes under severe time pressures and constraints, can be made significantly easier through the adoption of a visual vocabulary by the companies they cover.
Background on Visual Vocabulary (VV)
The cornerstone of any brand’s corporate identity and your digital investor relations strategy is the company logo. But with so many different mediums currently being used by investors to research the companies, the corporate logo isn’t enough to convey all of the brand’s attributes. Not to mention, it probably doesn’t fit everywhere it needs to be displayed online. Employing a visual vocabulary is an excellent way to reinforce company ideals with your investor base.
When we say ‘visual vocabulary’, what we mean is all those secondary design elements that are used in conjunction with the corporate logo. Many of these elements will already exist in your corporate style guide and cover things like fonts, color palettes and the like. (We covered some of this yesterday in explaining the value of color in investor presentations). But to take this a step further, visual vocabulary refers to layout conventions, backgrounds, your photographic library, and choice of textures on printed materials.
Elements of Visual Vocabulary
The elements of your company’s corporate VV should be used consistently throughout your investor materials and marketing collateral. Here are some of the most critical elements from an investor relations perspective:
- GRAPHICS – Complex ideas can be communicated quickly by using graphic design elements. Compelling graphics are crucial for creating trust with investors. In investor relations, we use graphics and data visualization to reduce the cognitive load on the analysts that cover our companies.
- PERSONALITY – While most companies have a fairly dry approach to investor communication, there are plenty of CEOs and senior management people who want their personality to shine through to investors. It’s advisable to create a visual vocabulary to highlight your C-Suite at investor conferences and NDRs. Try to match or enhance their level of energy by creating visual materials to accompany them.
- LAYOUTS – Every corporate communications department re-uses various different materials. In investor relations, we typically see the same investor presentations being employed every quarter with some subtle content changes. This is a part of your vocabulary. All layouts (this goes for annual reports, disclosure infographics and more) should be considered part of the visual vocabulary and standardized as much as possible.
- CONNECTIONS – VV is an excellent way to tie ideas together in investor materials. This can be done with color, iconography or hierarchy. Establishing these connections visually means they don’t need to be explained verbally. Showing links between data points in this way is crucial when creating inbound investor relations materials.
Benefits of Visual Vocabulary
VV has many benefits. Some are more obvious than others. You may prioritize these values, based on your specific communication objectives.
- APPEAL – Well-designed information is stimulating, attractive and engaging. These qualities pique interest even before information is processed. Aesthetics are not superficial; they are how you get people’s attention.
- COMPREHENSION – Our brains are wired to understand visuals far before we even start reading text. The long-term comprehension of your analysts can be greatly increased through the use of VV. In fact, data visualization can be harnessed to win over investors of all stripes.
- EMOTION – Whether they know it or not, analysts and investors have deeper emotional connections with visual elements than they do with flat text or data points alone. Lines that trend upwards, for example, will elicit a stronger emotional response than two numbers with the second being larger than the first. Activist investors use graphic design regularly to stress positive elements of their story to groups of other investors.
- RETENTION – Our brains store and recall data in the form of visuals. Using a VV will allow your investors to quickly store data points, as they’re already in the correct format for our memories.
- COHERENCE – Using a visual vocabulary consistently throughout all of your corporate materials will automatically make your materials look more coherent, credible and professional. Use repetition of colors, fonts, styles and spacing to establish a coherent brand experience.
- REINFORCEMENT – Primarily of your core brand. VV should elude to your existing corporate logo wherever possible.
- SPEED – If retention is important, speed of recall is critical. By allowing your analysts and investors to store visual images, you’ll simultaneously provide their brains with more processing power to bring back information in the deep recesses.