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Do you need a separate visual tone for your brand online?


I’ve long been a fan of Starbucks use of visual marketing via their social accounts.

Just look at their Instagram account. It’s a perfect mix of fan content (lots of #regrams lately) and not-over-staged brand photography.

And, that last part is the key: “not overly-staged.”

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When it comes to visuals on social, most brands seem to use the same visuals they use in catalogs, in ads and on billboards. Think car companies. High-end jewelers like Tiffany’s.

But, Starbucks takes a different tack. They almost seem to have a separate visual tone for their social media pics and photography.

And I’m quite certain that’s purposeful.

The question is: Is it necessary?

As usual, the answer is, “it depends.”

For a brand like Starbucks, it works, since they have the option to lightly stage and capture so much great photography right in their stores. Or, using their products (coffee) in creative ways. Not every brand has that luxury.

But, I also don’t see why brands need their social visuals to sync so tightly with their more traditional visual brand imagery. Why can’t their be wiggle room? Why can’t you employ the same concepts, but take a little different approach given the audience and characteristics of the platform?

That’s what Starbucks pulls off so well.

They know stilted imagery won’t work on a platform like Instagram. It’s just too jarring to the viewer, who’s seeing pics of friends with kids, on vacation and at coffee houses in their feeds.

But, a close-up image of a iced caramel latte no a table in front of a computer? Heck, that’s an image I would share. In fact, it IS an image I have shared! So, that kind of thing feels right at home on Instagram–Starbucks has always seemed to inherently “get that.”

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Yet we see so many brands forcing their stilted stock or overly branded photography on us via Instagram.

And I’m just not so sure it works.

So, I guess to go back to the question I posed in the headline: I think maybe more brands than you think would benefit by having a separate visual tone or look-and-feel via social channels.




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