Mastering the first impression
Three Rules for a Strong First Impression
It cannot be overstated how important a first impression is for a brand. It’s crucial for explaining your product or services, building credibility, and standing out in a crowded marketplace. Whether or not we want to admit it, we all have a tendency to make a gut-level assessment when we walk into a store, open an email, or visit a new website. We decide quickly whether or not the brand identity resonates and if it’s worth the time to explore further. It happens subconsciously very quickly — and it’s in that split-second that your brand needs to make a case for itself.
We know. That sounds daunting. But, it’s actually not as difficult as you’d think. It all comes down to three rules for mastering the first impression. Follow these guidelines and your brand design is on the right track to wowing potential customers.
RULE #1: IT’S ALL ABOUT CLARITY
If your customer doesn’t know what your brand is about, there’s no saving the first impression. It doesn’t matter how pretty the brand creative looks, how clever the copy, how flashy the experience. All that matters at the beginning is answering a few simple questions: Why does your brand exist? What are you offering? Can the customer trust what they see?
Clarity doesn’t mean being boring, however. In fact, here’s a little secret: You can be obvious while being creative.
To build credibility, it’s important for your brand design to match the product or service. If you’re a landscape design company dedicated to building beautiful spaces, your website better reveal an eye for design. Similarly, if you’re a software company with a product that promises ease-of-use, your website better be simple to navigate. All the brand design decisions you make should ladder up to your brand’s overall service and build customer confidence. They should work in the service of clarity, not as a roadblock to it.
RULE #2: LESS IS MORE
It’s a classic saying because it’s true. Control your brand story and stop yourself from giving too much information upfront. After all, you don’t spill your entire life history when you first meet a stranger. It’s the same thing with a brand identity. Yes, customers want to know the inspiration behind your vision. But, not before they want to know the basic facts of what you can offer them.
Here’s an example: You’re visiting a new website and, bam, within seconds you’re hit with too many interstitials. You’re asked to accept cookies, to sign up for a newsletter, to remember a promo code, to use the chatbot… It can quickly become overwhelming, even if each piece is well-designed and on-brand. Too much visual clutter easily creates confusion and frustration.
There’s a time and place for every piece of information. (And if you need help placing the parts of your brand story, it might be time to chat with a branding agency.) But when it comes to the first interaction, go for less and leave your audience wanting more.
RULE #3: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Here’s a simple question that is often overlooked: Who is getting the first impression? Every decision you make needs to be with a specific audience in mind. How do they want to be communicated with? What terms do they understand? What do they want to know? (Be careful, this is different than: What do you want to tell them?) If you’re talking to a different audience than who is actually visiting your website, your first impression will likely fall flat.
Once you’ve determined who your audience is, you need to think about where they’re at. Are they on their phone or on a desktop? Is the first impression in a store or online? If it’s in a physical space, every sense is important, and every interaction crucial. Sights, sounds, smells, textures — they either work together to draw a customer in or to push a customer out. If you’re meeting your audience online, there’s a series of first impressions: a digital ad leads to a landing page, a product page leads to a checkout experience. When assessing how your brand meets its customers, you need to look at the web of interconnected touchpoints to understand which moments are the make-or-break first impressions.
Simple. Concise. Knowledgeable. These are the characteristics that make a customer sit up and think, Finally! Exactly what I’ve been looking for. So go ahead and take a look at how your brand identity presents itself. If it doesn’t follow the three rules above, it might be time to do some extra thinking around the impression you’re trying to make.
Parting thought for the day…
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers