Business Design Strategy Technology

Polish or Perish: The Importance of Visual Identity in Clean Tech

This post was written by Nicolas Boillot with contributions from me. From The Agency Post

In the immediate future, the clean-technology landscape will experience a massive and sustained surge of investment during the convergence of:

  • Rising fossil fuel prices
  • Diminishing costs of clean and sustainable technologies
  • Increased clean tech efficiency ratios
  • Uncertain but sustained government incentives over several years
  • Available success metrics from early adopters in business and residential installations

This “harmonic convergence” will echo long into the future. Many believe the surge in clean tech will make the dot-com bubble appear as a mere speck along history’s trajectory. The clean-tech convergence portends a wave of startups; from Boston to Beijing, young engineers are putting to work the latest engineering wizardry to create new capabilities and reimagine existing technologies. Droves of investors are lining up behind them — global investments in clean tech surged 13 percent in 2011 and look to do equal or better in 2012, despite a hobbled global economic climate.

Technology doesn’t win by itself

After 13 years of serving engineering-driven companies at HB, we now understand that many companies with extraordinary technology often ignore their own brand. Brilliant engineers and scientists creating tomorrow’s winning technologies continue to believe that, “If I build it, they will come.”

But they won’t. After working with hundreds of technology companies and seeing some succeed and some fail, we put together seven reasons why a strong brand identity can make all the difference:

  1. Company personality. A visual identity immediately communicates a feeling to audiences that interact with the company. It is easier to remember a company with a distinct look, which serves as an anchor for associated ideas and experience.
  2. A reflection on the corporation. An informal poll of investors and other members of our community concluded that even discriminating audiences make the assumption that companies with an established look are further along than those without a clearly defined visual presence.
  3. Rallying the troops. We think and feel in more than words and schematics. A well-defined identity provides a set of visual cues representing common values and goals.
  4. Authority isn’t the same as credibility. Authority is what entrepreneurs bring to their areas of expertise. Credibility is what others believe they have when they exhibit certain signs. A distinct visual identity ranks high among such confidence-inspiring signs.
  5. Your investors are human. Even technology-savvy investors respond favorably to visual cues.
  6. Bad visuals can kill a great product or service. Just as the beauty of Apple devices entices consumers to pay a premium for what many consider a less-advanced product, poor presentation can have the opposite effect, no matter how good the underlying technology or service.
  7. Differentiation. A professional, modern brand story told through logos, type and consistent graphics can set a company apart from its competitors, creating a feeling of care and craftsmanship necessary to the success of many clean-tech companies.

Beyond visuals

One secret many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that working on the company’s visual identity can raise questions that often get relegated to the back burner. The answers to the following questions can deeply influence future growth:

  • What do we stand for?
  • What does our voice sound like?
  • What is our personality?
  • How do we visually represent the best of what we offer and care about?
  • What problem are we trying to solve?

Answering these questions and others while building a visual identity will help galvanize the team and open new paths for growth. The result will strengthen your brand – and your bottom line.

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