When most small business owners go about creating a business brand, they tend to think about hiring designers, graphic artists or other creative types to help. Or, to save time and money, they muddle through on their own, with a rudimentary understanding of what they think looks good. Now, thanks to innovations in machine learning, the next wave of business branding might actually be created by machines. Can a machine create a brand better than a human? And what does that mean to your business as you build your own brand?
Can a Machine Create a Brand?
Branding and the 400 Milliseconds …What it Means to the SMB
I’ve often written about how important it is for small business owners to develop their own solid personal brand. It’s critical for building authority in your field, and engaging an audience. The same is true for your company’s brand, maybe even more so, in fact. Consumer research shows that 90 percent of consumers expect a brand experience to be consistent across all platforms and channels, and first impressions are incredibly important.
It goes far beyond simple brand recognition; your brand elements build important emotional connections with your audience.
“People should feel something when they connect with your brand,” said online marketing guru Neil Patel in an interview with Jeff Charles.
Consistent and professional brand elements make it easier for customers to recognize your company and develop those feelings of trust that are so important in driving a purchase.
Yet for many small businesses, the cost of a professional branding solution is prohibitive. Brand strategist Pia Silva of Worst of All Design estimates that for a small business brand, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 and $15,000. At that rate, it’s no wonder that many brands attempt the DIY approach.
Yali Saar, CEO of Tailor Brands, sees an alternative: “Every logo, and every branding element, is a combination of color, shape and meaning,” he explains. “Although your logo may seem like a small piece of your brand, it is the first thing your prospect encounters,” Saar explains. “And within 400 milliseconds, the human brain makes decisions about how it feels about what it perceives. You have that much time to make your first, and potentially lasting, impression.”
Saar’s believes his company has found the sweet spot where design best practices meet machine learning, to bring big-budget style branding design within reach of the small businesses.
The Science Behind Building a Brand
Your logo is not just some arbitrary symbol. As Saar explains, “A logo provides the visual representation of your business to your customers. It holds you accountable to the brand promises that you made. And it conveys this to your audience, helping ensure that they come back to use your business over and over again.”
Budget-route graphic design is too often subjective to really nail this down. I’ve heard so many small business owners talking about their own DIY attempts, based on what they like. They don’t necessarily take into account their brand promise, their relationship with their audience, or the emotions that need to be conveyed. A hired graphic designer often will probe these questions, but as I pointed out earlier, that route can be too expensive for small biz budgets.
What Saar has discovered is that these artistic decisions on color, font, size, placement and palettes can now be made intelligently, based on science and data, rather than subjective preferences. And that opens up a whole new level of branding for small businesses.
How Small Brands are Leveraging Design Science for Big Results
Can a machine really design better than a human? According to Jury Vetrov, who has been following the field of algorithm-driven design, the answer is a definite yes.
“The tools of the approach [for better web design] can help us to construct a UI, prepare assets and content, and personalize the user experience,” he writes, noting that it wasn’t until last year that “the technological foundations of these tools became easily accessible, and the design community got interested in algorithms, neural networks and artificial intelligence (AI).”
Vetrov is speaking specifically of website design; the same principles can be carried over into other forms of design as well. Machines are learning to be creative (NPR.org), especially when given input into the intangibles like your company’s mission, language and purpose.
At Tailor Brands, Saar sees great potential in this intersection of creativity and data.
“Our users create a new design every 1.5 seconds,” he explains. “We ask for input about their brand, their mission, in an open-ended way that doesn’t limit their ideation.
“All of that creation means mounds of data,” Saar continues, “which helps us spot trends in branding that helps influence the next design. Our machines are constantly learning and getting better at what they do. “
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a solid brand look, no matter the size of your business or how long you’ve been around. From first impression to building engagement and growing solid relationships, your brand identity is crucial. Now, small business owners can leverage real science and put it to work for their company with brand elements that let them be amazing, faster than ever before.
Robot Painter Photo via Shutterstock