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As we know in the beauty business, image is everything. As I outlined in a recent article in Dermascope Magazine, visual branding is key to the success of your business. When it comes to spa services, the service is the product as well as the actual treatments used, and this must be executed perfectly with the highest attention to detail. However, your client’s perception of your services and your product begins before they even get in the facial chair in the way you have visually branded your business.
I have always advocated for not only working harder but working smarter. It is for this reason I have created courses on turning your salon or spa into a profit center as well as implementing what I call the Art of Recommendation to increase retail revenue. I have also gone into great detail about these important tools in my business building book, Success At Your Fingertips: How to Succeed in the Skin Care Business.
I’ve also shared many important business tips and tools for success on my blog, including information on 5 easy ways to grow your spa business, how impeccable service can grow your business, about creating a successful career in esthetics and how to accelerate success with the CIDESCO Beauty Spa Management Diploma.
How you visually brand your business is a key factor in your business plan, and is as important as all the above factors for your success. Here, we’ll look at what visual branding is, its’ marketing implications and how it impacts your clients. We’ll also look beyond the marketing into how you holistically visually brand your services in the spa and treatment room. You may be surprised!
Image Is Everything!
Research shows that while all of the senses are important when making an assessment and impression, visual information makes up 90% of the data sent to your brain.1 Even more surprising: you process that information in as little as 13 milliseconds. These are just a couple of reasons why how you visually present your business is so key to your success.
Visual branding, and brand identity, is comprised of five components.
Logo is the name and presentation of your business, usually in a stylized manner that combines all the elements below. This should be unique to your own business, and used in every platform and context, from online media to signage and in-spa menus. If possible, it should be registered.
Typography, which is the font of the text you use, which visually conveys an image beyond the words you are using. When your brand has something to say, the way your text looks on the screen or page will add an additional level of meaning beyond the words themselves. Think of how a script font conveys a different message about the personality of the business versus a bold font.
Graphics, which are elements in design that are incorporated into your imagery such as shapes such as the Nike swoosh, patterns, implied textures, and even the amount of white space left in a visual.
Imagery is the photos and illustrations used in your visual branding that help to reinforce to the client the type of products and experiences they will enjoy at your spa or salon. For example, if you are using seaweed-based treatments in your spa, visual branding may include images of the sea or outlines of these sea plants.
Color in your visual branding could possibly be the most important aspect of your choices. Colors create a powerful psychological response as quickly as the visuals are presented, and need a careful consideration.
The Importance of Color
Seventy-five percent of snap judgments about consumer products are based on color. Research has also found that about 62-90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone. 80% of consumers say that color increases brand recognition.
The color palette you select for your business, which includes everything from your logo to website banners to the interior design of your spa, all convey a mood and invoke an emotional response. The decisions you make about color can be costly, from the interior paint to color of the chairs and desk in the reception area, to the cost of website design, especially if outsourced. While you don’t need a degree in psychology, you do need to spend the time considering color choices when making these kinds of investments.
Following is a quick guide to colors and the emotions they invoke:
Blue connotes trust, wealth and security. Deep blue is often called banker’s blue, for example. It’s been noted to increase productivity, and is associated with calm, peace and intuition. The signature seaweed-based Repêchage Hydra Blue® Collection is its iconic cobalt packaging truly embodies all these qualities.
Yellow is said to be the first color perceived by the eye, and therefore grabs attention (think yellow taxis). It invokes cheerfulness and optimism, but does not connote wealth.
Orange is the least luxurious, indicating affordability. It connotes excitement and vitality, and can create a call to action.
Green is relaxing and soothing to clients and customers, and varies in its emotional impact based on shade. Dark green connotes luxury and wealth while light green connotes health, freshness, and nature, encouraging serenity. It is said to relax mentally and physically and can help alleviate depression. The Hydra Medic® Collection for Oily, Problem Skin as well as the Hydra 4® Collection for Sensitive Skin are formulated natural ingredients such as Seaweed to help calm and soothe the appearance of the skin, and the color choice of the packaging helps to deliver this message as well.
Red quickly focuses attention and creates urgency, and can attract impulse shoppers. It implies passion and energy, and can increase heart rate.
Purple connotes mystery, and is often an indicator of wealth. It can create a sense of calmness, spirituality and encourage creativity.
Brown, as a symbol of earth and soil, symbolizes simplicity, strength and durability. While it connotes reliability, it is also associated with boredom.
Black is the ultimate luxury color, connoting prestige and sophistication. It is psychologically authoritative and powerful, and gives an instant sense of refinement. With black packaging, the Repêchage Vita Cura® CelluSea Body Care Collection and the Repêchage Perfect Skin Mineral Makeup Collection help the consumer know that these products are formulated for the highest level of luxury and efficacy.
Proper use of colors can not only influence mood and emotions connected to your business, but can also help differentiate you from your competitors. And, as you can see, the colors associated you’re your business can bring immediate value to the brand you have established
How to Create Visual Branding
There are six steps to creating a visual impact for your spa, salon and services
- Determine who you are: This may be easier said than done. This is determined by the types of services you provide and who you want to provide them to: are you a luxury day spa catering to an affluent demographic on upper Park Avenue in New York (as was my first and very successful day spa in Manhattan) or perhaps you are a salon that caters to time crunched executives who prefer fast but effective treatments.
- Do your research: Just as you would in your business plan, fully research the area where you have your business to determine the needs of your clients as well as what is already out there in competition. There’s a bright, sunny yellow day spa that does in and out treatments down the block? Go for a deep blue, investment services visual branding that connotes luxury and power.
- Create a visual inspiration board: Many of the most successful business people start their branding this way, and even their career trajectory. What visual images connote what you want to impress on your clients, and note the color, graphics, imagery and even the fonts that are used.
- From all this research and inspiration, chose a graphic designer to help create your logo. As you now know, this logo will incorporate all the important factors of visual branding, from font, shapes, and especially color, to truly create an instant image for your business.
- Once the logo is finalized, you can build the rest of your visual branding, from interior design to website design, social media presence and communications. All these must tie together with the color, font and design elements congruent, meaning the same. This is essential in maintaining your visual branding value, as we will see shortly.
- Once all the visual branding is finalized, create a visual brand bible that presents the rules to how these elements must be maintained, for your staff and your ad and design crew.
Holistic Visual Branding
The key to successful visual branding is to remain true to its values and to be consistent in its usage across every platform both in the spa or salon and online. Your online presence is what reiterates your mission to your clients while they are away from your spa, and its visual content is critical for user participation, brand relevance, and commercial success. The impact of your visual branding will, in fact, be more effective and profitable if they have high-quality graphic content that appeals to the aspirations and needs of your clients.
In academic research, visual branding is also referred to as visual brand identity (VBI) with the visual branding elements such as size, shape, color, texture and graphics referred to in the legal term, trade dress. However, it is not just these elements alone that make for an impactful and lasting relationship with the consumer and client. The relationship between these elements and the actual efficacy of the product or services create a symbiotic relationship that develops consistency and congruence for the consumer. This consistency is essential: if anything deviates from their established impression, favorability decreases. This is referred to as creating a holistic experience: it means service + visual branding +emotions and familiarity = success.
This means that introducing a new logo, color, or even altering a banner or ad in ways that are not consistent to what you have established previously knocks down any established loyalty or feelings of good will in your clients.
According to this academic research: “Congruence research thus suggests that existing brands with a strong VBI may be liked better because their ads are perceived by consumers as congruent with brand expectations. As most advertising is processed under low-involvement conditions, a strong VBI may lower perceived purchase risk, make it easy to grasp positive associations, and lead to increased liking when prior brand experience is positive.”
A Holistic Spa Experience
But visual branding isn’t just about website or interior design. When it comes to running a spa, it is the details that add value to your business and reinforce your visual branding, in many more ways that you realize. These details are impressed on your client in ways that are more than visual, but create a holistic impression.
At your place of business, your identity is conveyed to your customers through sight as well as sound, touch, smell and taste.
Begin by doing an honest evaluation of what the appearance of your facility conveys to a customer walking in the door. Your clients spend most of their time in your facial rooms with their eyes closed. However, your reception area will be scrutinized much more closely in the bright light of day. What does it say to your clients as they wait for their appointments?
A reception area that looks neglected connotes a lack of professionalism. Adding a fresh coat of paint, replacing torn magazines and having the couch reupholstered will breathe fresh life into your business. If you can’t afford a new sofa and chairs, purchase or sew slipcovers.
Do not clutter windowsills or fill them with products that gather dust or fade from sun exposure. Your window is your spa’s calling card, and it should present an inviting impression of luxury, relaxation, meditation, wellness and pampering. This is especially important if your business is located in a high-traffic area where you can capture retail shoppers and potential new clients.
Likewise, your retail area should be designed like a boutique. It should be accessible, clean and organized. Always stack shelves at least three products deep. Utilize up-to-date shelf-talkers to create an interactive shopping experience for customers. Further develop the boutique atmosphere in your spa by wrapping each purchase in tissue paper and placing it in a customized bag. This “wrapped gift” presentation adds perceived value.
Your décor should be consistent throughout the spa in color and style. It should match your theme, your logo, your stationery and your signage to create a strong brand. In the treatment room, visuals count as well. Experience has shown that something as simple as wrinkled bed sheets can create a negative experience that leads to loss of clientele. Skin care is a skin smoothing business, so the sight of wrinkles on the sheet means wrinkles left on the face!
Likewise, dress treatment beds in crisp, clean matching linens that coordinate with the décor of the facial room and the rest of the spa. In turn, sheets, towels and robes should be warm and fluffy.
Beyond sight, the business owner should personally experience every facial and body treatment to asses its sensorial impacts. While this is beyond visual branding of logo, its sensorial impact influences the visual branding of your salon if it is incongruent with your total message. Is the bed comfortable? Do the sheets feel abrasive against your skin? Does the Vichy shower leave you chilled and soggy? You will not be able to enhance the spa experience for your clients until you have walked in their shoes.
And, when it comes to negatively impacting your visual brand, never underestimate the validity of the old adage “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Require each esthetician and massage therapist to remove used towels, wipe trolleys and equipment clean, and close product containers after each use.
Don’t overlook the floors—steam clean or replace stained carpets and rugs, and keep tile or wood flooring swept and polished. Clean mirrors, windows and glass surfaces diligently and frequently to remove fingerprints. If you choose to display plants and flowers, keep them watered, groomed and fresh. Never use plastic fauna—its visual presence will negate any impression of natural, green services.
Lighting can be instrumental in creating a wonderful visual spa experience, and can be overlooked if you are designing the space yourselves because of budget. Make the treatment rooms warm and inviting. Candlelight is especially soothing. You must see your spa from your clients’ point of view. Lie on the facial bed to determine whether the magnifying lamp is too bright. Try on a spa robe to ensure it is warm and cozy.
Provide warm robes and slippers. Small details, such as a hot water bottle on a massage table or facial bed, can transform a basic facial into the ultimate spa experience.
Scent is crucial when it comes to being congruent to the visual aspects of a spa environment—it’s widely believed that aroma can alter a person’s mood. Scents that are too strong—whether perfumed products, chemical solutions, aromatherapy oils, flowers or air fresheners—can ruin the spa experience for a client, even if everything else is perfect. Keep your facility well ventilated so that it always smells fresh and clean.
Branding in the Virtual Space
In order to be successful, your web site needs to reflect your spa’s identity, ergo color scheme, logo, graphics and type all should contribute to building your brand. Include a company history and bios of employees, as well as professionally commissioned staff portraits and photos of the salon or spa as well as the services. Your website can even offer a virtual tour of your facility.
Your site will be more effective at attracting clients if you post your service menu and price list. It also serves as an excellent method for publishing spa policies and procedures. In addition, designate a link to solicit reviews, comments and feedback.
The visuals on your website need to be mirrored in all your social media as well. One cost-effective way of creating congruent, upscale content is to partner with a product manufacturer that provides content for social media and will partner with you to share posts and audiences to grow your exposure. They also may be helpful in building your initial website.
Today, it’s absolutely essential that spas and salons reach out to their client base through social media on a daily basis. Not only does it help with client retention, but it also provides essential exposure in a crowded field. Your web site as well as social media provide great ways to announce special promotions and are also an excellent vehicle for promoting gift certificate sales for the convenience of out-of-town customers and busy clients. In addition, post and share important influencer and editorial endorsements.
Visual branding should create a 360° experience for your clients and customers. By looking beyond the logo to the smallest visual details of your facility and service, you can provide a holistic experience that will create lifetime loyal clients.