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Why is it that some community panels are more successful than others? The list of reasons is so extensive that we eventually move away from an objective analysis and it becomes subjective. But before a brand can start to talk with its customers within a panel, like a bee to pollen, there needs to be an attraction. With a multitude of distractions to the customer in their day, having something that will stop them in their tracks and give you a slice of their life is becoming harder.

Let's imagine that you already have a brand that people resonate with. You are unlikely to have the popularity of Apple, but your brand is strong enough that if all other elements are right, people will stop and give you a moment of their time to listen and to talk with you.

Aside from the brand, your other tools at this point are:

  1. The copy (the written language that you are using)
  2. The visually creative elements that you utilise

There can be limitations to how you use one or both of these (your brand's legal issues, PR & branding etc.), but limitations can also assist in giving you focus.

The creative elements will be the very first thing after the brand name that will aid you in grabbing the attention of your customers. So how do you ensure that they work in your favour?

Here are five tips to follow to help succeed in creating beautiful communities:

    1. Plan - Before you start putting together sketches and collating images, ensure that you know what the purpose of your community panel is. What functionality is essential, optional & not necessary? Who are you trying to attract? What are your competitors doing well and poorly? You will need to be able to clearly articulate these points and more in order to avoid disappointment with what you are sent back from the creative department.
    2. Stay on brand - One of the greatest reasons for the success of community panels for market research compared to traditional forms of conducting research is that the relationships by-pass the research agencies and create a direct connection between your brand and your customer. Whilst it is not necessary for your community panel to be a replication of your other online sites and assets, a level of recognition and continuity will go a long way.
    3. But be creative - Your brand may be stuffy, overly conservative and not conducive to attracting people. Picasso reportedly said, "talent imitates, genius steals". Go and take a look at what other brands are doing. What can you take that they are doing and apply it to your own needs? However be wary of not looking like everyone else. You need to stand out, not blend in. If you are not someone who is visually creative, find someone who is.
    4. Collaborate - And in the words of perhaps a more understated artist-come-celebrity TV landscaper "stop, collaborate and listen." Thinking outside the square does not come to everyone, so connect with other creative minds to exchange ideas and listen. There is no such thing as originality, just evolution.
    5. Less is more - This comes back to what I mentioned earlier about knowing what you do and don't need. One of the commonest mistakes is that during the design process, believing you have to say everything possible, to cram every corner with widgets and images. This is nothing but a distraction to viewers, or worse, a visual cacophony of chaos.

These tips are just the elements of what makes a great visual identity for your panel and ensuring you stay on-brand. The list is endless and makes up a university course. If you surround yourself with the right professional design and brand people, you are off to a good start.

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