5 Branding Mistakes That Are Holding You Back
The right branding strategy can bring businesses popularity, success and profit. The wrong branding strategy can leave businesses with expensive costs, tarnished reputations, reduced market share, and potentially even legal troubles. Moreover, even well-known companies sometimes mess up their branding.
If large corporations are apt to make branding errors, how much more so are small businesses that don’t have full marketing and advertising departments? Chances are your business may be making one or more of these five branding mistakes, and the mistakes are certainly holding your business back if you are making them.
Branding efforts seek to convey a message, but even the best-composed message is only effective if it reaches the target audience. Branding needs to connect with the people who are most likely to purchase your business’s products/services.
Fubu had one of the most notable audience misses back in 2001. Founder Daymond John decided to expand Fubu, which is an apparel label, into the music industry. The company spent $6 million recording a rap CD that featured the likes of L.L. Cool J, Ludacris, Nas and Nate Dogg - and was a complete failure.
The CD failure wasn’t a result of low-quality production, for some of the era’s biggest rappers had songs on the CD. Daymond John and the team at Fubu just didn’t know how to reach listeners who enjoyed rap. The company missed its listening audience.
The fact that Fubu apparel is worn by many people who like rap shows how easy this mistake is to make. Even though Fubu already had customers in the target demographic, it still didn’t reach listeners effectively. A business that doesn’t already have an established customer base among the target demographic would be even more prone to missing its intended audience.
Daymond John attributed the failure to a lack of knowledge within the music industry. Before you begin to brand any product or service to an audience, make sure you know the industry, product and audience all equally well. Otherwise, you might overlook the audience and miss them entirely.
Unless you have a strong background in professional marketing, you probably won’t do a good job designing your business’s brand without assistance. Effective branding requires a knowledge of art theory, digital design, advertising and marketing, communications, and other disciplines. Few people outside of marketers have sufficient knowledge in all of these fields to create an effective brand.
Moreover, the importance of a strong brand is difficult to understate. A brand begins as soon as a business makes its products/services available (and sometimes before), and the branding is central to virtually all customer messaging. Early errors in branding can have lasting impacts, and ineffective messaging impacts virtually all advertising efforts.
The best way to develop a strong brand is normally to hire a professional. A graphic designer and/or marketer can help establish your business’s brand early on, and in an effective way.
Professionals aren’t in every new business’s budget, however. If you don’t have the budget for a professional, a good alternative is to use online tools that leverage artificial intelligence to develop branding materials.
For example, an AI-powered logo creator could help you create a powerful logo that’s effective - but without the cost of hiring a graphic designer. You can then use the logo on all marketing materials, and thereby leverage it for its full usefulness. Of course, there are other online branding tools available too.
Branding must be a multi-channel effort if your business is to reach the largest customer base possible. Messaging across all of the mediums used should be consistent.
Inconsistent messaging reduces brand recognition, as customers don’t come to associate your business with a single logo or other design. In severe cases, messaging may actually contradict itself, which can cause a sort of schizophrenic brand identity crisis.
You can develop more consistent branding by first identifying the channels that your business uses. These include each social media platform that your business posts on, any newsletter your business sends out, business cards, physical signage, and all other communications that advertise the business in some way.
Once you have the various channels listed, draft marketing policies that will maintain consistency. You can stipulate the following to start with:
- When and where to use the business’s logo
- What fonts and colors to use
- What social media template to use
- What style and tone to use in writing
You might identify many other ways by which branding consistency could be improved.
The temptation to update branding just for the sake of updating it can be strong, but branding shouldn’t be messed with if it’s working. Any desire to update, refresh or fix branding materials that are working well should be resisted.
This is true for all branding materials, but especially for the logo since it’s the most foundational piece of any branding. A logo error by Gap shows just how costly an unnecessary redesign can be.
In 2010, Gap decided to change its logo - which it’d used for 20 years - without warning. The change was mired in mistakes, as customers weren’t warned of the logo change, the semi-crowd-sourced logo was repudiated by the creative community, and the logo had a generally simplistic design.
What’s most telling is what Gap did once the backlash over the new logo cam, though. The company reverted back to the former logo within a week. Gap notably didn’t try to create a different new logo, but instead went back to the old and proven logo design that worked.
Resist any temptation to change for the sake of change. Specifically identify what’s not working with a logo or other branding component, and you’ll avoid making this mistake. You’ll also better identify the particular issues that should be corrected if a new logo is indeed needed.
Your business’s branding carries a message, and with that message comes a promise. The promise may be implicit or explicit, and it can be about virtually any aspect of what your business offers. A promise most certainly is there, though.
Make sure your business meets the promises made through branding and marketing. Failing to keep your promises can lead to:
- Fewer repeat customers
- Bad online reviews and ratings
- Reduced new customer traffic
- Generally lower customer satisfaction
To ensure you’re meeting the promises made, simply ask your customers whether your business is meeting expectations. Their expectations are based on the promises your company’s branding and marketing make.
If expectations aren’t being met, you can either change operations or change messaging. Make any operational changes that will help better uphold your business’s promise, and thereby better meet customer expectations.
If there isn’t a clear operational change to make, you might have to revise your business-wide branding. Consider what’s giving rise to the unmet expectations, and then adjust your branding so that it makes a promise that your business can keep.
If your business is making any of these branding mistakes, don’t feel bad because even the best companies have made these errors. Take the steps necessary to adjust for the mistakes, and improve your branding accordingly. Better messaging should soon have a positive impact on your business’s reputation, ratings and sales.