Common Branding Mistakes
- Not defining your brand strategy first
- Starting with a cheap brand identity
- Failing to differentiate your brand
- Not connecting with the right audience
- Stretching your brand too far
- Not providing great brand experience
- Failing to protect and defend
- Not being consistent
- Ignoring the brand aging signs
- Not living up to your promise
I see it time and time again - many startups make branding mistakes in early stage and sabotage their growth.
Even established companies with bigger budget have made disastrous rebranding failures that cost them a lot.
Many entrepreneurs don't quite realize the real potential of having a good branding and therefore make a lot of costly mistakes.
What is brand? To set it straight, a brand is more than just a logo and other visual artifacts.
Branding is about seizing every opportunity to express why people should choose one brand over another.
Hence, all forms of communication—not just visual—are key in reinforcing this trust and making your brand top-of-mind with your customers.
Learn how to avoid making branding mistakes, whether it be a strategic or visual aspect of your brand.
10 Branding mistakes to avoid:First things first, let's start with the strategy that is so often overlooked.
1. Not defining your brand strategy first
You need to get deeper into the category to understand the landscape including the competition and their strategic positions, then define your brand, and who the customers are.
Check my article on how to run a simple strategy workshop for startups.
You need to develop a brand strategy, and understand your business objectives and shift focus to that instead of designing a beautiful logo that won't work.
After all, an argument based purely on aesthetics is doomed unless it can be tied to accomplishing a business objective.
Remember it's about the big picture and aligning an organization’s vision with its customers’ experience is the goal of brand strategy.
When you understand the objectives you will see that it's less about the typeface or color you like and more about what is more persuasive to the target audience.
Being on the strategy and on message with every element of the work is what makes it viable.
The best brand strategy is developed as a creative partnership between the client, the strategist, and the designer.
Together, we need to determine the business and marketing objectives that should guide the way forward.
Start by crafting a creative brief.
2. Starting with a cheap brand identity
Second mistake that I see people often make is that they use cheap logo design services, or even worse, use some online logo makers.
Almost every client is concern about the budget, but we all know that quality stuff cost a lot of money.
For a logo and identity design you can pay any kind of price, but as usual you get what you pay for especially when it comes to service.
You can pay any price for a logo, anywhere from $5 on websites like Fiverr to hundreds of thousands of dollars if you hire an international branding firm.
If you pay pennies you often get some stock image, or a mashup of anything and everything.
Just look at the example below - many clients come to me using cheap design services.
Nowadays you can hire designers for cheap on sites like Fiverr or Upwork but what you're hiring for is not just the end product, the deliverable, a logo.
Of course you can get "a logo" for cheap, but it will hurt your business.
The logo is something that you do, but there's a whole process before you actually do something that can be valuable if you do it correctly.
Therefore even a good looking logo won't fundamentally move the needle - it won't help you get one new client because it's not tied to achieving a specific business objective.
Go back to mistake no. 1
3. Failing to differentiate your brand
We're bombarded with thousands of marketing messages and ads a day.
In order for your message to cut through the clutter it must not only look good, but also be unique.
Good design makes you stand out, not just fit in. You must be unique so people can remember you.
If you look like all the other companies in your space, then guess what, your customer will shop around and opt for the cheapest option.
If they don't see the difference, why would they choose you?
You need stand out among your competitors in order to communicate your value.
After all, design is the ultimate differentiator of any business.
But how you differentiate from the crowd if you don't really know who you are?
That comes down to the first mistake as well - you need to research your competitors, look for points of differentiation, then define who you are, who your customers are and how to connect with them.
Don't pretend to be something that you are not.
Find out who you really are and build on that.
Once you have a clear mission and vision in place, then you can create visual and verbal messages that will help you stand out and communicate your value.
4. Not connecting with the right audience
As I mentioned earlier, connecting with the right audience is crucial.
It's not about just finding a great designer with style style you like.
What you like, may not necessarily be good for your business.This is where a lot of people fall in short.
If you start the branding process, you must know your target audience:
- Where they are
- What they do
- How old they are
- What their income is
- What are their needs
If you don’t connect with your customers in a personal way, you’ll fall behind competitors that do so.
That’s just the way business works these days.
Whether you’re a startup or an enterprise corporation, you’ll find that personalization is more important than ever before.
But what if you’re trying to connect but the audience just isn’t receptive? This can be discouraging.
Luckily, you can often pinpoint the reason why your audience isn’t connecting with your brand, and if you fix the issue, people will be more than happy to engage with you in the future.
A crucial step is to create customer personas - again brand strategy is fundamental.
5. Stretching your brand to far
Over the last decade, brand extension has become one of the hottest subjects in brand management.
However, many reputable companies have learned that stretched brand extensions can easily go wrong.
Just look at Virgin's brand architecture, it's an absolute chaos.
Unlike traditional line extensions (i.e. from Coke Classic to Coke Diet), a brand extension leads into new and often unknown territory that may be dominated by other big competitors.
McDonald’s wanted to get a slice of the pizza business but failed to convince consumers to follow in this new category.
For Heinz, it was getting from ketchups to mustards and for Bic, it was extending its brand from disposable pens to shavers, perfumes, windsurf boards and even… disposable panties!
6. Not providing great brand experience
Consumers say negative interactions with staff is the top cause of bad brand experiences, according to recent research from InMoment.
The report was based on data from a survey of 2,000 consumers and 1,000 employees of brands in the United States.
Nearly three-fourths of consumers (74%) say negative interactions with staff (poor attitude, lack of knowledge, etc.) is a cause of bad brand experiences.
In contrast, just 29% of brand employees surveyed say negative staff interactions play a major role in bad experiences.
Other top contributors to bad brand experiences cited by consumers are a lack of understanding of individual needs, no staff available to help when necessary, and delivering products/services that are not what are expected.
Companies significantly underestimate the impact of bad brand experiences, the survey found.
Some 23% of consumers say they would stop using a brand after a bad experience.
However, just 6% of brand respondents say bad experiences lead consumers to stop using their products/services.
Brand experience is not only about your stuff, but also your website experience and every other touch-point where customers comes in contact with your brand.
7. Failing to protect and defend
Even if you don’t realize it, everyone deals with trademarks on a daily basis.
“Trademark” is another way of referring to brands, and you must protect your brand if you want to build a real business.
Consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by trademarks and the reputation such brands represent.
It is important for business people to have an understanding of why trademarks are important assets and how they help grow their business.
Should I Trademark or Copyright my Logo?[/caption]Do your due diligence before investing a lot of time and money in launching a new brand.
Make sure the business name and visuals can be protected.
Obtain a clearance search to make sure your new brand is available and doesn't infringe on anyone’s prior rights.
Failing to research a brand before adopting can lead to denial of registration by the USPTO or, worse, a cease and desist letter from another brand owner.
Spending the time and money up front to determine whether a brand is available will help avoid the very high costs of a dispute or litigation.Learn more how to trademark a logo.
8. Applying the work inconsistently
The common mistake that most people do with branding is not being consistent.
Here, I refer to the visual assets mostly.
Whether it's using different color schemes on different medium, or switching up the logos every month.
If you're inconsistent, you can't build trust with you customer.You're going to look different every time and you're going to break that trust.
The best way to stay consistent with your brand is to create style guides, a document that specify on how to take disparate elements and unify them into a whole system.
You want to have the same colors, and the same logos on every single medium you use.
Identity Guidelines document will include different logo lockups and configurations, primary and secondary color palettes, primary and secondary typefaces, styles for images, icons, illustrations etc.
The rules on how to use your brand assets will ensure consistency every time your logo or other visuals need to be used, whether it be print or digital.Always be consistent.
9. Ignoring the brand aging signs
One of the reasons to embark on a rebranding process is that the work looks dated.
Perhaps you started your company long time ago and you feel like your brand is not on point anymore.
You competitors left you behind, your offering changes, or your brand is simply not aligned who you aspire to be.
Here are a few thoughts on knowing when your firm’s brand needs a visual update.
Just because you can still wear clothes from high school or college doesn’t mean you should!Fashion styles are often representative of their “era” and as time passes, those styles change.
Likewise, some brands just look visually dated and are in need of an update.
With few exceptions, failing to convey a progressive “with the times” message visually can be a detriment to your brand.
Don't go to far either, while you must stay consistent and to build a great brand, you also must be relevant.
10. Not living up to your brand promise
A promise is a promise, whether you make it or you brake it.
For your personal life or for your professional organization, keeping promises matters and breaking them leaves a mark.
We’re all familiar with the feeling created by a broken promise – it hurts.
In the corporate world, breaking the brand promise hurts your customer’s trust in your brand and creates a feeling of deception.
Once you loose that reputation, people hold grudges and it's really hard to win people over.
The larger the scale of the relationship, the harder it is to repair the break.
Today, in the real of social media, customers are vigilant about the brands they interact with.
They do their research seeking brands that are authentic, honest and do what they say they will do.
When a brand follows through with its promises, a loyal and proud customer base will rise up, tell friend after friend, and carry that brand to the promised land.
If a brand breaks its promises, it also shatters its customers' trust.
A strong, effective brand, on the other hand, inspire people to feel connected to your business.
Need a branding consultant that will help you do the branding process the right way? - Start here.
Is there anything about your brand that your think could be done better? - leave a comment below.