Many entrepreneurs are so focused on getting things done instead of getting things polished, that branding is often overlooked. But this can have a major negative impact on a business’s success.
Not only does great branding stand out from the competition, attract the right people, and establish trust (the #1 factor in making any sale), but poor branding actively works against you. It can communicate that you’re unprofessional, disorganized, untrustworthy, low-quality, or a copycat business, causing you to compete on price time and time again (a slow, painful race to the bottom).
Understanding these 5 branding mistakes is the first step towards building a great brand!
Branding mistake #1:
Thinking their logo is their brand
This is the number one mistake I see most businesses make. A logo is a symbol of a brand—not the brand itself. A brand is “the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, take together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” (Seth Godin) Or as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon puts it: “a brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.”
So what exactly does that mean? It means brands are much more complex and much less tangible than a logo. Your brand is essentially the feeling that people have towards your company. That feeling is influenced by what you say, what you do, and how you present yourself.
It’s your logo as well as the fonts, colors, and graphics you use (known as your visual brand identity).
It’s your brand voice—the inaudible “voice” readers have in their heads from the words and tone you use in your writing.
It’s the content you share. It’s how you run your business. It’s what you’re saying and what other people are saying about your business. And THEN it’s how the combination of all of those things makes people feel about your business. (Crazy, huh?)
Branding mistake #2:
Not presenting their brand consistently
Another branding mistake I see often is businesses not presenting their brand consistently. Every brand touchpoint (website, social media, business card, etc.) should look and feel like your brand, otherwise it creates a disconnect for your audience.
Say a photographer gives you their business card at an event. You notice that it’s a minimalist design...simple black and white with a sans-serif font. You decide to check out their website. But when the page loads there’s a bright pink graphic with a cursive-type font. You’d probably do a double-take, right? It’s not what you had expected so there’s an immediate disconnect, which creates a sense of mistrust. It’d be like if you went to Coca-Cola’s website and it was blue instead of red. Weird, right? You would probably wonder if they were hacked or something!
On the other hand, if the photographer’s website had used the same design as their business card, you wouldn’t have thought twice about it because it’s a consistent experience. Consistency increases recognizability. A brand that is recognizable is memorable. (Tweet it!)
Having a visual brand identity system provides guidelines for how your brand should look. It determines which fonts, colors, and graphics best represent your brand. Using those same fonts, colors, and graphics at every touchpoint gives your audience a consistent experience and ensures your brand is always recognizable and memorable.
Branding mistake #3:
Not having a brand strategy
This is a serious branding mistake that a surprising number of business owners make simply because they don’t know better. They may have a great logo design but if it wasn’t created with the strategy in mind, it won’t be effective. Designing a logo without a brand strategy is like building a house without a blueprint. (Tweet it!)
A brand strategy determines exactly who your niche is, how you appeal to them, and what unique value you offer. Let’s be real—without knowing these things, it will be damn near impossible to be successful. However, the earlier you have that clarity, the sooner you’ll have the freedom to focus on doing what you love. (The whole reason you started your business in the first place, right?!)
Branding mistake #4:
Designing their brand to reflect their personal style
As an entrepreneur, your business’s brand is largely influenced by who you are as a person—your opinions, style, and personality. But oftentimes business owners think that their opinion is the only one that matters when it comes to their brand. The truth is, the opinion that really matters is your ideal client’s. They are the ones buying from you, so they’re the ones your brand should appeal to.
Say you’re a web developer who codes for large tech companies and your favorite things include pastel colors, floral patterns à la Rifle Paper Co., and the show Girls. Chances are your personal style won’t appeal to clients in that largely masculine, conservative industry.
When designing your brand, take your target audience (aka ideal clients) into account first. What appeals to them? Then add your personal touch. (That’s what makes your business unique, after all!)
Branding mistake #5:
Not investing in their brand
“I’ll invest in my brand once I make $X.” This is one of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make. The branding of a small business can play a significant role in its success. An effective brand establishes trust and communicates your value to the right buyers, making them more likely to choose you—even over a cheaper option.
Many entrepreneurs think because they’re small or new that branding won’t have a major impact on their success. They think branding is for big corporations with big budgets, like Nike or Apple. But your brand is there whether or not you invest time or money into it. The more time and/or money you invest in your brand, the more control you have over it. However, it doesn’t cost millions or take years to build a great brand!
Here’s the breakdown
- A brand is more than a logo—it’s everything you say and do, how you present your business, and how your audience feels about all of the above
- You need a brand strategy in place BEFORE you design your logo and website
- Create a brand that appeals to your target audience (not just your own tastes)
- Use the same colors, fonts, and graphics (aka a visual identity system) to present your brand consistently across every touchpoint, making it recognizable and memorable
- Investing time and/or money in your brand gives you more control over your business’s reputation
Never underestimate the power of your brand! Overcoming these 5 branding mistakes will help you build a great brand and grow a successful business.
Are you guilty of one of these branding mistakes? (No judgment—I’ve been guilty myself!) If so, which one/s?