6 Common Branding Mistakes Small Business Owners Make
Most entrepreneurs think that once they have a logo, they can check “brand” off their to-do list.
But your brand is so much more than a logo. (See branding mistake #1.)
A strong brand helps you stand out from your competition, attract your ideal clients, and grow your business.
On the flip-side, poor branding works against you. At its worst, it can convey that you’re unprofessional or untrustworthy; at best, low-quality or unoriginal.
Understanding these branding mistakes is the first step towards building a great brand...
Branding Mistake #1: Thinking A Logo = A Brand
Many people think that their logo is their brand. But your brand is so much more than a logo.
A logo is the symbol of a brand — not the brand itself.
So then, what’s a brand?
My favorite definition comes from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon:
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.”
Your brand is your business’s reputation — essentially, a perception that others have about your business.
Your brand isn’t tangible, but it is very real.
So, if you can’t touch it, how do you build it?
There are a number of ways to influence how people perceive your business. The biggest one is through your brand identity.
A brand identity is the overall “look and feel” of a business. It includes your color palette, photography style, logo and other design elements, as well as your brand “voice” — the personality and tone that comes through in your writing.
This leads me to the second branding mistake...
Branding Mistake #2: Not Establishing A Brand Identity
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached about designing a website by a company without a brand identity.
It’s a classic putting-the-cart-before-the-horse scenario, and a common mistake that many business owners make.
Every entrepreneur knows that they need a website. The value of a website is clear; the value of a brand identity is less so.
But it’s the brand identity that guides the design of the website (or business card, media kit, or any other marketing material, for that matter). It’s what makes it look and feel like your brand.
And the design of your website is more important than you may realize. A study found that 94% of people decide whether or not to trust a website based on its design.
Think about it. How many times have you questioned the quality or integrity of a business based on how its website looked? (I know I have many times!)
Good design builds trust.
Which brings me to branding mistake number three...
Branding Mistake #3: Skimping On Design
I get it. Money is tight when you’re starting a business and you have to be extra careful about where you put your dollars.
That’s why many entrepreneurs decide to DIY, use a logo generator, or purchase a cheap logo from a design site, like 99 Designs.
It may seem like a good way to save money, but the truth of the matter is, you get what you pay for. You’ll end up with a logo that doesn’t reflect the quality of your business and likely end up replacing it down the road anyway.
Design is about so much more than just how something looks.
In fact, the definition of design is:
“The purpose, planning, or intention that exists behind an action, fact, or material object.”
The goal of design is not to make something pretty; it is to develop useful solutions that fit the needs of a user.
In the case of brand identity design, the goal is to develop a visual representation of your brand that connects with your ideal clients.
This takes us to branding mistake #4...
Branding Mistake #4: No Brand Strategy
As I’ve mentioned, design is more than simply making something pretty. A beautiful logo is ineffective if it doesn’t serve the purpose of the business.
That’s where a brand strategy comes in.
Designing a logo without a brand strategy is like building a house without a blueprint.
Your brand strategy determines exactly who your target audience is and how you connect with them, who your competition is and how you stand out, and what your unique value proposition is. (In other words, why someone should buy from you instead of someone else.)
The brand strategy informs the design of your logo and brand identity. It helps the designer determine which colors to use, what style logo to create, etc.
Without it, your brand identity would be a shot in the dark. It may look good, but it wouldn’t fulfill it’s purpose of accurately reflecting your business and connecting with your target audience.
Branding Mistake #5: Not Presenting Their Brand Consistently
Once you have a brand identity, it’s important to use it consistently.
Every brand touchpoint (website, social media profile, business card, etc.) should look and feel like your brand, or else it creates a disconnect for your audience.
For example, say a photographer gives you her business card at an event. You notice its minimalist design; it looks clean and professional. You decide to check out her website. But when the page loads there’s a busy bright pink graphic with a cursive-type font — it doesn’t look anything like the business card. 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 purple 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 her 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.
When you use your brand identity consistently, it gives your audience a seamless experience, making your brand recognizable + memorable and ensures that your business is top-of-mind the next time they are looking for the products or services that you offer.
Branding Mistake #6: Designing Their Brand For Themselves
As an entrepreneur, your brand is largely influenced by who you are as a person through 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 identity.
In reality, the opinion that really matters is your target audience’s. They are the ones supporting your business, so they’re the ones your brand needs to appeal to.
When building your brand, take your target audience into account first. (This is where your brand strategy comes in handy!)
How can you use your brand to connect with them on a personal level? What appeals to them? What turns them off?
Then add your personal touch. That’s what makes your business unique, after all!
Overcoming These Brand Pitfalls
The best thing you can do to avoid these branding mistakes is to invest in your brand from the get-go. But if you’ve already been in business, it’s never to late to start building a better brand.
Start by working on your brand strategy (I have a free Brand Strategy workbook that will help!) and then find a brand designer who can help you realize your vision.
If you’re interested in working with me on your brand identity, I offer a limited number of service packages per year — get in touch with me here for more info!
Are you guilty of any of these branding mistakes? Which one was the most unexpected? Leave a comment below!