From major corporations to just mom and pop businesses, branding is the glue that holds together the relationship with their audience. While things like names, logos, and slogans are what we see and hear when we think of a brand — in and of itself, a brand is actually just the sum of how those things are perceived by customers and prospects. Building a brand means to strengthen how it is actually perceived.
Some perceptions are able to be controlled with smart marketing, and some cannot. Here is a look at some of the most common (and avoidable) mistakes made by brands both large and small.
1. Using a name that’s difficult to spell or sounds strange when spoken
When naming your brand, making up your own word or putting a unique spelling to an existing one can work in a lot of cases. There is an emotional response to using a familiar sounding word that pairs with the unique identity created from using your own spelling. This can go too far, though.
“What’s your business name?” “Konnekshun Enterprises. With a K. Make that two K’s… and an SH…”
What may seem like a whimsical moniker in your own mind may come off as a little pretentious and actually frustrating for others to accept. When brainstorming ideas for names, take a step back from your list and try to look at each name through the eyes of someone without the same attachment as you. Does it seem a little ridiculous? Yes? Scratch it.
2. Building your website with a domain that’s hard to remember
Despite how easy it is for us to bookmark websites while browsing, offline word of mouth marketing is a huge consideration when choosing a domain for your brand. Just like your brand name, keep your domain simple. If someone needs a pen and paper to remember it longer than a few seconds, you’re going to have a bad time.
Avoid long names that read like sentences, have hyphens in them, and ones that can easily be mixed up with competitors’ names. Think twice about using a suffix like .me or .info just because you were too late in registering .com. If you plan on using the word “the” in front of your name, be sure to register addresses both with and without it (e.g. thefacebook.com and facebook.com) to avoid confusion.
3. Using stock photos for your marketing
Sure, stock photos are a quick and cheap way to give your marketing some visual pizzazz. Just pick one of the many royalty-free image providers, pay a few dollars, and your work is done, right? Well only if you don’t mind looking like every other company who did the exact same thing. Some photos are fine here and there, but nothing says “generic brand” more than an image of a smiling model with telephone headset attached to his/her head (but… but… it shows you have such friendly service!). Look authentic — allocate enough in your budget to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your actual staff, clients, and products.
4. Designing your own logo (if you’re not a professional graphic designer)
Just like your photos, the same goes for your logo. Picking a generic template online or throwing something together on MS Word may seem like an easy option, but will the results really be something you feel comfortable living with for years? A professional graphic designer is going to have a trained eye for color, layout, and placement that will likely give results far beyond just doing it on your own. Keep in mind that above all else, your logo will be the most visible component of your brand. Don’t let budget or ego keep you from the logo your brand deserves.
5. Using a logo that does not work in a wide variety of applications (digital and traditional)
Your logo may look amazing printed on letterhead or in a newspaper ad, but how does it translate when reduced to a few hundred pixels for a website header or mobile app? Hiring a pro to develop your logo will eliminate a lot of potential problems, but be sure to stay mindful of all the different applications it could be used in the future. Will it work on both light and dark backgrounds? What if you want to embroider it onto shirts or put it on a billboard? The best logos are the ones that can be easily simplified into just a single color, shrunk or enlarged, and still maintain their visual impact. Avoid issues by using easy-to-read fonts, staying away from too many colors, and actually testing it before approving your final version.
6. Putting your logo’s importance above your brand itself
Your logo may be the cornerstone of your brand, but it is not your brand itself. On its own, a logo is just an aesthetically pleasing piece of graphic art. Without a brand’s voice to back it, a logo can have no emotional connection to an audience. A very simple way to define a brand is the “feeling” that is created from the values and hard work behind it. The Chevrolet bow tie logo may be a pretty cool shape in itself, but has only won the hearts of millions of drivers because of what it represents.
7. Annoying your audience through social media
Just because you can post to your brand’s Twitter and Facebook feed twenty times a day doesn’t necessarily mean you should. When compared to traditional marketing efforts like direct mail, social media offers a virtually free and immediate connection to an audience which is also open for misuse from overeager marketers wanting to broadcast almost every single bit of promotional copy they think of. Frequency is important, but don’t lose fans because you beat them over the head with annoying advertising rather than engaging them with fun and useful content.
8. Not identifying your target audience
This is where even a little bit of research can go a long way. You can’t begin to build your brand without knowing whom you’re speaking to. Ask the right questions then set about answering them with the evidence to back it up. Start with the basic demographics like age, location, and specific interests. Now find the people in that group who have the influence to help build your brand and put your focus on them. Just going with your gut or who you think should be your target audience can be a short sighted and risky decision to make for your brand.
9. Being different just for the sake of being different
See point #1 above. Taking a direction with your brand that breaks away from traditional norms can be a good thing, just make sure there’s a reason for it. Deciding to use a minimalist design for packaging which forgoes pictures and uses sparse text can appear clean and modern in the case of a book or album cover, but could be incredibly irritating for a microwave dinner (what does the food look like?). Be purposeful when choosing to do things differently.
10. Not being different enough
Staying safe isn’t always smart, either. If you do nothing to stand out from the rest, your brand will forever exist in a clump of like-minded competitors. Examine what others are doing and then assess what seems to work for them and what could be improved upon. Does everyone else in your industry have a website that looks the same? Are they using the same sorts of advertising media? With a little research to back your decisions, there is nothing wrong with taking some chances to set yourself apart!
11. Not being consistent with your message
It’s perfectly fine to specialize your marketing efforts towards different niches within your audience, but your overall brand message needs to have a common thread throughout to tie it together. Attempting to simultaneously give your brand several completely different voices will come off as insincere and lose credibility. Specifically, this can apply to the general tone of your public relations for your brand, its copywriting, and its design elements such as colors, fonts, and graphics.
12. Resisting change
Sometimes it is hard to accept when things are no longer working for your brand and then make an effort to remedy them, especially when large amounts of time and money have been invested. If you are not willing to embrace new technology and trends, remember there will always be competitors who will.
While this list is not listed in order of importance, if it were, which do you think would be the most critical mistake to consider? Are there any mistakes you’ve made or seen others make when building a brand? How were they overcome?
Photo credit: Big Stock Photos