By Mark Harrison
In a nutshell, your brand defines what your company is, how you work, and why your customers should choose you.
Not to be confused with marketing, branding is all about how you present your business. It’s the personality and set of values that make you stand out from the crowd to both consumers and competitors.
With this in mind, it’s vital to be aware of some of the pitfalls that companies commonly encounter when they’re first getting to grips with their brand. It’s sometimes tricky for companies to define themselves, but it’s also key to your success.
Here are 11 mistakes you need to avoid when designing your brand, in order to create a memorable web presence and attract loyal customers.
Your brand is who you are. It’s how you let your customers know what kind of business you are running, which is why consistency is an instrumental part of nurturing good relationships and building trust.From spelling to appearance, you need to make sure all instances of your name, your logo, your slogan, and any other aspect of your brand identity match one another, across all platforms.For instance, you wouldn’t want two different slogans appearing on different platforms, just as you wouldn’t want two different prices for the same product on different pages of your website.Furthermore, your products, services, and customer relationships must live up to your guarantees. Your brand is like a promise that you make to your audience, which means everything you do in front of them is subject to comparison with your stated values.
Poor Staff Training
One of the major causes of brand inconsistency is poor training. Branding guidelines are there to make sure that a company’s staff are all on the same page, so you need to make all your employees aware of them.Creating a strong set of brand values gives your employees something in common, allowing them to act confidently when interacting with customers and other businesses on the company’s behalf.Keeping teamwork in mind, you should never delegate everything to one person. Even when devising your brand, make the most of your entire team and ensure that everybody who has something to add feels they are being heard and that they understand your brand.Whether on the creative or customer-facing side, it helps to have diverse contributions from all of your employees in order to make your brand better. It’s better for everyone to drum in unison than march to the beat of a single drum.
It’s all very well to have brand values, but we think in pictures, not words. That’s why you need to make sure that your brand’s visuals are attention-grabbing and memorable, rather than dull and forgettable.“Sticky marketing” is the act of creating memorable campaigns that stay with the customer long after they first see them and that starts with a great brand. Images stick with the customer for longer than words, particularly when they support a singular message.Every recognisable brand logo, whether it’s McDonalds’ golden arches or Nike’s Swoosh, starts with design. You may not be aiming for the global exposure of those companies, but good design works in your favour, just as bad design makes you look unprofessional.When you hire a designer, consider what you want your visuals to say and create a detailed brief. Look at what your competitors are doing, ask yourself what their optics say about them and what you’d like yours to say for you.
Not Knowing Your Audience
As branding and marketing have evolved, there has been a shift in how we think of our audience. While demographics aren’t completely redundant, you need to think about targeting your customers’ mindset, rather than their characteristics.Think of it this way. If you run a sportswear company and you’re primarily targeting men aged 18 to 34, you’re probably annoying a lot of 25-year-olds who dislike sports. But if you tailor your brand specifically, you’re more likely to reach a larger portion of your target audience.But branding doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so it’s important to do your audience research. Base your brand on what your actual customers want, rather than scrambling to adapt to what you find out on the job.Plus, in learning what your customers want, you’ll learn what your own value is to them. By knowing your audience, you will come to know your own value, which will benefit your activities at all levels.
Not Learning From Your Audience
A loyal customer base is the clearest indicator that your brand is working. If you’d like to keep it that way, then use your audience’s input to inform your brand development. This can either entail audience research or simply listening to feedback when offered.For starters, you should be tracking your brand to measure its effectiveness. Most platforms offer analytics of some kind, and you can use this data to direct your future marketing efforts.But frankly, this one can even be as simple as reading and responding to customer reviews. When your customers tell you there’s something they don’t like about what you’re doing, believe them, and take steps to improve.Openness and honesty are intrinsic values for any brand. You want your customers to trust you, so whether it’s a bad customer experience or an accidental tweet, don’t try to cover your tracks. Just explain what went wrong and what you’ve done to address it and build your reputation for honest customer service.
This is a particularly common mistake among smaller companies. Economy of scale is a significant factor for small businesses, but if you over-order on printed flyers and leaflets that take years and years to use up, you’re banking on your brand staying the same over a long period of time.Ideally, your brand will be long-lasting and memorable to sustain this kind of exposure, but don’t forget the importance of being adaptive and responsive in the current market. If, for instance, your flyers refer to a promotion that has been discontinued, this can impact on your brand.While staleness primarily affects offline marketing, you must also ensure that your online marketing materials stay fresh and interesting. Keep your content updated when necessary and avoid repeating yourself. But if you’re really concerned about stale marketing, then you can’t afford to ignore social media. Even if you think you don’t need it, you’re missing out on customers by not using it. By harnessing your social media presence, you’ll always have at least one sure-fire channel for fresh content, so long as you’re mindful of the need for originality in your marketing.
Copying Your Competitors
For context alone, there’s always something to be gained from keeping one eye on what competing brands are up to, but that’s not to say that you should copy them.In building an effective brand, there’s no ground to be gained by simply replicating what existing brands do. When you’re up against a company that’s aiming for the same target audience as you and supplies similar products and services, the last thing you want is to have a samey brand as well.If anything, consumers are trending towards supporting independent businesses over major chains and corporations. Even if you’re not a small operation, you want your brand to show individuality rather than conformity.When researching your competitors, it’s far better to look at what you can do better than them, or how you can get better at doing what you do.
Patronising Your Audience
Nobody likes to be patronised. And yet, there are countless instances of high-profile brands getting it wrong by jumping on trends and inadvertently patronising their customers at the same time.Off the top of our heads, there are a few involving the colour pink being used in an effort to appeal to women. These range from the “beer for girls” one-off branding of BrewDog’s International Women’s Day promotion in 2018 to the cringe-making pink bus (driven by a man!) that launched the Labour Party’s Women to Women campaign in 2015.Tied up in the characterisation of pink as “a girl’s colour”, these branding decisions came across as disingenuous and were widely lampooned at the time. Women don’t immediately latch onto anything pink, especially if they’re obviously being patronised by a commercial or political organisation.Don’t choose your colour scheme or your marketing tactics just to try and elicit a response. In the broadest terms, red is hot and passionate, and blue is calm and reassuring, but it’s imperative that you make sure your products and services back up your brand promises.
Enthusiasm is a great virtue in branding but be careful to avoid over-promising and under-delivering. Always remember that your actions are more important to your brand than your words, and you have to be able to live up to what you’re offering.In this regard, slogans can be particularly tricky. It’s tempting to include unqualified superlatives like “The Best in Town” or “Unbeatable Value”. If you can’t back this up, then you’ll look foolish if and when your customers call you out about it.As well as researching your competitors, honesty is once again the best policy here. If you’re just starting out, try to avoid overstatements in the course of selling your products and services. You know you have competitors, so try to show what you have to offer rather than portraying yourself as the only option.Meanwhile, if you’ve been in business for a while, you know your own strengths and weaknesses and should have an idea of what you can and can’t do. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your services, but make sure you can support the brand image you’re trying to build.
On the other hand, it’s just as important to avoid talking yourself down. The goal is to be realistic without being overly modest. Your brand is all about what you do, not about what you don’t do.Again, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses and those of competing brands in your area. But more than just telling your customers about your strengths, you need to give them a reason to care.This is one area in which you need to make sure you’re writing really engaging content for your website and marketing materials. It’s all too easy to fall into passive and non-committal language which emphasise practicality and durability over usefulness and comfort.When you write about your brand, you want people to care, which means appealing to emotional and aspirational needs rather than more basic needs. Focus on making the customer want you rather solely than trying to convince them they need you.
Not Fully Investing
Finally, it’s crucial to fully invest in your brand. Marketing budgets are a separate concern, but on a personal level, if you don’t fully believe in your brand, it will show. It’s your identity, so if you’re not fully invested in it, your potential customers won’t be either.When it comes to branding, actions speak than words. Talking the talk will only get you so far but working openly and honestly in a way which is consistent with your stated values is how you attract loyal customers.Together, your actions and words make up your brand’s story and if that story is compelling to you, it will be compelling to consumers as well.