It’s surprising how many companies make no effort to build a brand. Why a company wouldn’t want as much control as possible over their image, their personality and the overall feeling consumers have about them is beyond me. Creating a brand is your company’s only shot to get what consumers think and feel to match your vision.
Branding happens whether you’re controlling it or not. If it isn’t or wasn’t built properly, someone else is—and will continue—building your brand for you. Even those companies that do try to build a successful brand can fail. Creating a successful brand is not easy. Fortunately, it is easy to spot and avoid the mistakes that commonly occur in the process.
1. Not appreciating the power of brand
A strong brand is an obvious advantage in building customer relationships. For example, when someone thinks of online shopping, they think Amazon. When they think coffee shop, they think Starbucks. Athletic shoes? Nike. Every company should strive for that same kind of immediate, decisive connection with consumers.
“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time. Sometimes it will be ahead, other times it will be behind. But brand is simply a collective impression some have about a product.” ~ Elon Musk
A brand can also result in increased website visits and online awareness. As it turns out, a defined brand is a valuable tool for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google, as we’ve discovered, likes to prioritize branded listings in its organic search results because visitors are more apt to click on them. More clicks means more customers. And the more you stay true to your brand, the more customers will stay true to you.
2. Doing it yourself
You’ve probably forgotten more about your business than most people will ever know. As an expert in your field, it’s also likely you’ve not had the time nor inclination to dedicate an equal amount of years and training to perfect the art of branding. If you want your brand to communicate respectability and credibility to customers, turn to the pros.
One of the biggest and most common branding mistakes business owners make is trying to do it on their own. A lot of business owners mistakenly equate a logo with a brand, so many will start by attempting a logo by themselves or buying a logo via a competition-based logo site. First, company owners are not skilled graphic designers. Secondly, competition-based logos are cheap, mostly because they’re habitually recycled ideas that are neither unique nor relevant.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
The same is true with naming a business. Sure, naming is fun. But, unless you’re willing to operate under a DBA (doing business as) name or adopt a new name, it’s wise to wait until after the brand discovery phase and let the results guide the creation of the most appropriate and memorable name possible.
“Naming a business is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Once it’s in place, the entire foundation and structure is aligned to that original stone. If it’s off, even just a bit, the rest of the building is off, and the misalignment becomes amplified.” ~ Phil Davis
3. Not knowing who you really are
No one knows your business better than you. Seems like a reasonable truth. But in order to create a meaningful brand, it’s the consumer who needs to know the most about your business. Not the technical and logistical minutiae, mind you, but the “who you are” and “what you promise” aspects of your business. And they can’t answer those two critical questions until you can—on their terms.
“Internal understanding of an organization is often nuanced and complex, while external understanding can almost never be.” ~ James Heaton
One of the most egregious branding errors a business can make is to skip a self-discovery process. The discovery stage is crucial to answer questions you may assume you can already answer: What do you stand for? What makes you different? How do you want consumers to feel about you? It takes a proper brand discovery session to take a challenging, unflinching look at your company in ways you’ve never considered. Only after addressing and answering the tough questions can a company establish the foundation for a brand. With everyone on the same page, customers and employees alike will then understand what the company represents and why anyone should care.
“When the companies care, the customers care.” ~ Tricia Morris
4. Too much focus on product or service
One of the most common mistakes a business can make, especially when just starting out, is to not place enough value and emphasis on the consumer experience. Having the right product is important, certainly. However, touting a product should never outweigh the effort to create the experience you want customers to have before they buy, as they buy, and after they buy your product. That’s branding. And branding is what allows a company to stake out the emotional real estate it wants to claim in a consumer’s heart and mind. Experiences are what people connect with, not things.
“A brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir.” ~ Lisa Gansky
When a brand delivers a memorable experience, customers become advocates. They make posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They spread the word. And word of mouth is the most powerful and effective form of advertising. It’s an authentic testament to brand loyalty.
“As a brand marketer, I’m a big believer in ‘branding the customer experience,’ not just selling the service.” ~ John Sculley
5. Not maintaining consistency
Once you’ve established a brand, stick to it. Not fully committing to branding undoes the very goal of branding. Nothing is more confusing and off-putting to consumers than a lack of brand consistency. You must make sure each and every marketing piece serves your brand, your brand voice and your brand look.
“Define what your brand stands for, its core values and tone of voice, and then communicate consistently in those terms.” ~ Simon Mainwaring
Companies with successful brands have, and diligently adhere to, a Brand Style Guide. The guide is like a brand owner’s manual. It covers brand voice and tone as well as the proper use of the unique mix of visual elements created to represent the brand. Such elements include logo, colors, fonts, etc. Other elements can be added to the guide to further define the brand.
Branding requires time as well as commitment. By the time you start to become tired of your logo, tagline or branding in general—that’s when those things are starting to sink in with consumers.
“People need patience. It takes time to build a brand.” ~ Carmen Busquets
6. Putting social media on auto-pilot
Forbes reports that 82% of people trust a company more if they’re involved with social media. The whole point of social media is involvement. The platforms exist to prompt and stimulate conversation. So, if you leave them unattended, you do so at your own risk.
People like to find out the latest scoop on their favorite brands and share their experience with companies online and respond to others’ posts. But, suppose an unflattering comment about your company shows up. If your social media is unattended, you’ll never know. A negative situation could quickly grow out of control. That’s why it’s imperative that whomever is assigned to monitor and update your company’s social accounts stays on top of all social media platforms and stays engaged in conversations.
“The future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every possible channel: phone, e-mail, chat, Web, and social networks. Customers are discussing a company’s products and brand in real time. Companies need to join the conversation.” ~Marc Benioff
7. Not keeping your brand promise
Everything in your company’s marketing materials, from words to imagery, should be crafted to evoke a certain set of positive feelings about your brand. The messaging should assure consumers they’ll be taken care of, that you’ll keep your word and that you’ll do so every time. Managing your brand and staying consistent goes a long way toward building trust. Ultimately, however, it is you who must make good on the brand promise.
“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.” ~ Simon Mainwaring
Nike’s swoosh. Apple’s apple. Coca Cola’s distinctive script lettering. As a new, small or any-size-but-yet-unbranded business, attaining such an iconic level makes the thought of undertaking a branding initiative seem overwhelming. Reject such concerns. We do it every day. And we’d welcome the chance to do it with and for you.
Have questions or want to see how Lou Hammond Group can help brand your business, product or service? Contact us today.