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How to avoid these 16 business branding mistakes
To help you avoid common branding pitfalls, we gathered insights from 16 branding and marketing experts, including CEOs, founders, and marketing managers. From accounting for cultural differences to tailoring content to each platform, discover the top branding mistakes businesses make and how to prevent them in your own company.
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- Account for Cultural Differences
- Maintain Consistent Brand Messages
- Focus On Customer Relationships
- Conduct Market Research for Targeting
- Establish an Unvarying Brand Style
- Emphasize Authenticity and Strengths
- Target a Specific Demographic
- Create a Memorable, Unique Brand
- Differentiate Brand From Competitors
- Listen to Customer Feedback
- Adopt a Visually Appealing Design
- Choose a Consistent Color Palette
- Communicate Unique Value Proposition
- Adapt Brand as Company Expands
- Develop a Brand Style Guide
- Tailor Content to Each Platform
Account for Cultural Differences
When developing brand messaging, it is important to consider how those communications will be interpreted across other regions.
In the U.S., phrases like “break a leg” or “bite the bullet” do not have equivalent expressions in certain languages that would convey the same meaning. When writing advertisements and commercials, it’s important to consider how idioms like those mentioned will be received by viewers outside the U.S.
Certain expressions might make sense to a local audience, but for those who are interacting with your brand globally, those figures of speech may not translate entirely, or worse, be viewed as nonsensical and inappropriate.
When expanding a brand to international markets, businesses should seek consultation from outside agencies or regional counterparts to ensure that the brand messaging is clear and accounts for cultural differences.
Maintain Consistent Brand Messages
One common branding mistake that businesses make is not having a clear and consistent brand message. This can happen when businesses don't invest enough time in developing a strong brand strategy and end up with a brand that is confusing, inconsistent, or doesn't resonate with their target audience.
To avoid this mistake, start by identifying the target audience and understanding what they want and need from the brand. From there, businesses can create a brand identity that aligns with their target audience's values, beliefs, and preferences.
It's important to ensure that the brand message is clear and consistent across all marketing channels, including social media, websites, and print materials. This means using consistent messaging, imagery, and brand voice to build recognition and trust with customers. Otherwise, things can easily get confusing and consumer trust can be lost.
Focus On Customer Relationships
Customers don't like to feel that they are being pushed into buying anything, even if they do need or want it. The problem that some businesses encounter is that they emphasize sales targets, rather than the service and quality that they can offer to the customers.
Very often, there is more to be gained from quality over quantity. Satisfied customers become repeat customers and they are not slow to share their great experiences with their networks, which can drive more sales to your business.
By taking the focus away from sales targets and concentrating instead on building close relationships with the customers, educating them where necessary, and taking the time to find out what they want over what you want to sell to them, you can show your customers that you care for them and that you want to do your best to help them make the best decisions for them.
Conduct Market Research for Targeting
If you don't take the time to figure out who is most likely to buy or interact with your products, your company may not reach the correct individuals. And you can waste time and effort on messaging and designs that fall flat. Conduct market research to learn about the demographics and interests of current customers.
Are men or women more likely to purchase? How old are your clients? How much money are they prepared to spend? With a persona in mind, you can design content and messaging that will appeal to those individuals. I advise you to determine who is unlikely to interact with your business, and as you develop, you can find new ways to reach a larger audience.
Establish an Unvarying Brand Style
Consistency in branding means using the same fonts, logos, color schemes, and messaging. These elements communicate what your business stands for and how it differentiates itself from competitors.
However, businesses fall into the inconsistency trap by changing their branding too frequently. While it may tempt you to spice things up every few years, doing so can actually hurt your brand's recognition and reputation.
Instead, establish a consistent visual style and messaging strategy that reflects your values and resonates with your target audience. Ensure that all touchpoints—from your website and social media accounts—align with your core brand message. If humor is your brand's tone, then make that consistent across all platforms, but if you're more of a corporate voice, stick to a professional feel.
Emphasize Authenticity and Strengths
A branding mistake I see all too often is brands trying to be too different, quirky, and outside the box. Ironically, if everyone is different, they don’t stand out.
It can be beneficial for certain brands, but if your product/service is perfunctory or solid, then trying to add glitz and glamour makes you look like a try-hard. Play to your strengths and emphasize that.
There are not enough USPs to go around, so merge the things you do well and package that up in your branding and marketing. People can see through gimmicks, and despite the entertainment of it all, we all want a dependable service that we can rely on for results.
Branding is not just about being different for the sake of it, but about creating a noticeable (in a good way) and authentic brand that speaks to their target market on their level.
Target a Specific Demographic
I believe that businesses that aim to please everyone end up pleasing no one. This error results in a diluted brand identity that cannot resonate with any specific consumer.
To avoid making this error, focus on a specific specialized demographic and craft messaging that resonates with them. This method will assist you in developing a more concentrated brand identity that will resonate with your target audience.
Create a Memorable, Unique Brand
There are a lot of pitfalls in branding. One thing I often see as a marketing agency owner is an issue I call the “smooth pebble.” A brand positioning that is so inoffensive, so unremarkable, so smooth, that it is utterly forgettable.
Usually, this is a brand built by a committee. It's boring and “nice” (damned with faint praise). It's undifferentiated. All the rough edges have been polished away.
You don't want to be the smooth pebble; you want to be the interestingly shaped pebble with crevices and pitting and a fun pattern on one side. The kind of pebble you'd pick up on a beach and take home in your pocket.
That's what businesses should aim for when they think about branding.
Differentiate Brand From Competitors
Some businesses make the mistake of using similar messaging and branding strategies as their competitors, making it challenging for their target audience to distinguish them from others in the same industry. This can hinder their growth and profitability.
To avoid this, small businesses can conduct market research to identify their unique selling proposition (USP) and use it to differentiate their brand from competitors. They can highlight their USP in their branding efforts to make it clear to their audience why they should choose their business over others.
Instead of simply copying the strategies of their competitors, businesses can develop a brand positioning statement that clearly defines their USP and how it sets them apart. This statement can serve as the foundation for all of their branding efforts and help to create a strong brand identity. With this, businesses can stand out in their industry, build a loyal customer base, and increase their chances of success.
Listen to Customer Feedback
A big mistake that businesses can make is ignoring customer feedback. This can hurt a business's branding because it means they aren't identifying customer needs and preferences, which will overall make it more difficult to attract new customers and keep current ones.
In order to avoid this, businesses simply should actively listen and consider customer feedback when they receive it through surveys, social media, reviews, and other avenues.
What customers say should be implemented in product development and customer service practices and should be responded to as needed when issues arise. By listening to customer feedback, businesses can ensure that they build strong branding and relationships with their customers.
Adopt Visually Appealing Design
A brand will not be noticed if it has a clumsy design. Even with a fantastic product, persuasive marketing, and first-rate customer service, people may only pay attention to a visually appealing presentation.
Even today, some more prominent brands that became well-known before the internet can get away with poor design, but any company founded after the middle of the 2000s should know this. The legitimacy and allure of your brand will increase with a contemporary, user-friendly design.
Choose Consistent Color Palette
One branding mistake businesses make is just using random colors together and/or constantly changing these colors.
These things are mistakes because colors are one of the main parts of how customers will recognize your brand. Putting together colors that don't really match gives an "off" feeling that you don't want to be associated with your brand.
The solution to these things is putting aside some time for a session of choosing to match colors with popular tools like coolors.co or other color palette generators. After that, you want to note down the color codes of your resulting color palette and set internal processes that make it so your different departments all use this one.
Communicate Unique Value Proposition
One common branding mistake that businesses make is failing to define and consistently communicate their brand's unique value proposition (UVP) to their target audience. This can cause a weak or confusing brand identity, making it harder for consumers to differentiate the business from its competitors.
To avoid this mistake, businesses should take the time to define their UVP clearly, which should highlight the unique benefits they offer to customers. This should be communicated consistently across all marketing channels, including the website, social media, advertising, and customer interactions. By doing so, businesses can create a strong brand identity that resonates with their target audience and sets them apart from their competitors.
Adapt Brand as Company Expands
Assume your brand is unified across all platforms and channels. That's fantastic, but your brand is a dynamic, breathing entity that should adapt as your company expands. Don't make the mistake of being stagnant. I believe customers may lose interest in your offerings if you do not keep them new and engaging.
Changing your brand regularly leads to confusion and a lack of consistency. Take some time—perhaps once a quarter or twice a year—to assess your brand identity and ensure that it is still accurately representing your expanding company.
Monitor how the market is developing and what your customers want from a brand. Make significant changes and make notifications when major changes are made. It's critical to keep customers informed so they understand the reasoning behind the change. Transparency and a brand that listens and grows are important to customers.
Develop a Brand Style Guide
One common branding mistake that many businesses make is failing to produce a brand style guide and maintain a consistent image across all media. With clear guidelines and standards for brand messaging and visual identity, companies can present a clearer and more cohesive image to their target audience.
To avoid this mistake, businesses should develop a comprehensive brand style guide that outlines the critical elements of their brand, including logo usage, typography, color palettes, and messaging guidelines.
This guide should be shared with all stakeholders, including internal teams, external vendors, and partners, to ensure consistency across all media channels. By investing in a well-designed and implemented brand style guide, businesses can ensure that their brand messaging and visual identity are consistent and cohesive across all media channels, strengthening their brand and building a stronger connection with their target audience.
Tailor Content to Each Platform
One common branding mistake businesses make is posting the same content across all their social media platforms without considering the unique features and audience of each platform. This strategy can lead to a lack of engagement and ultimately negatively affect the brand's image.
To avoid this mistake, businesses should tailor their content to each platform, ensuring that it aligns with the platform's features and the interests of the audience on that platform. For example, content on Instagram should focus on visual aspects and storytelling, while Twitter content should be concise and use hashtags to increase reach.
By customizing content to each platform, businesses can maximize their reach and engagement while maintaining a consistent brand identity.