Branding can be a tricky word because it is used so frequently for many things when it comes to advertising and your business. I’ve found that this lack of clarity can lead to many business owners making some branding mistakes in the beginning and over time.
Here are 5 branding mistakes to avoid and some advice on how to reconcile them if you find these situations familiar:
1. Not Knowing Your Brand Strategy
When it comes to starting a business, there is an endless list of things to set up and get in order that does not even include the actual work that made you want to start a business in the first place. This is why starting a business can feel so overwhelming at first – leaving business owners with a simple checkbox for a logo in the slew of things to get done. But branding is more than a logo, it’s your entire identity – not only for yourself, but for your potential customers and how they will see you. If you haven’t ironed out your brand strategy from the start, you’ll find that you could waste years identifying with people who aren’t even in your target market. This is a large factor in why 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
So what is a brand strategy you ask? It’s a long term plan for your brand that addresses your potential customers needs and emotions, as well as your competitors strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some questions to answer when assessing your brand strategy:
1. What external and internal problem do you solve for your customers? Your external problem should be the surface level problem, while your internal problem should be something they feel. i.e. A CPA and consulting firm solves their external need for CFO services, but internally may solve the feeling of being overwhelmed by taking that off their plate. (Source: https://storybrand.com/)
2. How can you empathize with their fears/challenges? Do you find you’ve been in a similar situation maybe with a different type of business?
3. What gives you the authority to solve their problems? This is where you talk about your credentials and the other customers you’ve worked with.
4. What are successful outcomes when working with you?
5. What is your “bread and butter” when it comes to your services? These are the things you like to do the most and are the most profitable.
6. How do you compete with your competition? Where are you stronger and where are you weaker?
It’s important to know this part because it gives you an edge in your messaging in the areas you are beating them, but also a guideline of the areas to stay away from.
So how does all of this relate to your logo? Once you’ve answered these questions you’ll identify the type of client you want to attract, and therefore the style your brand needs to convey.
2. Not Investing in Your Brand From the Start
We’ve established the endless slew of things to get done when starting a business, but often times many businesses make the mistake of not investing in their branding up front. There are services out there where you can get a logo for $25… and often times it’s worth exactly what you paid for it.
The problem with those services is that you don’t get to have a conversation with someone about your strategy, they simply get a name and maybe a color scheme to go on. While you may like the look of something you get, does it answer those questions from your strategy? Maybe not, which in turn means, you’ll end up hiring someone a few years down the road and do it again, costing you more in the long run to phase your old brand out.
Invest in your brand from the start as it is the springboard for how the world will see you.
3. Trying to be Everything to Everybody
It is impossible to be everyone’s cup of tea, both in life and business. The truth is, you shouldn’t want to be! It’s especially hard when you get started to really know your niche and the work you really want to focus on, so you end up trying to be everything to everybody. I find that when it comes to new businesses specifically – they don’t want to potentially leave anyone out, which in turn means, that their brand becomes really hard for anyone to identify with.
By narrowing in on the best clientele with the most profitable and “bread and butter” work for you, you’ll be able to create a brand centered around targeting those specific people. In the end, the focus allows you to grow with long lasting clientele, as opposed to work that may phase out over time.
Peer House is a great example of a brand that is not trying to be everything to everybody. The logo is modern and professional with clear messaging as to what they do, which means, they will attract and identify with other professional businesses.
4. Brand Inconsistency
This is probably the most common mistake I see businesses make very early. What ends up happening is the brand strategy was not established in the beginning so they’re trying to make those changes and really attract the type of people they want to be working with. They’re hesitant to do a full brand overhaul so they make little tweaks here and there. However, this can lead to a lot of inconsistency in their advertising, internal communications, etc. – making it hard for customers to have any repeat awareness as well as brand loyalty. If it’s a sponsorship banner at a little league football game, or a billboard on the highway, your brand messaging and look should be consistent. On average it takes 8 touch points for a potential customer to make a decision, if you’ve touched them 8 times, but all the looks are different and unclear, you’re starting over every time.
5. Not Growing with your Brand
If you’re reading this and have already started your business, but feel that maybe you made some mistakes in the beginning and your brand has not grown with you, don’t worry, it’s not too late! It’s common that after some time, businesses really start to find their niche and answer those brand strategy questions that may lead to a rebrand. Having to update and adapt your brand is a good thing, it means you’re growing and furthering your connection with the best of the best in clients. The mistake would be, to not grow your brand with you.
If you own a mowing company that has now ventured into all things outdoor from landscaping, to patios, maybe even pools, but your logo is still a little push mower/one man shop look, you may be feeling the need for growth. That brand no longer targets the right people, which means, someone looking for a patio may see that and think, “oh I don’t need someone to mow my lawn,” and breeze right past.
It can feel very daunting and overwhelming to change a brand, especially if you have some emotional attachment to where you started, but remember in the end, your logo and brand isn’t really about you, it’s about the way the customer sees you. Make sure your brand is attracting the clients you want to work with.
Emily Conley is a founder, co-owner and Art Director at Big Echo Creative. She spends her days immersed in a variety of businesses focused on the branding and graphic design needs with a focus on creative development and concepting for full scale advertising campaigns. She’s passionate about elevating brands and helping her clients stand out from the crowd! Learn more at bigechocreative.com.