New businesses and startups often tend to get so carried away with building products and managing costs that they fail to have a proper branding plan.
So when they need to launch a product or start working on their marketing strategy, they end up making these branding mistakes that can cause long-term damage.
Asides from not communicating effectively to their customers, companies who have poor branding strategies risk having a poor brand perception, customer loyalty, and even sales record.
In this article, we’ll be listing eleven of the most popular branding mistakes you can make and how you can avoid them.
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11 Branding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. Trying to Clone the Competition
As a new business having competition is inevitable. Even when you don’t have any during your launch, new businesses similar to yours will emerge.
However, many brands make the mistake of trying to be exactly like their competition. The problem with this is that your brand cannot be unique.
So instead of trying to emulate their recipe, slogan, logo design, marketing, and brand, find ways to exploit their weaknesses instead.
Samsung and Apple have always been competitors. And with the launch of the iPhone 6, Samsung identified a weakness – the battery. So they took up a marketing campaign for the Samsung S6 series, using the stronger battery life and ultra-fast charging iPhone 6 lacked as their unique value proposition. You can see one in the Ad war below;
Find what makes your product/service unique from the competition and lead with that.
Identify weaknesses your competitors have and use that to your advantage.
2. Forgetting that Your Brand Includes Your Name
At the most basic level, your name is your brand. This is because what you call yourself affects how people perceive your brand. Your brand name shouldn’t just come from your ideas, but also from time spent thinking about how your audience will respond to it.
For example, while Monster Energy Drink can get away with the negative brand name, a legal firm or religious business will not survive it. So you need a name that not only appeals to your audience but something that fits your product/service well.
When Blackberry was still in the market, it was a very strong brand. And one of its defining features was its keyboard. The keyboard was shaped like blackberries and that’s where the name was culled from. Because the design of this product was cute, the name stuck perfectly.
Conduct research for your prospective brand name and see how a segment of your audience responds to it.
Think about brand names that align with your brand values e.g trust, reliability, etc.
3. Not Conducting Thorough Market Research
When launching your product, market research has a very important role to play in ensuring it’s widely adopted. You’d want to know that there’s a right fit for your brand and that your products will not cause negative press for your brand.
For example, if you’re a children’s brand, you have to first survey the children’s demographic to understand their interests. However, failing to account for the parent’s perception through research can be detrimental to your business.
This is because their guardians will be the ones who purchase the product. So, in your market research, what the children find as a right fit has to intersect with what their parents agree to.
Mcdonalds is a brand that priorities market research. They constantly take into account, what their customers want and where they are lacking. An example is when consumers were worried about the absence of organic foods on the menu. They had a campaign where they showed how healthy their meat was.
Your market research should always answer what products are performing well and those that aren’t.
Don’t underestimate the power of customer feedback.
4. Mixing Up Your Messages
As earlier stated, having a unique selling point as a brand can put you forward. However, when you have subsequent campaigns that give mixed signals, that can cost people to doubt your authenticity.
If your brand focuses on delivering an ‘eat-anywhere’ USP, your advertising messages should not imply that it has to be stored in a refrigerator. Because that means your product requires some sort of extra preservation and so, it’s not truly ‘eat-anywhere’.
Your message needs to stay consistent. A brand that has achieved this over the years is Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is a leading bank that has still kept that traditional and old-school messaging.
Its slogan ‘Together we’ll go far’ inspires a copy that is rooted in building relationships. And even on their website, they still maintain a similar copy.
Always choose a simple brand messaging that’s easy to stick to even when you diversify your product/service catalog.
Ensure you have a consistent brand message across ads, copy, and even in partnership choices
5. Not Focusing on the End Product
The quality of your product will always reflect in your brand. Through reviews, word of mouth, and other referrals, your target audience will form their perception of your brand.
So if your customers are having a bad experience with your product, it will tell negatively on your brand. And this is where many startups get it wrong. No matter how much you spend on your advertising and PR, if you don’t have a good product or service, it’s still going to leave a negative mark.
In our example, Suja doesn’t even spend too much time trying to convince you that they are an organic drink. By using their customer reviews as proof, they already show that they are a trustworthy brand and that you’d be getting exactly what you sign up for.
Ask for reviews from your customers to understand how well your brand is doing in the market.
Aim for product improvements to always improve the quality of your offerings.
6. Not Having a Crisis Management Plan
We all think we can respond well under pressure. However, as a company, it’s not always true especially since those in charge of this are also humans. As a brand, having bad PR on some days is just inevitable.
Giant brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Apple, and more have all had their fair share of a PR crisis. In fact, Uber once lost 200,000 users from a #DeleteUber hashtag.
This is why having a crisis management plan is crucial to your brand. Because at the end of the day, how you manage the events determines whether or not your brand will survive the crisis.
In 2017, Pepsi launched a commercial where people of color had protested and Kendall Jenner stepped in to calm the police with a can of Pepsi. While it seemed harmless, the backlash that followed the ad was fierce. Pepsi immediately launched crisis management which was empathy by apologizing and promising to do better. The plan was to be empathetic and immediate.
And while this worked for them, some brands like Cracker Barrel use the silent crisis management plan where they choose not to treat it like a crisis.
The best crisis management uses empathy. Consider adding this to your plan.
Assign a spokesperson for your company which should be your CEO or a top executive.
7. Working with Stereotypes
While many brands swear to steer clear of stereotypes, many of them end up using stereotypes during campaigns. This could be gender or even racial stereotypes.
Sometimes, older brands realize that they’ve been working with harmful stereotypes all along.
For example, Aunt Jemima’s staple syrup recently had to rebrand from the racial stereotype it portrayed. This included taking away all packaging, images, and even the brand name.
For make-up and beauty brands, the stereotype that women are the only target market is still prevalent today. However, in Soap and Glory’s face masks launch, they used female beauty influencers as well as Jake-Jamie Ward who is a male beauty influencer. With this inclusivity, they’ve shown that beauty is genderless and broken stereotypes.
Think about the stereotypes in your industry and try to break that bias with your brand.
Be careful not to over-do it and alienate your existing customers.
8. Brand Dilution
Over time, you might be tempted to try out new things and test the limits of your brand. However, when you run campaigns that don’t align with your brand values, you tend to lose that thing that makes you unique.
We call this brand dilution. In scenarios like this, you’d most likely lose your existing customers while chasing imaginary ones.
For example, if you’re a brand that portrays strength and ruggedness, selling items for babies shouldn’t be on your radar.
That’s because, with children, you’d want to be friendly, cute, and gentle. Plus, there are already enough brands out there that focus on only catering to kids. So why would guardians want to choose a brand that doesn’t prioritize their children?
This is also the same reason why luxury car manufacturers like Ferrari don’t sell cheap cars that can appeal to everyone.
Because their entire brand values are based on luxury and exclusivity. The messages and ads they sell also reflect this. As you’d see below, the USP of this car is where ‘Speed meets Elegance’
Only expand your messages within the limits of your brand perception and values.
Cater for the gaps your current users are facing instead of trying to appeal to everyone.
9. Offering Too Many Products
Diversifying your revenue streams is an excellent way to grow your brand. However, offering too many products can lead to product duplicates. This is where you have too many products catering to the same need.
For example, if you’re a hair removal brand and you’re selling men’s razors, and women’s razors, and then you sell a product that’s an ‘All gender razor’ it becomes redundant. This can also cause you to start creating products that have no alignment with your brand.
So when you’re trying to branch out, focus on a select few products that have aligned solutions with your brand offering.
For example, Heinz is a food processing company popular for its Ketchup and Baked Beans.
When branching out, it focused on similar yet different products which are mustard, mayonnaise, sauce, gravy, and vinegar. As a very old brand, it’s amazing to see how simple their catalog still is.
Focus on the product-market fit and appeal to a direct yet broader segment of your audience.
Account for the nuances of your new market and make provision for that.
10. Excessive Brand Marketing
Sometimes, your large marketing budget isn’t necessary. When you overhype your brand, it tends to end up working against you.
A good example is when Sony created so much hype for the Godzilla movie remake in 1998.
They had promo music and a toy brand coming up and when people watched it, it was just plain disappointing. This cost them a ton of money. Over the years, they stuck to a more simple marketing approach which yielded more positive results.
A good example of a brand that sticks with simplicity is Netflix. From the business name to its other elements, like the Logo, Tagline, Emails, and other copy. Yet it is a universal branding that can scale even to billboards. And most times, it does the marketing for itself.
Remember that bigger isn’t always better.
Your brand marketing shouldn’t surpass the product value.
11. Not Having a Visual Brand Guide
Your visual identity is supposed to help your brand stand out. It’s what people can use to immediately identify your brand when they see it.
Having limited assets as a startup creates an avenue for inconsistent content because your designers will simply fill in the gaps with whatever they can find.
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It’s important to have your meaningful logo, brand colors, font, typography, icons, interactive elements, and so much more for consistency.
It is more important to have them hosted in a very accessible location.
For example, Starbucks hosts its brand guidelines on a microsite. The guideline covers six elements – logo, colour, voice, typography, illustration, and photography.
Create an online manual that hosts all your branding assets for easy retrieval.
You should make yours a lot more comprehensive – if possible share your brand story.
Creating and maintaining a brand isn’t an easy feat. In fact, many giant brands today have gone through numerous backlash and branding mistakes that cost them, valuable users.
As a big business, your priority will be in using your resources to maintain or improve the brand perception you already have.
As a startup or a small business, your focus should be on ensuring that your copy, messaging and other elements are in sync.
You can start by avoiding all of the brand mistakes highlighted above and getting a brand name that speaks for you.