Launching a new brand? Revitalizing a heritage brand? Jump starting a brand that’s stalled? Each project offers unique challenges requiring important choices. Despite best intentions, bad decisions sometimes happen to good branding. Avoiding those is what this post is all about.
We’ve teamed up with our friends at Think Brand Studio on companion blog posts to shine a light on some of the most common branding blunders, bad decisions, and managerial missteps we’ve seen sabotage branding projects of every size, and stripe.
Acknowledging these potential pitfalls will help you avoid them. As the saying goes, there are three kinds of people; those you can tell, those you can show, and those who have to pee on the electric fence to find out for themselves. We hope these posts save you the shock of finding out the hard way.
View it as a manual for avoiding mistakes; valuable advice for your brand, and your bottom line. If you’re starting with us, make sure you click over to Think’s blog at the end of our post to see what they have to say. We’ll kick it off with what has to be the most common branding mistake we encounter…
Believing that your visual identity is your brand
Your brand is not your logo, your web site, or your advertising. Those are identifiers, signals. Your brand is a perception; a feeling about your company, products, and services that lives in the hearts, and minds of the public. That perception is created at every touchpoint where consumers connect with your brand.
Perception creates value, but consumers don’t value brands, they value the promise a brand offers. Consistently delivering on your brand promise is the path to success. You do it through the quality of your products, and services while managing the perception with signals such as those listed above – as well as many more. When your brand delivers, you earn trust, form bonds, and increase value.
Delivery is one half of the equation. Your message won’t matter if it’s sent to the wrong audience. Which brings us to the next common branding mistake…
Not knowing your customer
We’re not talking about basic target demography; this is about drilling deeper, understanding what makes those people tick. Doing that means immersing yourself in the customer experience, starting from their perspective, and branding outward to discover how, and where your brand fits into their lives.
Sometimes, it’s about finding simple solutions to what’s been overlooked; figuring out what they need before they know they need it. Often, what’s revolutionary for brands is merely evolutionary for consumers. Remain relevant by evolving with your customers, while never losing sight – and never letting them lose sight – of what makes your brand valuable.
Not being customer-focused usually means you’re too focused on yourself, which inevitably leads to the next common branding mistake…
Believing it’s all about you
It’s been said that people care about brands that care about them. Well, sort of. Truth is people don’t really care about brands; they care about things that interest them, and add value to their lives. The goal of branding is to make your brand one of those things.
Here’s the hard truth; your products and services don’t matter unless consumers decide that your brand matters. You can’t control how they feel, but you can influence them. Branding is influence.
Consumers make emotional decisions about what and where they buy, but they justify those choices with logical explanations. Branding speaks to both the head and the heart to influence the buying decision long before the point of purchase.
People will pay a premium for a rewarding brand experience. Delivering that experience takes top-down passion, and commitment throughout your entire organization. Compartmentalizing your branding leads to another common branding mistake…
Leaving it to your marketing team
Branding is a management strategy too often mistaken for a marketing tactic. Get this straight; marketing is a department; branding is a culture. It’s too complex, and too important to be delegated to a single department.
Organizations often operate in silos. Marketing, finance, sales, and the C-suite are prone to define success differently. Misalignment costs money. Branding that is planned, and purposeful provides clarity of message, and consensus of strategy that aligns your enterprise, and moves your team forward with focus.
Being brand-driven gives you an unfair advantage over your competition. On the other hand, discontinuity could cause you to commit another common branding mistake…
Bolting it on
Branding must be built-in from the beginning, not bolted-on as an afterthought. The most successful companies in the world make it a starting point for every aspect of their operations. Yet astonishingly, some organizations still view branding as superfluous, an add-on if budgets allow.
You don’t operate a business; you manage a brand. That brand is your most valuable business asset; your competitive advantage; your secret weapon, and your catalyst for reaching, and retaining customers. “Good enough” isn’t. If your superior product suffers from inferior branding your competition will beat you – every time.
No amount of branding will help your organization if it’s mired in a management culture of mediocrity & denial. Saddled with that mindset, you may find yourself making yet another common branding mistake…
Collaborating with the wrong partners
You wouldn’t hire a proctologist to perform your heart surgery. Branding is an equally distinct discipline requiring planning, preparation, and razor-sharp execution. This isn’t amateur hour. There are two kinds of people you can work with to build your brand: craftsmen or tools.
Want to pay twice as much for half the results? Hire a coach, or consultant who will tell you what to do, then leave you to do it on your own. Think you can build a brand by clamoring for temporary attention? Hire an ad agency, or a marketing firm. Just want the cheapest solution? Crowdsource your project, cross your fingers, and hope there’s some wheat among the chaff you get back (good luck with that).
Hire tools and you’re bound to get hammered, and screwed. If you want to construct a sound, strategic foundation, then build upon it with concept-driven, creative executions to shape a lasting brand that will weather changes in economic conditions, consumer tastes, emerging technologies, and anything else the marketplace may throw at it then collaborate with craftsmen.
Quality professionals don’t come cheap, though, so you could end up committing another common branding mistake…
Branding is a capital investment, not an operational expense. Cutting corners may save you a little in the beginning, but it will surely cost you a lot in the end. Don’t expect the return if you’re not willing to make the investment.
Quality counts. Benjamin Franklin forewarned, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” If you don’t take your brand seriously, neither will consumers, investors, or anyone else. People recognize cheap, and they don’t forget.
Human consciousness experiences the present for only one and a half seconds; everything else is a memory. Branding shapes the perception that forms memories. Truth is that cheap branding can be as memorable as quality branding. You have to decide how you want your brand to be remembered.
Most mistakes can be rectified – with enough time and money. Better to brand with care. The road to branding success is riddled with the wrecks of those who thought they were too smart to have to heed the warning signs. Don’t find out the hard way the pain of peeing on the electric fence.
Now, click over to Think Brand Studio’s blog to check out their companion piece to our post…