Top 10 Branding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The big moment has come. You’ve taken that next bold step in your company’s evolution and are ready to invest in a brand refresh. You’ve made the executive decision that your old brand is history—it no longer reflects the ethos and values of who you are today, and who you will become tomorrow. It’s time to redefine your brand.
For many, this process is fraught with obstacles that, if not properly navigated, can spell certain disaster, costing your firm valuable time, money and risking loss of internal support. Fortunately, these mistakes can be avoided, and we’re here to help. With 15 years of experience and over 300 clients under our belt, it’s safe to say that we’ve nearly seen it all. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Branding mistakes we’ve seen firms make over the years:
A new logo or website may be a vehicle to convey the new image of the brand, but should not be confused with the most critical aspect of branding: Strategy. Branding lives and dies with strategy: What makes your firm unique? Why should your target audience care? How are you uniquely positioned amongst your peers? What do you stand for? What tone of voice do you carry? How do you solve your customers’ problems? How do you want them to feel when doing so? Not only answering these questions, but supporting them with defendable research is the first critical step to a rebrand. Creative is certainly important, but should exist to support strategy—in order to effectively tell a truly compelling and defendable story.
It’s not about you or the impressive features your product/service offers to the world. It’s your ability to meet the needs of your audience, solve their problems and ease their various pain points. Stop speaking in terms of features, speeds, and feeds. Instead, get comfortable speaking in terms of emotional triggers or benefits. Show a strong commitment to the value you are bringing to your consumers. There will be a variety of features that will no doubt change and shift over time—all should be in support of the way you want your audience to feel.
Branding involves input and support from key influencers across the entire organization. Welcome those perspectives early for broader buy-in and smoother sailing. Recognize that every stakeholder in the organization is a potential ambassador for the brand—within the organization itself as well as externally. That shared sense of ownership will help broaden the reach and ensure faster adoption. Mastering the fine art of knowing who to involve and when to involve them constitutes the difference between a successful deployment and becoming bogged down with too many cooks in the kitchen.
Automation and AI are phenomenal tools for optimizing many aspects of your business, but humanizing a story and telling it with conviction is what gets prospects to engage. At the core of all of us is our innate human desire for a good life, a good world to live it in, and our need to connect within our tribes. Audiences gravitate towards brands that pull them into the story in their world, connect them to the value of the story—and that tell a story that truly resonates. Capture their attention and captivate them with a relatable and authentic story that enriches their lives and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Your customers’ voice is the most important—in telling you what they want and what they need, as well as what they think of you. Brand perception—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is critical to intimately understand as you go about redefining your brand. Personas are great but can change over time, so do your homework. Talk to your target audience. Gather qualitative insights and quantitative data. Invest the time and the resources to fully understand your audience’s pain points and how your product or service can make their lives better. And build in the feedback loop for them to provide you with real-time input on what is working, what is not, and what they need moving forward.
Your brand is a living, breathing aspect of your business that reaches far beyond the deck in which it was presented. All stakeholders need to live, breathe and believe the brand ethos in order for it to take root. As noted in point 3, employees are the living, breathing ambassadors for your brand. What they know, what they believe, and how they behave defines the brand in aggregate. Are the brand promises aligned with the shared values of the organization? Are they believable? If so, you’re well on your way.
Your existing brand may be your baby. You may have founded the company, designed the logo and believe in the mission statement…but do your employees, your investors, your customers? Let go of past biases and let the brand evolve as needed. Origin stories are powerful narratives to embrace, but you need to tell your future-forward story in a way that connects with and empowers your various stakeholders so the transfer of emotional ownership can take place. Only then can a brand thrive—when a brand is owned by many, not by the few. Take a bold step forward and don’t look back.
Not understanding the power of a brand
It’s important to build a brand. Many business owners simply do not understand the proven benefits of a brand, but ignoring the importance of a well-developed brand can cause you to miss out on huge financial gains, recognition, and a competitive edge, among a myriad of other benefits.
A strong brand increases customer loyalty and engagement and creates trust. Consumers are more likely to purchase products from a company with a clear brand story because it’s easier for them to form an emotional connection with that brand. A well-curated brand also improves the perception of quality and recognition by consumers. Customers are much more likely to pay a premium for certain products because they are from a certain brand. This, in turn, allows your company to command a higher price and maintain larger profit margins, increasing overall revenue. Advertising costs can also be affected — consumers who are loyal to your brand are more likely to recommend your brand to others, reducing customer acquisition and advertising costs.
The Gap’s failed crowdsourced logo update. The company reverted to the old logo within six days, after increasing backlash from customers and the design community.
Chobani’s recent facelift is an example of a strategic and effective rebrand.
Not creating strict brand guidelines or enforcing them
Once you build a brand, it is crucial to have proper guidelines in place, as well as a team dedicated to stewarding the brand. Creating a small team, even if only a part-time task force, to answer brand-related questions and to monitor brand usage across the company can prevent costly mistakes and strengthen brand value. Proper brand usage should be communicated throughout your organization. Make your brand guidelines and brand assets, including logo files, colors, and typography readily available, both within your organization and publicly. This can be as simple as having a simple web page dedicated to communicating brand usage and providing easy access to brand assets. Nothing dilutes the power and effectiveness of a brand more than failing to properly maintain it.
It’s also incredibly valuable to have buy-in at all levels of your company, from lower-level employees to C-level executives. Hold a quick rally with employees when launching the brand, sharing the vision behind it and what the future holds for the company. Educate them on proper brand usage, and make it easy for them to access the information and assets they need when interacting with the brand, from brand guidelines to standard templates. Utilize reward systems for proper use among your employees to ensure your brand remains consistent and unmanipulated, allowing your company to build trust with your customers: To build a brand.
Most brand studios and agencies will stay on as consultants after launching the final brand. Use this to your advantage. Have their team conduct regular brand audits to monitor brand usage and call out any glaring holes in your company’s identity.
Uber’s new brand made waves, especially after their last ineffective rebranding attempt. Their website includes a great example of properly executed brand guidelines, including layout, tone of voice, custom type, and photography standards.
Part of Chobani’s new brand guide.
Vitamin Water’s brand book.