“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’.” – John Williams, Entrepreneur
Put another way, your brand is all the squishy parts of your business. When you look past the numbers and equipment and assets, your brand is the heart. It’s the personality, the look, the feel, the voice, the story, and the values, as well as the public’s perception of all of these things.
When done right, all of these things work together to capture the attention of your target audience and make them fall in love with your company, so they want to do business with you over and over again.
When done wrong – or ignored alltogether – it leads to confusion and a huge missed opportunity.
Here are 5 mistakes to look out for and what to do instead.
1. You try to be everything to everyone.
When I first started my business, I kept hearing everyone say pick a niche. Since my skillset is vast and I enjoy working with a lot of different industries, I ignored them. I thought I knew best and could prove them wrong, but guess what? That didn’t happen. I spread myself so thin trying to be everything to everyone that I ended up becoming the Wal-Mart of graphic design. Selling lots of different things for cheap to appeal to the masses.
Now, instead of that, I’ve picked a couple different services that I enjoy most, I’ve honed my style to appeal to a certain demographic, and I run my business like a bistro that specializes in seasonal fare, instead of the all-you-can-eat buffet.
2. You’re watering down your voice.
This kind of goes with number one. If you’re trying to appeal to everyone chances are you’re watering down your voice. You’re keeping your opinions to yourself so that you don’t offend anyone. You’re staying bland, playing it safe, thinking if you go too far in any one direction you’ll be losing customers.
But you already are losing customers. By watering down your voice, not sharing your values, not conveying your unique personality, you’re blending in. This means your target audience isn’t seeing you. There’s nothing to differentiate yourself from your competition, and no reason for people to choose you over your competition.
Instead, come up with a unique personality for your brand, and then shout it from the rooftops. Convey it through every brand touchpoint, and your tribe will find you.
3. You try too hard to be like your competitors.
Any savvy business owner is going to study the competition and take notes, but it’s important not to try and be exactly like them. By trying to be the next Apple or the next Starbucks, you’re piggybacking off of someone else’s success, and the same thing isn’t going to work for your business. You need to find your own differentiator, what makes your brand unique, and then strategize how to use that to your advantage. Then you’ll have your competitors looking to be the next “insert your company name here”.
4. Your brand visuals are inconsistent.
Your visual branding needs to be consistent across all touchpoints. This means your website should match your social media accounts should match your print materials should match your signage and so on. When these things work together, it’s what gets people to start recognizing and remembering your brand. Our brains notice shapes and patterns before we ever even read a word.
Don’t just snap pics with your phone and post to IG all willy-nilly. Come up with a brand guide that outlines photo composition, colors, fonts, logo usage, IG filters, and more. And then, enforce it! This will ensure brand consistency and help avoid confusion in the market.
5. You don’t engage on social media.
What you post on social media is just the beginning. How you respond to comments and reviews – both good and bad – say something about your company. By not responding to questions and comments you’re giving off the impression that you don’t care about your customers’ concerns. Reply to criticism with dignity, reply to kudos with grace, and you will only add to your customers positive brand experience.
Bonus: You have an unremarkable or just plain bad brand name.
You can only make one of three first impressions. A good impression, a bad impression, or no impression. As Frank Spohr points out, this is only one reason why a powerful and memorable brand name is so important. Check out his article on the Clicked Studios blog for tips on picking an amazing brand name.
Let me know what you think. Does your company already do these things or is there room for improvement? Are there any other branding faux pas you’ve learned the hard way and would like to share?