Branding is exciting. There's no way around it. You know your business better than anyone, and your brand is the creative manifestation of your business. What would Nike be without the swoosh? What would Disney be without the iconic swirling type font? What would Tiffany & Co. be without Tiffany blue? You know you're doing something right when your brand basically owns a color. It's easy to stand up and give thunderous applause to the biggest brands in the world for what they're doing right. But every brand starts at the beginning of the race and it's easy to make mistakes in the midst of all that excitement.
Let's look at the most common branding mistakes small business make and how you can avoid (or even fix) them!
Starting without a plan
We’ve all been there. The inspiration hits us fast and we are so ready to get moving on our genius that we don’t slow down and take the proper steps. It’s like trying to put together a new piece of furniture when you haven’t bothered to open the directions. No matter how excited you are to get moving, start with strategy. Always.
Branding vs. Marketing – do you know the difference?
A lot of people think they know the difference, and it’s possible they do, but when it comes to their own brand, you wouldn’t know it. Branding is defining your message, your look, design, feel. Marketing is how you get that message out there. Before you start marketing, give your brand the gift of a solid foundation and show it some well thought out love.
Doing everything a la carte
Budgets are a reality, and its understandable why entrepreneurs just starting out may want to spread out logo design, photoshoots, website creation, etc. If that reality must become your reality, then you need a plan to ensure cohesion. If an all-inclusive branding package isn’t in your budget, consider sticking with one team and spreading the work out on your own timeline to ensure the brand feels aligned and complete.
Forgoing a brand guide
Too many people think branding is done when you have your logo. Branding is a lot bigger than a logo, and in truth, it’s bigger than a brand guide, but you’ve got to start somewhere! Repetition is key and in order to capitalize on strategic repetition, you must have the hex codes of your color pallet, your fonts, and any other rules/guidelines you want employees, contractors, and anyone else involved in your business to follow to ensure a uniform look across any and all channels.
Copy vs. Graphics- you need BOTH
Copy and graphics are equally important. I repeat: EQUALLY important. Most people understand the importance of hiring professionals to design their logo and graphics, but too many people think they can write their own copy. Again, EQUALLY important. If you’re not a professional copywriter, don’t try to write your own copy. There’s a difference between knowing your business and knowing how to WRITE your business for marketing purposes. Hire a professional. You’ll be glad you did.
Rebranding TOO OFTEN
Many small businesses make the mistake of refreshing too often, changing their tagline, logo, colors, even their company name several times in just a couple years. If things aren’t moving at the pace they want, they’re quick to assume the problem is branding. Sometimes it is, sure, but when you rebrand every six months, you’re depriving your potential clients of the chance to learn and recognize you! It’s like in Parks and Recreation when Andy Dwyer keeps changing the name of his band, how are you going to get fans if people can’t keep up with who the heck you are?
Not knowing your competitors
The most important R in BRAND may stand for repetition, but RESEARCH is also up there when it comes to where you must focus. Sun Tzu said “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. And while it may be a tad dramatic to refer to your competition as your enemies, you better know them pretty darn well to successfully compete in any meaningful way. Athletes study their opponents and so should you.
Being a copycat
It’s good to be in the know on your competitors, but being a straight up copycat is not a good look. That’s not to say that you can’t admire and take inspiration from other brands, but if you tow that line too closely you will appear redundant and unimaginative.
Not enlisting professionals
This can be a hard one, especially for inherently creative people. If you spend enough time on Pinterest, it can be easy to convince yourself you can do it all on your own. Colors, fonts, logos, style, design, etc. But just because you CAN do it on your own, doesn’t mean you should. This is your brand! It’s the world’s first impression of your business! If you get invited to the Oscars, you don’t go on YouTube and learn how to cut and style your own hair, you go to a professional!
Letting your branding go stale
Just as it’s a mistake to rebrand too often, it’s also a mistake to NEVER embark on a brand refresh. Coca-Cola, Tiffany & Co, McDonalds, Chanel- all timeless; but ALL have participated in several brand refreshes throughout the years! They’ve never entirely thrown out their iconic logos and color pallets, but they HAVE refreshed them. They’ve kept up with the times without being a slave to them. Any business regardless of the industry, would do well to follow suit.
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