3 Common Branding Mistakes

“Let’s build our brand!” Sounds fun, right?

“Let’s build our brand!” Sounds fun, right? But building a brand isn’t as simple as building a Lego castle. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid when undertaking this somewhat formidable task.

Non-committal brand strategy.

When your brand strategy isn’t structured and focussed on a key differentiator, it can quickly fall apart. However, the process of developing and describing how your business is unique can be complicated. It may be challenging to ask yourself the hard questions in order to reveal insightful answers about what your brand delivers, which leads to the same empty promises that the rest of the industry are settling for.

When thinking about the core of your strategy, consider a benefits ladder and the power of emotional positioning. Start by identifying your product or service features, and if it helps, you can even segment these into campaigns to avoid stretching your brand too far. Next, consider the functional benefit of that feature. From there, you’ll need to connect that to a true client/customer benefit to rationalize why the feature is needed. This will ultimately lead you to identifying a core emotional benefit.

  • Let’s take Michelin for example:
  • Emotional benefit: Children are safe
  • Client/Customer Benefit (Rationale): Easier to stop a vehicle
  • Functional Benefit: Wicks away water
  • Product Feature: 3 steel belts

Once this is laid out, you can develop a series of mixed position statements that help hone in which differentiator is the most powerful. The resulting position statement may look like this:
“For Parents, Michelin’s water wicking tires are the go-to among the auto industry because they deliver ultimate safety.”

By focusing, you’ve addressed the target audience, brand, benefit, category, and a reason to believe. What does that look like in an ad, you ask?

Forgetting the brand experience.

It may seem easy enough to advertise a “BUY NOW” message, but what is your audience left with after that? The experience factor can often set your brand apart from a competitor and convert your audience from onlookers to loyalists. This kind of experience can be both tangible and emotional and should be considered a holistic approach that combines user experience, customer experience, and brand identity all in one.

Investing in what experience your brand delivers in those moments after a sale helps tip the scales in a positive direction and can lead to deeper connections, inspired audiences, and return on investment results.

Every time a customer thinks about or discusses your brand, they feel a certain way and experience a particular emotion. For example, we often hear someone say, “Do you want to grab Starbucks?” They are no longer grabbing a coffee, but rather a “Starbucks.” The same goes for hearing someone say, “Do you need a Kleenex?” as opposed to, “Do you need a tissue?” Starbucks is synonymous with coffee, and Kleenex is with tissue because they have built their entire brand platform around the positive experience people have as a result of a purchase. And when that experience isn’t positive, you might hear something like, “I’m never getting a Starbucks again!” thus breaking the bond they once had with the blurred lines of experiential Starbucks and daily caffeine.

Empathy is key to not only maintaining but building a strong connection with your audience. Without it, you have zero access to the real and true conversations that help align your business and marketing methods to their needs. This is about putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to view your brand as they see it. Slowing down, actively listening, accepting humility, and having the ability to learn and change are all a part of honing empathy for your brand. Start small, and refer back to the benefits ladder to help concentrate your focus and visualize the end goal.

Lack of consistency.

In a world of instant gratification, we can grow tired of something we’re embedded in daily. This is most obvious when a brand begins to veer away from its standards. Brand guides and standards are put in place to ensure your brand is easily recognizable across all channels and touchpoints, creating a unified touchpoint for both existing and new customers. These guides also help foster trust by delivering tried and true consistency that those customers can rely on.

When you’re inconsistent, your brand loses the opportunity to set positive expectations and dependability. The reputation of your brand starts to deteriorate and you are no longer positioned as the reliable source of service, product, or experience you may have once delivered. This comes down to the expectations of your customers—they don’t want to be confused or left behind because a brand hasn’t committed to a level of consistency that they have or can grow to look forward to. When people believe these inconsistencies are personal and start to wonder “Why me?” they most often use the brand as a scapegoat, tarnishing everything in their path until they feel they’ve been personally righted.

It’s a slippery uphill slope to correct that. And here’s why:

  • Customers have the ability to immediately share and publicly blast their experiences widely to their networks. If they have been treated differently, it doesn’t take long for others to notice.
  • Those experiences determine whether or not you have control of the narrative of your brand. People trust people first and don’t come back around easily to a brand when they have other options worth experimenting with.
  • Reasonable expectations are just as challenging to maintain as bad expectations are challenging to resolve. If your brand sets negative expectations by being inconsistent, you may end up doing twice the work to course correct when you could have been spending that energy growing your affinity.
  • This all takes time. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Being known as a fair, reliable, and dependable brand is the foundation that word of mouth helps to grow. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick to your strategy, deliver a positive experience, and maintain that formula, your brand will rise above the rest.