Shana Pilewski, a senior content marketer at Dynamic Yield, has come up with nine crucial branding mistakes to avoid. Branding mistakes can cost your organization money and the time required to fix them—assuming they’re fixable—and of course, they can impact image and reputation. As Ms. Pilewski says, “Your brand is a window into the heart and soul of your business… Branding is not just a buzzword for getting a one-time campaign right—it encapsulates everything you want to communicate to your customers.”
Getting branding right is enough of a challenge, but keeping it right is critical, because it must evolve along with your customers.
Here are my three faves of Ms. Pilewski’s tips, though they’re all part of a package, so you probably want read her blog post.
Missing out on the value proposition
Value proposition has sort of an academic sound, but at bottom, it’s what distinguishes your brand from all others out there. Ms. Pilewski recommends against overusing buzzwords, vague terminology, mimicking your competitors too closely and, here’s a biggie— “not communicating the problems you solve.” As so many marketing pundits have put it, no one cares that you’re faster, sleeker, or gorgeous beyond words. What they do want to know is “What’s in it for me?”
Not adhering to brand guidelines
I’m sure we’ve all heard snarky comments about the “brand police.” Perhaps we’ve even made them ourselves. But the truth is, brand guidelines exist for a reason. Ms. Pilewski says, “Brand guidelines serve to demonstrate what you represent, and what differentiates you from your competitors.” So, you need to pay attention to color schemes, how you use your logo, fonts, voice/messaging, and imagery.
A few years back, I worked on a couple of branding and messaging projects for Taproot Foundation, a truly excellent organization the provides pro bono services to non-profits. What I recall vividly is presenting really well-though-out branding recommendations to a couple of clients who essentially said, “Well, if we don’t like them, we’ll combine them with some stuff we already have or we’ll just ignore them.” Ouch. At the end of the meeting, I think we had our clients convinced that piecemealing would be a big branding mistake, but you never know. These well-meaning folks were amateurs, frankly, and they probably perceived us as the hated brand police.
Forgetting what makes your brand distinct
What happens if your customer demographics change? Ms. Pilewski says your branding needs to address a new subset of customers and connect with it appropriately. She uses Lord & Taylor as her example, noting that the store rebranded itself to appeal to millennials, while attempting not to alienate its original clientele of well-heeled older women. It seems as though the effort was only partially successful. Lord & Taylor has closed its flagship Fifth Avenue store and expected to close up to 10 of nearly 50 locations in 2019.
Yes, I’ve rolled my eyes and spoken derisively of the brand police in the past. Yet, these folks are more enforcers than positioning and messaging geniuses, and their true function, in my opinion, is to keep us from making branding mistakes that cause problems for our organizations and may be difficult to fix.