Do you want to make your company’s products or services stand apart from what competitors offer? If so, branding is the answer. In marketing terms, it’s the equivalent of adding a distinctive personality to what you sell. The concept of a brand encompasses the look, feel, design, symbols, name, and perception of a product by potential or current buyers.
But it can be tricky to build and maintain a solid brand image, especially in today’s crowded marketplace. As you and your team go about the careful task of branding, it’s wise to know about the common pitfalls. There are many, but most sellers are tripped up by at least one of the following ten.
Ignoring the Value of Educating Yourself
Unless you are a self-taught marketing pro, it’s essential to educate yourself. In the digital age, the smartest, most cost-effective way of doing so is to obtain a college degree. The beauty of this approach is that you don’t have to abandon your company, leave town, or upend your lifestyle. Online degrees in business, with a specialty in marketing, can be completed on your timeline and at a pace that doesn’t stress you out.
When entrepreneurs recognize the value of education and aim for a degree that can make a difference, they set themselves on the road for long-term success. To cover the expense of a degree, student loans are the answer. In fact, you can take out an education loan from a private lender for competitive rates, reasonable terms, and repayment periods that fit your budget. Don’t let a lack of a degree stand between you and prosperity.
Assuming that Success Comes Cheap
Once you undertake the creation of a unique image for your product or service, it’s important to cover the costs of advertising, logo design, market research, and more. In the world of selling, it’s costs money to make money. That means getting your personal and company finances in order and making a detailed budget. You need to know how much funding is available for marketing and promotion before setting out to hire graphic artists, researchers, and other professionals who will be assisting in the long-term effort.
Using a Generic Logo
There’s no excuse for settling when it comes to logo design. Take the time to get this step right, and you’ll thank yourself later. Don’t approve a logo until you’ve had at least 10 people give you their feedback. Use only those whose opinions you value and who know what a powerful logo looks like.
Following Social and Cultural Trends
Brands are not born out of trends. This is a very common misstep on the part of company owners. Avoid tying your branding concepts to anything current, especially the latest sports, entertainment, or political trends. You want branded products that make a long-term, not short-term impression.
Ignoring the Big Five
Brands have at least five key components. Depending on what your company sells, how many competitors you have, and how wide your geographic reach it, there could be well more than five. But, don’t omit any of these core pieces of the brands puzzle: pleasant color schemes, overall imagery/visuals, the logo, the tone/voice of the message, and typography/fonts.
For successful companies, brands are like children. There should never be an expectation of overnight sales or profit improvement. Some of the most memorable names in business spent more than a decade as virtual unknowns. So, beware of falling into the impatience trap.
Not Studying the Competition
You and your team might come up with a clever, memorable branding strategy complete with proposed logos, messages, visuals, and more. That’s a good start, but no business exists in a vacuum. It’s imperative to study how competitors present themselves before giving final approval to decisions about messaging, color schemes, etc. The danger in not studying the competition is that you could come up with a concept that’s already been done, copyrighted, and licensed by someone else. It happens. Be careful to make competition research a key part of your early strategy sessions.
Trying To Please Everyone
Brands are conceived, created, and adapted for one reason, to get and keep customers. Beware of the temptation to please social groups, design teams, yourself, employees, community organizations, and others when creating a unique image and style for your company’s goods and services. Keep the focus on customers by always trying to evaluate ideas and proposals from their perspective. This is where focus groups can be of immense value. Consider using a few real customers and potential customers to offer structured feedback about various parts of the brand plan.
Not Reviewing Your Work
Wander around a department or grocery store and you’ll notice something interesting. It’s possible to identify corporations who have not updated their brands in a very long time. Some are so outdated as to be comical, often including photos that were shot more than a decade ago, message phrasing that doesn’t fit the current way of speaking, color schemes that never worked to begin with, and logos that were based on one-time trends.
Avoid this trap with your own products by doing a brand update at least once every two years. Note that this is not about changing the core message and look. It’s about ferreting out mistakes, pieces of the original concept that were based on then-current trends, that weren’t well thought out, and just never should have been approved. Updating should focus on correcting mistakes, not modernizing the overall image.
Trying To Solve the World’s Problems
Be careful not to get sidetracked and fall into the trap of trying to solve social, economic, and global problems with what you sell. At least in the beginning, keep the focus on earning a profit, paying debts, and delivering excellent value to customers. Leave the world saving to others. And remember, you’ve already given back to the community many times over through the payment of taxes, so don’t do a guilt trip on yourself. You’re in business to make money. Do that first, then maybe there’ll be time and resources for pet social projects.