Where to Start?
Successful branding is not as easy as it looks; there are many steps you have to take into account.
Much like picking out the perfect outfit, it takes a little time and practice but in the end all the elements come together to create a cohesive look.
Here we’ve outlined some of the most common mistakes people make when trying to brand their business.
Letting an Amateur Design Your Logo
It’s great to have the support from friends but sometimes they can be more hindrance than helpful. On the surface it looks like you’ll be saving a lot of money by cashing in a favor from that artsy friend who “dabbles” in graphic design (and they may indeed have a great eye for design) but in the long run it will cost you. They may have an idea of what works in terms of design esthetic and how to use all the tools but that doesn’t mean I would want my dog groomer to give me a haircut!
Your Logo needs to communicate who you are and what you stand for in three seconds or less, otherwise you’ve lost your audience. There are lots of intricacies that only a professional will know how to tackle (like what the heck is the difference between Arial and Helvetica?).
The most successful logos use clean, easy to read fonts and a strategic allocation of colors (think Apple, Pepsi, and Tiffany & Co.). If it looks like something your niece haphazardly drew in school it can come off as if your company is unprofessional, inexperienced and/or you don’t take pride in your business.
Focusing Solely on Image
While your logo is a large part of your brand identity, it’s not everything. Your brand is the visual identity you present as well as the values you hold as a company.
Talk is cheap; you have to be able to back up your claims with substance. Customers will see right through you if you don’t follow-through.
If you promise excellent customer service and you keep clients waiting, you’ve let them down and cost yourself credibility. Word-of-mouth is the fastest way to build up or break down a brand’s reputation. How your company communicates to your audience is crucial to your brand impression. Think about it this way, in many cases your audience will define your brand, how they talk about you to others and their impression about your company will be their ultimate perception of your business identity and will highly affect their decision to spend their hard earned dollars with you.
That being said, you better have your best foot forward to ensure that all of your branding communications is consistent, clear and interesting enough to retain your audience’s attention, ensuring that they are saying exactly what YOU want them to be saying and thinking about your company.
Be consistent! Much like a sloppy logo can impair the public’s perception of you; an inconsistent message will be just as confusing. It’s equally important to clearly define what your product or service is and how you communicate and interact with your potential clients.
Your tagline, business cards, stationary, website, social media sites and advertising all have to carry the same tone, message, and look and feel. If every avenue is different, your clients will be confused about what you can offer them.
And never EVER hand a client something on a plain white piece of paper. Make your mark, get used to putting your logo on everything! Not only does a blank page with black type look sloppy, you’ve also lost a valuable marketing opportunity. Any piece of paper, envelope, business card or email that leaves your office should have your branding on it. You want your client’s to see and begin to recognize your image whatever they’re looking at. Plus, you never know who they are going to hand that paper off to and what new sets eyes will be looking at your brand.
Branding Doesn’t Happen Overnight
All good things come to those who wait. Just like any new relationship, brand recognition takes time to form a connection. You’re building a name for yourself in your industry and that doesn’t happen successfully over night. A brand is built strategically, purposefully and with integrity.
You need time for people to connect with you, just like you wouldn’t rush into a marriage after the first blind date. You get to know the person, maybe see them three or four more times before you even start to consider them boyfriend/girlfriend material. You introduce them to your friends and family and then, eventually, if they pass all the tests, you commit.
This might not be the most fun part of building your business, but it is the most important. You have to take the time and really focus on the details of your brand. If you rush it, or force your brand into what you think someone else wants rather then what your vision is, the end result will feel forced and intangible to your clients.
You’re trying to bond with them, build relationships and make them wonder how they ever got along without you. Mostly, you have to believe in your brand wholeheartedly because if you don’t, no one else will take you seriously.
Trying to Be All Things to All People
Not everyone is going to be your client, and that’s ok. You want to focus on the core demographic that will benefit your business the most. You should strive to reach for quality customers, those that will get the most out of what you have to offer, over trying to reach out to the most people possible.
18 year olds will respond differently to your brand than a 60 year old will. Make sure you know who your audience is and target them accordingly.
Keep your target audience in mind with everything you do. Multitasking splits your focus and downgrades your effectiveness. You can’t be perfect at everything or for everyone, if you try to take on too much, you won’t excel at anything. You’ll just be very busy!
Not Separating Yourself from the Competition
You have to determine why a client should choose you over your competition. If you don’t believe you have something better to offer then you can’t expect a potential client will.
Think about what makes you stand out, how are you unique, what’s one thing you do better than anybody else? Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly; stand out, makes some noise, raise the roof! You are your own brand ambassador and it’s your job to shout out from the rafters.
Most importantly DO MARKET RESEARCH! Scope out your competition, see what they’re doing and figure out how you are different.
Market research doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg to do it. There are lots of simple, practically free things you can do. For example; if you’re selling cookies, invite your friends and family over and host a taste test to find out which flavors are the most well received. Maybe even divide up the group into different demographics to further the exploration.
Be realistic about your competition; get to know your direct and indirect competition. Assess the industry and position your branding strategy as a response to what’s happening already. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel; all it takes is a new shiny model.
So What’s the Point?
Branding is a delicate beast. There are lots of intricate details, techniques and strategies to consider in order to create a successfully branded business. There are so many things to know that it can seem overwhelming.
Much in the same way that you’d hire a builder to build a building without the blueprints, branding requires a dedicated team to develop and implement the strategies. Just like you wouldn’t build a house without a stable foundation, you should not build your company without a solid brand identity. Without the proper building blocks you could be missing out on some great opportunities to grow your business in a professional way. If it’s done in a rushed, sporadic approach it can deter potential clients from choosing you and lead them straight into the arms of your competition.
Luckily for you, we’re here to help! Branding agencies, like U2R1, specialize in sifting through all the particulars so you can focus on running your day-to-day business, while we focus on creating business prosperity for you!