Branding is one of the most important things to get right for any business owner. With the right branding, your customers will feel drawn to your company and know what to expect – but get it wrong, and you might be putting people off without knowing it.
Getting your branding on point isn’t always as easy as you might think, and mistakes can be costly. So what are some common brand missteps, and how can you avoid them?
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into branding and highlight some prevalent blunders – as well as show you how to avoid them.
What is branding?
It’s common for new business owners to be a little confused about what is meant by the term ‘branding’.
Your brand can be described as ‘how the public perceives your business’. What do they think you stand for? How does your logo make them feel? In which ways are you differentiated from the competition?
Your brand can be expressed through many different means – your logo, slogan, signage, brand colours, business practices, and more.
This means that if your branding accidentally creates a mismatch between what the public expects from you, and what you actually offer, your branding can work against you rather than for you.
For example, if Subway had upmarket fine dining branding with an elegant logo and luxurious colours, customers drawn in by that promise would likely be disappointed to find that what they actually specialise in is quick sandwiches for people on the go.
Mistake: trying to do everything yourself
There’s a reason why the world’s biggest companies invest millions in research when it’s time to refresh their logo or tagline, and run everything past focus groups. Simply put, branding is hard.
It may be tempting to slap together a wordmark or a slogan yourself, but there’s a lot more to it than just picking something you like the look of. For example, colour psychology and typographic association – are your design elements really putting customers in the right frame of mind, or are you accidentally implying something you don’t mean?
When it’s time to get new branding elements, it’s time to call in the professionals. Designers, sign makers and branding experts are an invaluable resource for making sure the true essence of your business is coming across loud and clear – so be sure to use them.
Mistake: Misjudging the tone
It’s important to get the personality and ‘voice’ of your brand just right.
Too ‘edgy’ and disruptive might come across as unnecessarily abrasive, rude, or off-putting. Equally, too ‘bland’ could make your company seem as though it lacks confidence – or worse, that there is nothing interesting about it to differentiate it from competitors.
In order to get noticed, you have to stand for something – but that something needs to be something that resonates with the public and makes them want to choose you.
Of course, the correct tone can vary wildly depending on your sector and business approach. It’s probably true that nobody wants to go to a grey and boring toy shop, or a colourful and wacky accountant’s office.
However, having a sense for when and how it is beneficial to break with preconceived notions and stand out from the crowd can be very powerful. If all the other restaurants in town have got a red sign above the door, getting a yellow sign for yours might make people notice you.
Mistake: Not keeping things consistent
Brand consistency is very important. Even after you have defined clear brand values and assets, you need to be diligent about sticking to them closely.
If your brick-and-mortar shop has a red logo sign with a dog on it, but your Twitter page has a green logo with a penguin – well, customers are likely to get confused and wonder if they ended up at the wrong page.
Worse, jumbling up your branding like this can send a somewhat muddled impression to customers. Your signage tells them one thing, but your social media and your brochures tell them another – how are they supposed to know where they actually stand with you?
This is where it can help to create a set of brand guidelines – a so-called ‘brand bible’ – and stick to it for everything. Once you have laid out clear rules specifying which colours, fonts, and assets you use across all channels, you can craft a harmonious branding impression that has a lasting effect in customers’ minds.
Consistency can also be a matter of what you allow your brand to be attached to. Cross-brand promotions can often be a good idea, but always be mindful of partnerships that might seem to go against what your brand really stands for. You don’t want to leave customers scratching their heads and puzzling over what your business really believes in.
Mistake: Letting your brand get stuck in the past
Trends change, and even brands that we think of as having been around forever have gone through multiple redesigns over the years. Remember Apple’s rainbow coloured logo? Remember the old Pepsi wordmark?
Even if you have a strong and well-established brand, it’s not enough to sit back and expect it to still work for you in 30 years’ time. Times change, and so do the things that customers respond to.
It’s always a good idea to have a rethink over your branding every few years and see if things are still working. Is that logo looking a bit dated? Does your signage need some refurbishment? Is your slogan referring to something that used to be a big concern ages ago, but not so much these days?
It’s important to remember that your competitors will almost certainly be revamping their own branding from time to time – and you won’t want to look as though your business has gotten left behind.
With strong branding across all of your channels (including your business signage, website, social media accounts and print materials) you can make sure that customers notice you and immediately get the right idea about your company.
By enlisting the help of design professionals, getting the tone just right, making sure your branding is consistent in all areas and keeping everything fresh and up-to-date, you can guarantee that your branding is working for you – and not against you.
Medash Signs has been designing and making business signage for more than 40 years, for businesses large and small across Kent and around the UK.
Bradley attended Boston University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science as well as a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Columbia University Graduate School of Business (currently attending). He loves to write about everything business related.