The Six Pitfalls of Bad Branding

July 1, 2021

Katie Tejada

Katie Tejada is a writer, editor and former HR professional. She often covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate and finance, but also enjoys writing for companies like rushIMPRINT.

Branding doesn’t just happen. It’s like every other business asset you’ve created. It takes time, effort and thoughtful action. Branding gives you and your employees a guidebook of how you want customers, clients, stakeholders and the general public to see and experience your business. And like any good guidebook, it is something that is carefully researched, planned and discussed. When you allocate the time and resources to engage in meaningful branding, you create a vision of how you want the world to see what you have to offer!

If your business has been slow to embrace branding or if you haven’t given it more than cursory attention in the last six months, chances are you’re at risk of a bad branding pitfall. Bad branding sends a message to your customers that you’re not focused on their needs, wants or desires, and that opens the door for a competitor to enter your market and offer an alternative. 

Here are six pitfalls of bad branding that you should consider.

1.  You’re equating branding with marketing

This mistake is a common one for solopreneurs, nonprofits and small to mid-sized businesses. Marketing is how you make the public aware of who you are (advertising, PR, promotions), but branding identifies who you are, what you do, why you do it, when you do it and how it’s done. Everything in your business needs to align with the brand identity you’ve established. Once you have your brand in place, you can get ready for marketing.

2. Your brand is not in-tune with the marketplace.

Whether your business is looking to expand into another country, demographic or sector, you have to pay attention to how those new markets will see you. Chances are you’ve heard the story about Mercedes-Benz wondering why a model called “Bensi” wasn’t selling in China, until it was discovered that the name translated to “rush to die.” The same holds true when moving into new market sectors. Just because you’ve had success in one market doesn’t mean the same rules apply in another. When you’re looking to position yourself in a new market, resilience is key. Do your research and make sure your brand aligns with the needs of the market.

3. Your brand can’t be all things to all people.

Coca-Cola may be a global brand, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to buy it. Your target market needs to feel that you are speaking directly to them and offering solutions to their problems. Knowing your audience and who influences them will help you position your brand and products/services effectively. Do your market research and be receptive to feedback.

Your business cannot be all things to all people. Embrace who you are and show your customers you’re willing to walk the walk — this definition will help your core audience find you and stick with you.

4. Your brand stops listening.

Social media offers a practical, effective and affordable way to connect with consumers. However, technology is not a magic wand that immediately delivers customers to your door! Whichever social media platforms you use, monitor them for comments and messages and respond sincerely and authentically. Follow a content calendar to keep your pages engaging and listen to feedback that followers and customers give. Instead of deleting or ignoring criticism or a bad review, approach the person no differently than you would if they walked into your office or called on the phone.

5. Your branding looks unpolished or unprofessional.

While only you can define the who, what, where, when, why and how of your business, you may not have the skills in behavioral psychology, copywriting and graphic design to create all of the visual aspects of your brand. This is where using a professional with branding experience can help. They can work with you to create the images, graphics, slogans, logo and language that best reflects your business.

6. Your branding lacks consistency across channels.

Spending the time and resources to create well-informed, professional branding will mean nothing if it’s not deployed across all of your channels — print, website, social media, events, PR, etc. Being inconsistent will be confusing to customers. Remember, your brand represents your guidebook, and it’s what your future customers need to find you.

Branding for small businesses isn’t easy, and it takes time. Keep working at it and call in professionals when they’re needed! You will emerge from the process with a strong brand that clearly articulates your value propositions to current and future customers.

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