8 Branding Mistakes That Can Hurt New Businesses

Branding isn’t just a buzzword — it’s a lasting impression

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Building a brand doesn’t seem too hard to do. After all, various influencers and companies are created every day. Branding can be as simple or as complicated as we make it. Mistakes are common in businesses and — like humans — they will continue to make mistakes throughout their existence.

The trouble for newer businesses is they are prone to harsher criticism than more established ones. They can’t afford to pull off risky hat tricks for the sake of attention. When you’re new, you have to play it smart. The quickest way to kill a business before it gets started is to make a bad first impression. More goes into branding than people think.

Below are a few mistakes to avoid while building a brand. Hopefully, they will prevent you from slapping your forehead in regret later on.

No Social Media Presence Or Engagement

Something as simple as customer interaction is often overlooked by companies. It’s common sense to acknowledge feedback from customers. If that’s the case, why are new companies failing to do so?

Many companies have the same issue: Growing a social media account. The easiest solution is often the simplest solution — just be yourself. If you want to grow a brand, you’ll have to pick a few social media platforms and get good at them.

When a customer interacts, it provides an opportunity to build a relationship with the customer. Being inactive on a social media channel closes off a portion of potential customers. In business, we want all the customers!

Two of my favorite companies are Chobani and Oatly. Both like customers’ tweets, respond to feedback, and show value to their customers. I recently contacted Chobani to praise them for their great products. A few weeks later, I received a card filled with coupons and a sticker.

Little acts like these go a long way. Boxed.com did something similar by sending a personalized thank you note with every order.

There are different ways to engage with customers. Companies like StickerMule take a fun-loving, meme-culture approach to customer interaction while companies like Netflix reply to comments in a witty and relatable way.

Talk to your customers as much as possible. Interacting with customers is what brings customers to the yard — although — Kelis may say otherwise.

Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

Not Capitalizing On Trends

There is a way to capitalize on a trend without coming across as pandering. Active companies don’t wait for trends to fall in their lap. They try to seek the next trend before it hits the streets. That way, they’re able to be first to market and provide a great experience for their audience. Companies fail to capitalize on trends for the following reasons:

  • Lack of research
  • They can’t decipher a long-term trend from a short-term trend
  • They refuse to adapt
  • They don’t know their customer base

Take part in the trend, but don’t become trendy. Remain current in culture, but don’t be known as the copycat company trying to fit in.

An example of this could be the Baby Yoda craze from the Star Wars: The Mandalorian series. When Baby Yoda-mania was running wild, people were buying pillows, toys, and other items that referenced the cute alien. A small pastry shop can gain attention by making a limited edition “Baby Yoda Pie” for their customers. This will allow them to capitalize on a hot trend to generate sales. They are able to stay true to their brand while also giving their customers something fresh.

Failing To Stick To A Niche

Companies fail to stick to a niche when they aren’t able to understand their service or customer’s needs. If you can’t explain to someone what your business does in 30 seconds or less, you need to change your approach.

Casting too wide of a net is what causes customers to become confused. The goal is to find something that people would want, focus on it, and deliver it. It wouldn’t make sense for Foot Locker to start selling pizza — that’ll be weird.

An example of a targeted niche is a meal delivery business that helps athletes stay healthy. A sub-niche would be creating cheat day-type foods for athletes who want to satisfy a craving — yet don’t want to sacrifice their diet. Eating healthy all the time can get tiresome. Sometimes you just want a donut. If a company were to make protein-based sweets and healthier versions of popular dishes, people would buy it. This niche will build a following because it meets demand. The best part is the customer doesn’t have to be an athlete, they can be into casual fitness and still buy the product.

The company doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel or dive into anything else. If it’s not broken, only tweak it when necessary.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Not Doing Market Research

Businesses have come and gone because they didn’t do the research necessary to maintain growth. Ignoring market research means you miss out on important knowledge needed to run the business.

Researching customer behavior, trends, growth, competition, target audience, and strategy is what ensures a longer-lasting run. When something isn’t working, you’re able to figure it out and resolve it sooner.

A good example of market research is Chick-Fil-A releasing its popular dipping sauces for customers to own. They noticed customers would take more dipping sauces than necessary. Because of this, they started making containers for customers to buy without needing to visit the restaurant. This is an example of researching customer behavior and listening to demand. Their brand is known for being pleasant to their customers. Supplying a demanded product is the icing on the cake for them— or in their case — Polynesian sauce on the chicken.

Market research should occur before the business gets started and should continue as the business grows. You don’t know what you don’t know — however — there are things you should already know. It’s better to learn beforehand than to get embarrassed by customer feedback.

Lackluster Designs And Logos

Unless you have access to a graphic designer, your initial designs and logos will probably be boring.

I’m a sucker for a good design. This means presentation plays a role in my opinions about a brand. A good logo is vital to your brand. Although the logo is important, there should be more to the brand than a pretty logo. This also goes for the design. Does the website's design convey a solid point? Does it reflect the brand's mission or is it inconsistent?

The logo is the first thing people see when they interact with a business. A clean design makes you look official while poor designs can turn away customers. Many companies have logos that speak for themselves (Apple, McDonald’s, Nike.) When you see these logos, you know exactly what company they are from.

These companies' logos aren’t just seen as logos, but a vision of the brand. Before they got to that point, they had to establish themselves through brand building. Your initial logo doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be suitable. You can always improve it later. For now, the focus should be on growing the business.

Not Having A Business Personality

What do you bring to the table?

There are so many boring and cookie cutter-like companies that exist. A personality is needed to connect with people, without it, the business won’t stand out from the rest.

A brand is all about showcasing what you have to offer to the people. It’s bringing a unique quality to a pre-existing market. The personality of your business shows the company as a personable entity rather than just another business. People don’t buy from businesses, they buy from people. The goal is to present a brand that can relate to a target audience.

Flo from Progressive is a good example of a brand personality. Flo is funny, quirky, and weird. People love that. Progressive found a way to create a brand figure to help attract customers. Because the character is entertaining, it gives a positive emotional response — increasing the chance the viewer will do business with the company.

Don’t think of a company as a faceless entity, give it personality — like how Planters did with Peanut Jr. Brand personality is what takes customer interactions to the next level. Healthy companies are built on brand-customer relationships. Customers get great service and companies grow because of it.

A brand doesn’t have to be a figure. It can have values you can relate to. Think of the following brand personalities from popular companies:

  • Apple’s brand personality can be seen as sophisticated, imaginative, and creative.
  • Amazon’s brand personality may be reliable, sincere, and competent
  • Tesla’s brand personality is exciting, visionary, and impactful

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” — Howard Schultz

Thinking Too Small

Not everyone has a goal to become a large company. You may want to stay local and be exclusive to your community. The reality is the growth of your company isn’t your decision — it’s fate is determined by the customer’s experience.

Thinking small and big is subjective to everyone. Thinking small can seen as careful management while understanding its growth potential. Thinking too small would be undermining the brand’s potential. It can result in a self-sabotaging brand. Thinking big is often encouraged as long as the brand doesn’t deviate from its core message.

The brand is a reflection of who is running the company. It can only grow as much as the founder and team want it to.

It’s human for us to get overwhelmed by fast-paced success — but that’s the magic of success. It’s uncertain how it will come. It can happen slowly over time or it can happen in an instant. Budgets will get bigger, the customer base will grow, and more hurdles will arise. Life comes at us quickly. The brand has to be able to keep up with this growth and address all changes that come along while sticking to what got them there.

In business, there is always something to strive for and new goals to reach. There is always a new customer base to tap into. There are new ways to market and brand for success. If you play your cards right, the business will continue to grow long after you’re gone.

The little coffee shop you start can become the next Starbucks

The movie rental company can end up rivaling Netflix

A blog can turn into the next big media company

…but only if you give it a chance to.

The best way to grow is to just go with the flow. If an opportunity comes along, weigh the options, and decide if it aligns with the brand or not. Think less and do more.

Poor Customer Service

A customer’s experience can make or break the brand. You could say it’s the heartbeat of the business. The brand cannot exist without customers. This is why good customer experiences should always be the goal. Poor customer experience comes when the business sees its customers as dollar signs instead of people.

One main complaint from customers is not listening to their wants and needs. If customers feel like they aren’t being heard, they will patron alternative companies. The same way your partner will leave you for someone else if you aren’t giving them attention.

The best companies are customer-centric. This means that they rely on feedback from their audience to provide the best experiences possible. Brand growth relies on experience, differentiation, and loyalty. Here are some questions to consider when trying to build a brand:

  • Are the customers valued and respected?
  • What is the customer retention strategy?
  • How can we better understand the customer?
  • How can we create a better value point than our competitors?

If a brand wants to succeed, it has to look within itself and understand what it represents. Transparency, care, and rapport are three great strongpoints. This can be shown when Edible Arrangements sends a bouquet to a loyal customer when a loved one dies. Another example is giving a repeat customer a care package or a deep discount. More than anything, authenticity is the best way to keep customers and revenue in good standing.

Branding is important, but it’s also important to enjoy the process. It’s challenging work to maintain a brand’s image day in and day out. As time goes on, brands can grow and change their image, but their values are what keeps the customers loyal.

As far as work ethic, we as humans can learn a lot from ants. Don’t be nice, be kind.

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