Choosing the wrong name
You want a brand name that rolls off the tongue and sticks in people’s heads. It should be easy to remember, and represent your business well.
Take The Reject Shop, for instance. The straightforward name effectively conveys the store’s concept of offering affordable items that other retailers have deemed as unwanted. Can you imagine the disconnect a customer would experience if the store was named La Rejets Boutique? The French term may evoke an elevated and refined image, but it certainly wouldn’t align with the discount offerings on the shelves.
Not having a clear brand identity
A murky brand identity can be confusing for customers trying to understand what your business is all about, and what sets you apart from your competitors.
Frank Body is a brand that knows exactly who they are. They wanted to cut through the jargon and fluff that dominated the beauty industry and be frank (hence the name) with people about their skincare. They kept it consistent across all touchpoints. From their game-changing social media to their cheeky packaging and campaigns, they established their now iconic identity. By recognizing and highlighting what makes you unique from competitors, and weaving that knowledge into the DNA of your brand, you’ll ensure both you and your customers have a clear understanding of who you are.
Ignoring—or not identifying—a target audience
Your target audience is the main attraction. They’re the ones you’re trying to woo with your products, services, and messaging. It only makes sense to pay attention to what they want and need. If you don’t know who you’re trying to reach, it’s difficult to create a brand that resonates with them.
Think of your target audience as a lover. You have to show them that you care, that you’re listening, and that you understand their desires. Without this attention, you risk losing them to a brand that knows them better and speaks to their hearts. (Have we lost you with the lover metaphor yet? Stay with us.) Take a moment to get to know your target audience; what they love and what they loathe. This will help you create a brand that they’ll fall head over heels for and, in turn, will keep them coming back for more.
When it comes to branding mistakes, inconsistency is a huge one. You need to apply consistency to your messaging—both visual and voice. Bouncing between various versions of what should be clear markers of your brand identity, such as taglines, tone of voice, or colour palette, is like trying to tell a story while jumping between different accents or languages. Confusing, disjointed, and fails to captivate your audience.
The world’s biggest brands have all mastered the art of consistency in their messaging. McDonalds has its golden arches, Ronald’s signature red, and the unforgettable slogan “I’m lovin’ it.” Apple, with its sleek and minimalist style, has kept the same logo silhouette since 1977. And Louis Vuitton, synonymous with luxury, boasts the iconic LV monogram. Their unwavering consistency is what makes their brands instantly recognisable and top-of-mind in their respective categories—fast food, technology, and high-end fashion.
Failing to protect your brand
Say it with us: I will register my trademarks and copyrights. Not doing so leaves you vulnerable to legal action, and allows others to use your brand elements however and wherever they like. Ouch.
Trademark registration gives a brand the exclusive right to use its name, logo, and other unique identifying factors. Copyright registration protects original works, such as designs, images, and written materials. This protection stops others from using or copying a brand’s assets, like Cadbury competitors packaging their chocolate in their famous purple, or Adidas using Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan in a campaign.
Not investing in quality design
Why should you invest in design? Because if your brand design is lacklustre, you risk looking unprofessional and lowering customer trust in your business. Investing in design that’s polished, consistent and true to your brand will add credibility to your quality and provide a better experience.
Skipping on design is like turning up to a black tie event in your pyjamas—you’re just not dressed for success. Your design elements, like your logo, colours, and imagery, are the first thing people see. These set the tone for your brand. Deprioritising your design is one of the more common branding mistakes, and a potentially fatal one. It’s how a customer knows who you are at first glance. Are you lush and luxe, cheap and cheerful, or quirky and cool? Good design is the clearest way to show this.
There’s a big difference between looking at competitors to set a benchmark for where you want your brand to be, and looking at competitors and saying “do exactly what they did.” Imitating your competitors’ branding, marketing, or products is not a good strategy for building a strong and successful brand.
By copying your competitors, you’ve not offering anything unique to the market. As consumers seek out new experiences and original ideas, a copycat brand won’t make the cut. It could also land you in legal trouble, and could cause confusion amongst customers who are unable to distinguish between your product and competitors—and will almost always default to the more established brand in their minds. Set your brand apart and establish your own unique identity in the market, rather than trying to blend in with the competition.
Customers want to feel connected to the companies they do business with, and a lack of authenticity can create a sense of mistrust or disconnection. When a brand tries too hard to be something it’s not, it can come across as insincere or inauthentic. This can be especially damaging now that consumers have more access than ever to information about companies and their values. In today’s era of social media and online reviews, they have the resources to intricately fact check and compare what you say and what you do. Remaining true to your values and identity helps create a more genuine connection with your audience, building trust, and establishing a loyal customer base.
Cosmetics company Lush is a great example of how authenticity helps build a brand. From quirky, handmade, eco-happy beginnings, they’ve now grown into a cosmetics giant… who are still quirky, handmade, and eco-conscious. Their commitment to natural, organic ingredients is entirely aligned with how they package, display, and market products, including things like soaps and shampoo bars sitting in their raw form in-store, until a cashier wraps it in paper for you at check out. Similarly, any plastic tubs required for their products are part of a recycling scheme where customers are encouraged to collect the empty tubs and bring them in-store to be recycled and reused, with discounts towards your next purchase offered. In terms of authentically living and breathing values through brand strategy, Lush is top of the game.
Not adapting to change
When parchment was invented, people claimed it would never take over clay tablets. Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix as a problem, until it was too late. And in 1995, Robert Metcalfe—the inventor of Ethernet—wrote “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” The business world is constantly evolving, and if you aren’t adapting, you’ll be left behind.
Failing to adapt to changes in the market is one of the most terrifying branding mistakes. Taking the leap can feel risky, but not doing so can make your brand feel outdated and unappealing to customers. Being early adopters of new technology, ideas, and trends ensures your brand stays relevant and competitive. These changes can be both long term, such as the evolution of technology, or short term, such as moving with evolving language trends.
Neglecting customer feedback
Ignoring customer feedback is a mistake that can make a brand feel out of touch and unresponsive. Even worse, publicly arguing against the feedback makes your brand look defensive and unprofessional. Listening to feedback helps you understand exactly what your customers want and value.
Take Amazon for example, who faced criticism in 2009 from customers who were unhappy with the quality of its e-book reader, the Kindle. Customers complained that the device was difficult to use, and the screen was hard to read in low light. Amazon responded by addressing these issues in the next version of Kindle, with a clearer screen and easier navigation design. The company also continued to improve the device over time, adding new features and functionality based on customer feedback. Today, the Kindle remains one of Amazon’s best-selling products.
Comparatively, in 1985, Coca Cola launched New Coke, a reformulation of Coca Cola. The new formula was met with criticism from customers who preferred the original taste. Instead of listening to this feedback, Coca Cola got defensive and doubled down on its decision to introduce the new formula. The company even went so far as to discontinue the original formula and only offer New Coke. As a result of this decision, Coca Cola faced a significant backlash from customers and ultimately had to reintroduce the original formula as Coca Cola Classic just a few months later.
Making changes based on your customers’ feedback directly addresses their dissatisfaction, while showing them that their opinions matter, and that you care about their needs. This leads to happier customers, better brand reputation, and ultimately, increased sales.
Let’s wrap it up
In today’s hyper-competitive business world, having a strong and effective brand is absolutely crucial. But let’s be real, building a killer brand isn’t always easy, and even the most established companies make some major branding blunders.
The good news is that by being aware of the most common branding mistakes and taking steps to avoid them, businesses of any size can improve their brand image, connect more deeply with their customers, and be successful.
If you’re serious about building a brand that resonates with your audience and puts you above the pack, it’s time to take a hard look at your branding strategy. Or, better yet, consult with branding experts who can help guide you through the branding maze. With a little (or a lot) of help, you can create a brand that your customers will absolutely adore and that will truly set you apart from the competition.