6 Branding Mistakes to Avoid

Your brand is the soul of your company, so you should really take your time when thinking about the visual identity of your business. Brand-related decisions are usually long-term and therefore it is worth to invest time and money in the branding process. Branding can be the saviour of a company, but it could also be destructive, so it is critical to avoid the all-too-common mistakes that have ruined other businesses in the past. We are going to discuss them in detail in this blog post. Because branding gone wrong can cost a business big time – a company can lose fans, weaken its advantage in the marketplace or even have legal problems.

Branding mistake #1: Focusing exclusively on customers
Although taking customer needs into consideration is always a good idea, a thorough analysis of your competitors is even more useful. Why? Because you can assume most of your competition is going to be customer oriented, which could lead to a lot of similar products in the market. A relevant example that comes to my mind is the Great Wall Motor in China. Before launching their new product, a research was done. The conclusions were the following – Chinese buyers preferred sedans rather than SUVs because of social status related reasons. But the branding company working for Great Wall Motor chose to focus on SUVs because they knew the majority would launch sedans based on customer preferences. As a result, Great Wall became the most-profitable Chinese automobile company. Bottom line: start by focusing on your competitors and try to find a way to stand out. You may increase the quality of the products or services offered or you could offer exclusive products and services that no one on the market has. It is up to you.

Branding mistake #2: Underestimating brand guidelines
Even specialists forget sometimes that a brand identity is complex and does not consist of merely a logo, but also other important elements like brand colours, taglines, fonts and typography, the “voice” used in branding materials, imagery, mascots and spokespeople. If you feel the need to add some supplementary branding characteristic in order to define your business, just add them to your guidelines documentation. Without a complete branding process, all your efforts will lack consistency and the direction needed for success.

Branding mistake #3: Vague branding
Many companies fall into the trap of vague branding. Because they do not have answers to two simple questions – “What exactly is it?” and “Why should I want it?” These two are crucial questions when it comes to any product or service. Brand guidelines and elements should reveal something about your company and its unique value proposition, but in many cases this does not happen. Daniel Burstein, director of editorial content for MECLABS, has coined a term for this phenomenon of lazy branding –”wallpaper copywriting”. It refers to the use of not clearly expressed visual elements and expressions that have been used so often they lost all meaning. The solutions consists of clear language, logos and imagery. Here is a great example of an unmistakable logo and a clearly expressed value proposition stated in the tagline ”Start accepting credit cards today”:

Branding mistake #4: Low priority branding
If you are focusing on building an audience before building a brand, it is like trying to find a job before having a resume. It is obvious you will not get very far. Branding is the foundation of a business, so you should prioritize it accordingly! I also advise you to go the extra mile by paying a professional to help you brand. Take a lesson from Gap’s disastrous rebranding in late 2010. The company launched a rebrand back then, including a new logo. This was a move that came without warning and consumers were completely unsatisfied with the disappearance of the 20-year old logo. A small buzz of complaints turned into a full-fledged campaign to return back to the old design. Therefore, one of the fastest turnarounds in history took place and Gap went back to their old logo. It turned out the rebranding attempt was the result of a crowdsourcing project the firm had launched. Experts estimate that the entire debacle costed the company $ 100 million – quite pricey for a logo that looked like it had been designed in PowerPoint.

Bottom line: critical design elements should be created by professional designers who know how to strategically (re)brand a company without compromising distinctive assets.

Branding mistake #5: Underestimating the power of a brand
Having a strong brand is beneficial, especially from a customer-relationship perspective. Let us take example of Net-a-Porter – when people think of online luxury shopping, they think of this brand. Your objective should be having that kind of immediate, definitive relationship with your buyers, too. Google also likes to prioritize branded listings in its organic search results – looks like visitors are more likely to click on these. So defining your brand is also valuable from a SEO perspective. Focusing on brand building could lead to great website traffic and unexpected awareness benefits.

Branding mistake #6: Failing to protect and defend
In 2013, clothing retailer Guess lost a 4-year legal battle against Gucci over a trademark dispute. Gucci alleged that Guess copied Gucci’s logo on a line of shoes. The company was accused of counterfeiting, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. The lawsuit was filed in two cities – New York and Milan. The courts siding Gucci were in the U.S., whereas the ones siding Guess in Italy. It all ended as a lose – lose situation, because neither of the two brands won in this case. The New York court ordered Guess to pay Gucci $4.7 million in damages, but the Milan courts requested Gucci to cancel several of the brand’s iconic patterns (including the famous “G” stamp). Because legal aspects were not thoroughly covered, it was not clear which one of the two brands came first. This is unacceptable and while working on KO by Karina Ochis projects, we have also noticed that many brand owners neglect the problem of protecting their work. They fail at obtaining or defending trademarks, locking up domain names, writing brand usage guidelines or enforcing brand-usage rules. Branding agencies usually take care of all these aspects: filing the brand name with appropriate government offices and obtaining brand trademarks, so it would be a great idea to ask for the help of professionals.