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Branding Mistakes + Misconceptions

Branding Mistakes + Misconceptions

By: Tina Walczak & Cam Schreiner

We were approached by one of our followers, Heather, with the following question: What are some common branding mistakes? 

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t Everything to Everyone

Think of Whole Foods. They don’t try to hit the entire market and be the grocery store for everyone. They stick to a niche market of supplying healthy and quality foods. They target those willing to pay a bit extra for organic or ethically sourced food, and tailor the experience to them! Forget trying to appeal to everyone from the people wanting to pay $2 for a hamburger and fries, to the people willing to pay a little extra.

There are a lot of benefits of a focused market: it lowers marketing costs and it reduces inventory. Costco, for instance, is one brand that offers the best quality. When you go to Costco, they have huge quantities, but only 1 – 2 options of highly rated customer choice products.

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t make promises you can’t keep

We’ve all done it. You try to be something that you’re not, or your try to position yourself in a spot because you think it will be beneficial. You need to keep your promises. Your word is everything. If you are a company that states a strong focus on customer service, but then you don’t put a lot of your time there, your customers will lose trust in you. Think about Lulu Lemon. Quality is paramount and if you get a piece of clothing that is coming apart and isn’t living up to that, you can return it with ZERO hassle.

If a company prides itself on excellent customer service, but then delivers poor customer service, you’re going to be even more annoyed. Think of a phone provider. I remember being on Rogers for years, and anytime I had an issue, I would spend sometimes up to an hour on the phone, and they say they pride themselves on customer service. This is taken Directly off their site – Our customers come first in everything we do. When you call and then wait and wait, after reading customers are a top priority, you lose trust.

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t Rebrand or Reinvent Yourself too Often or For the Wrong Reason

People see a rebrand or extreme pivot as the move to solve a number of problems when really small intentional shifts coupled with a true understanding of where the problem areas make for a better long term solution.

If you’re interested in big branding mistakes that you can learn from, Tropicana’s packing redesign in 2009 is a great place to start. They thought it was important to evolve the brand into a more current or modern state, which was interpreted as changing the photo of the orange to a glass of juice. The new packaging design was highly criticized by the majority of Tropicana’s consumers, and was considered such a failure that Tropicana completely dropped it and returned to their original packaging. Tropicana underestimated the deep emotional bond their customers had with the original packaging.

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t Ignore your Audience

If you are moving in a direction that doesn’t connect with your target audience, then it’s time to take a full stop and listen. Your brand should be constantly listening to those you’ve determined to be your target audience and everything you do should be run through the filter of “would this connect with them”. Companies too often feel they know better than their audience, but going against this is framed as a loss or a compromise. But they aren’t the ones buying their product or service, their customer is.

Reframe the Loss

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Being the greatest of all time means making small compromises or losses throughout your career for better and larger leaps forward.

Think about Instagram. The company has gotten tons of complaints from users about their software algorithm which shows users what they think a user wants to see first, rather than a chronological post order. It’s been over 2 years, and they still refuse to make this change back even though their audience has been very vocal.

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t mimic your competition

I was recently reading an article where I discovered a good piece of advice: “Don’t position yourself as the better version of  X company”. This inadvertantly ties your reputation to theirs, and ultimately hurt you. Being better or similar to another company does you no favours. Two people can not stand in the same spot, so differentiate yourself. What is your X-factor? Why should someone pick you vs another? Being “better” has so many variables. What else do you bring to the table?

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Your Brand is More than your Visual Identity

Your logo isn’t your brand, just as your paint job isn’t your car, nor are your clothes who you are as a person. Your brand is the feeling people get when they think about you, it’s so much deeper than your visual identity. Yes, your visual identity is a part of your brand and can help your company in representing itself but there are so many pieces to that puzzle. Balance them all well and you will succeed.

We all know the Netflix logo and how it makes us feel, but something that is maybe overlooked and will play a factor in the future of brands is: How does your brand sound? If I say Netflix do you immediately hear the sound in your head? For the last year, people have been saying “video is king” but I think we need to start thinking about audio as well.

Branding Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t be inconsistent

This relates to reinventing yourself. You NEED to be consistent for your audience to know where to place you. Consistent brands gain the most traction because the customer knows what to expect every time. If Apple started making products that were cheap price points, but not high quality as a way to open themselves up to a new sector of the market, it would confuse the true Apple customer that expects quality. This would also pull them away from their Why and ultimately be a poor move.

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