4 Critical Branding Mistakes to Avoid

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All small business owners can take something away from the big box brands.  The distinctive bold, red, bulls-eye of Target, and Micky D’s golden arches are both testaments to the companies’ dedication to their brand identities.  Small business can harness the power of their brands by being just as dedicated to their brand identities.

You may think iconic branding is out of your reach as a small business owner.  Think again.  Avoid these branding stumbling blocks and you’ll be on your way.

1. You don’t quite understand what branding is and how it works.

A brand is a powerful tool to be wielded in order to forge a relationship between your offerings and your consumers/clients.  The goal for your brand as a small business owner, is to ensure that you are positioning your business in the mind of your client so, that when they think about their need for a particular product or service...they think about your business.

Your brand identity (logo, business cards, tag line, signage, etc.), communicates the values of your business.  Customers decide to align themselves with brands who communicate values that they trust.

Take my husband and I for instance, we prioritize plant based toiletries and cleaning products. One of our favorite brands is Mrs. Meyer's hand soap.  We appreciate the fact that the products are plant based.  We appreciate the transparency the brand shows with their product ingredients.  I even love the design aesthetic of the packaging.  It seamlessly integrates with the decor of our home.  Our values and the Mrs. Meyers' brand values are aligned.  That's the kind of connection that you want!

 
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2. Selecting an unprofessional or overly-complicated brand identity.

It can be tempting to select low-cost or free brand identity components.  Often times, these choices can be generic and non-descript. Free options may have logotypes that copy many other industry norms.  You may find your brand identity is lost amid a sea of sameness.  Low cost options may not design the logo in the correct software or, may provide unwitting business owners with low-resolution files.  This can make printing brand collateral such as business cards or menus difficult.  

Some business owners make the mistake of commissioning brand identity elements that are extremely busy and detailed.  Logos with many elements or many colors can be too busy, distracting, and repellent. Simple logos are easier to remember and are more attractive. Brands don't need to be known for the complexity of their logo.  No one ever says "I like XYZ brand because they have an extremely detailed logo!".

Take a look at the simplicity of Target’s brand identity:

 
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3. Not creating brand guidelines and sharing them with your employees or contractors.

Every business needs an established set of brand guidelines, rules, and procedures.  It’s very important that all employees know, and understand the guidelines.  This ensures the message and values of the brand are communicated to clients on every level of the business.

Guidelines should be located in an easily accessible document that employees and contractors can access at any time.  The document/binder/book should include the following (and more):

Logo guidelines (what version should be used where)

Imagery

Fonts

Tone or voice of marketing materials/campaigns

Tag line

Other items to include:

Email signature format

Letterhead

Attire guidelines

Phone greetings

4. You intermittently deviate from the established brand guidelines.

After you have established brand guidelines, its important to maintain continuity throughout all future marketing, product labeling, etc.  You can always decide that you are going to deviate from your messaging however, every time you deviate from the guidelines you’ve established, you are lessening the potency of your brand.

Take a look at this screenshot of a Downy’s new product.  It is in keeping with the messaging and guidelines that Downy has always used.

 
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There most certainly isn’t a yellow brick road to perfect branding.  However, side stepping this critical mistakes can put you on the road to a great start!