3 BIG (albeit, small) Branding Mistakes

Branding—it’s one of the most powerful, and yet allusive, areas of a marketer’s job. This is partially because of the fact that a brand is all-encompassing (literally every. little. detail. about your marketing and corporate activities feed into the brand), and partially because a brand is fundamentally intangible, it’s not something you can touch; it’s how a company or product makes you feel.

Due to the power of the brand, most marketers recognize its importance, and we’ve all read posts about how to ensure that your brand doesn’t make those BIG DEAL MISTAKES. You know, the kind of mistakes that big brands make—like changing their beloved logo or tweeting something highly offensive to their millions of followers.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to be Coca Cola to make branding mistakes, and what’s more, you don’t have to make gigantic blunders to hurt your brand. This post is dedicated to the three “little” (and completely avoidable) brand errors that drive me up the wall.

1. Inconsistency

Inconsistency can be a real bummer for a brand, and I can personally say that it is a real bummer for a brand manager as well. Everyone seems to understand the idea that a company’s logo should always be the same, but from what I’ve witnessed, this is about as far as people are willing to go when trying to stay consistent. Unfortunately, a brand is more than a logo—like I said before, it’s every. little. detail. All the way down to the signature lines of your employees’ emails (which is one of my biggest pet peeves).

If your company is having a free-for-all with fonts, color schemes, signature lines, etc, you have a problem and it’s time to lay down the law. It may seem silly to enforce a rule about the way a signature line can look or the font that is “allowed” on company letters, but inconsistency has an unaligned and unprofessional appeal—as if you’re competing with yourself or you don’t have your ducks in a row. Stop subtly battling yourself and use some of that gusto to stomp on the competition with your consistent, confident brand.

2. Employee Representation

Speaking of staying consistent, hiring the right people to represent your company can have a huge impact on your brand. We can all probably recall a time when a fast food worker tweeted a picture of his or her coworkers doing something ‘gross’ with food. This 1) harms that fast food restaurant’s brand and 2) could have been avoided by not hiring two idiotic employees [one who would do the stupid act and another who would post about it on the very public Internet].

Hiring stupid people is a big brand no-no, but there are little brand no-no’s that you should also be aware of—like, not having the proper resources available for your employees. In particular, I wanted to talk about the resource of an “elevator pitch.” For those of you who don’t know, an elevator pitch is a short summary used to define a product, service, or company (basically a statement that could theoretically provide a clear image of a company’s mission within the amount of time it takes you to ride in an elevator).

An elevator pitch is not an easy thing to craft, but your marketing team really must have one and must train the full staff on that messaging. What this will do is empower your employees to confidently share your mission with anyone who asks. Now, you may be thinking “well, my accountants don’t need to know how to publicly talk about the company.” False. Every time that anyone meets a new person, the second or third question that they ask is usually, “So, what do you do?” or “So, where do you work?” Would you rather have your employee confidently explain your company in the way that you prefer, or stumble through a sentence like, “Well, I do accounting for a computer company.” Think about that.

3. Follow Through

Finally, I wanted to talk about follow through. This is something that I’ve seen companies struggle with time and again—especially when it comes to launching a new type of marketing piece or changing up the way something has been done in the past. Don’t get me wrong, change is hard and no one is totally comfortable doing something new; especially when there are eyes watching and demanding ROI. That being said, change takes time and patience is key (how many cliché statements was that in a row?). Cliché or not, those statements are true. If you want to make a change, and you think that it will positively impact your company in the long run, don’t flee when the first step isn’t met with gang-busters approval.

At my last job, my team and I decided to start a new video newsletter—something with content and substance, to humanize our very sales oriented brand. This was a project that was totally new and unprecedented at that company, and the executives were wary. They asked all of their executive-y questions like “how much will it cost?” and “how much revenue will be gained?” and “how many views will each video get?” We made our educated guesses to these questions and proceeded with the project.  After the first video was released and only had marginal views, the executives shut the program down. We were all a little devastated by this failure, but it taught me this valuable lesson about follow through and patience. Of course our first foray into the video world didn’t garner millions of views, but if we could have forged on, and made this newsletter something clients came to expect and enjoy, it could have been wildly successful. I’ll guess we’ll never know.

I tell you that to tell you this, when you create a plan, stick to your guns, expect a slow start but keep following through. Branding is a marathon, not a sprint.

Let me know your big little branding mistakes in the comments below!