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Your brand is fragile.
It is difficult to build up – taking months or years to really connect with a person’s mind. You can get in front of a consumer hundreds of times, invest large amounts of money, and endless hours of work to reach a point where that person finally trusts you, and aligns themselves with what you stand for.
It requires a well thought out strategy and careful execution. Pull it off, and you’ll cultivate raging fans, happy to throw money at you – even if you’re more expensive than your competitors.
Do it wrong however, and you can alienate your audience – even turning once-passionate fans into people that begin to dislike you, and everything you stand for.
Brands take a long time to build up, but they can very quickly be destroyed. While no one thing will take you down, a pattern of bad behavior can quickly ruin the credibility and image you’ve worked so hard to build up.
On the opposite end, a strong brand can pay dividends for life – making every facet of marketing more effective going forward.
In this article, we’ll go over key branding mistakes you must avoid if you want to keep people on your side. By developing a framework and keeping these principals in mind, you ensure that the fans you cultivate remain fans forever – making new fans become even more valuable.
1. You Don’t Have A Brand Strategy
Let’s knock this one out first because it’s surprisingly common, despite the importance of branding today.
You need a defined brand strategy, a defined identity.
You need to actually write this out and taking conscious steps to adhere to it through your content, your advertisements, and your sales copy.
A brand is more than just a name and a logo. It’s an identity that consumers choose to align themselves with.
This means that it needs to have values, and a unique angle it operates from.
Luxury brands associate themselves with exclusivity and class. Material wealth, and status.
Consumers align themselves with these brands because they seek out those same qualities in themselves. If they go on to buy the product, that brand becomes part of their identity.
Many luxury brands throughout history have deeply hurt themselves by striving away from this, offering a lower-priced product line in attempt to capture some of this market as well.
Buyers of the more expensive products felt like their purchase was devalued, because now anybody could afford to own that brand. The brand identity that existing customers grew to love was tossed aside, and the companies suffered great financial losses because of this.
Chasing opportunities that may seem profitable in the short-term, often will come back to hurt you in the long-term if they do not fit in to some sort of brand strategy.
Take the time to define exactly what you stand for. What makes your products and company unique. Who your target customer is. What you value. The style you want to carry. The feelings you want to invoke.
When it comes time to craft everything you put in front of your target customers, you’ll need to keep this in mind. Otherwise, you’ll end up connecting with nobody.
2. Your Brand Is Not Memorable
It doesn’t matter how well-defined your brand strategy is, if nobody remembers anything about you.
After all, the dictionary defines branding as, “to mark in a way that cannot be removed or forgotten.”
You need to make whatever differentiates you known, and not be afraid to show it – even if it means upsetting some people.
It’s better to connect with a portion of the market on a deep level, than to remain completely neutral on absolutely everything. This is why defining who your target customer is upfront is so important. It gives you a blueprint on how to craft messages that resonate.
From there, it’s only a matter of consistency.
You should not backtrack on your values just because they come under criticism, or you want to look agreeable. If you’re afraid to stick up for what your brand genuinely believes in, how can you expect other people to believe in those things as well. Heck, how can you expect people to trust anything you’re saying if you can’t even believe in these things yourself?
It just doesn’t make sense. Again, it can be uncomfortable to upset some people – but these people were never going to become your customers anyway.
In my baby product company Kinacle, we sell exceptionally high quality clothing – and charge a premium price for it.
We often have people complain that our prices are too high – that they would never spend $20 on one baby bodysuit.
We also have customers that buy them only because our cost is high, and the quality matches. These people want the best they can get, and want to feel good about themselves for buying a bodysuit that their baby will thank them for.
By taking away one of our key differentiating factors – our exceptional quality, we’d have a much harder time connecting with anybody.
We’ve actually run tests with different audiences and found that conversion rates dropped when we lowered the price, as people psychologically associated a cheaper price with lower quality.
Can you believe that?
3. You’re Not Consistent Across All Channels
Branding needs to be consistent across all channels.
When brands have really made a consistent impression, you’ll be able to recognize them even when their name or logo isn’t in sight. You’ll know it’s them through their design choices, messaging, and the feelings that their content or product invokes.
When you act differently on social media than you do in your blog content for example, it will hurt the effectiveness of both. People will have a hard time actually understanding what your brand stands for, and may become confused.
Your style and delivery should be the same throughout…
- Your social pages.
- Your blog.
- Your video content.
- Your advertising.
- Your sales copy.
- Your customer service.
- Your product packaging.
- Your product design.
- All other consumer-facing platforms.
Any one of these can serve as the first time your brand actually makes an impression on someone. Therefore, you need to be sure that the impression being made is the right one.
Let me share another quick story from another one of my brands.
In addition to my baby product brand Kinacle, I also run a print-on-demand type brand. We sell products such as shirts, mugs, car decals, and wall art.
These are centered around no specific theme. As a matter of fact, we sell pretty much any theme you can imagine – from bird watching mugs, to stickers about accountants. We recently hit 50,000 unique products, which makes branding a bit more difficult.
Instead of making our products brandable, we looked at how we could apply consistent branding principals across our entire company.
We chose to focus on two things in our marketing messaging – celebrating self-expression, and celebrating social friendships. This has ended up working well, as our customers are primarily people that are really passionate about some hobby, or they’re gift shoppers looking to find meaningful gifts for friends, family, and co-workers.
Therefore, social media and community building efforts are greater with this company than with others. We capture moments that cater to these values and display them prominently through social and on our sales pages.
We also indulge in these values ourselves, and socialize heavily with our customers – as if we were their friends. We allow buyers to talk with us and tell us about their hobbies, the things that they’re really passionate about. We ask them questions and let them talk about themselves. We show interest in what they care about, even if we’re not sure they’re going to buy right away. When they do buy, we ask them to share their story on social media, and reshare it out ourselves to our audience.
These values are something that can be played out across all of the various channels, despite the fact that we have no specific market we’re catering to.
If you’re not consistent, you can’t expect people to remember a lot of your company. Repetition is a key component to branding, so play it heavily.
4. Thinking Too Local
Many marketers have the problem of thinking that everyone is like them.
The world is diverse, and you need to keep this in mind when crafting your messages. This is especially true if you’re selling to an entire country, and even more so if you sell your products globally.
Life is radically different in all parts of the world. Cultures are different, and adopt different sets of values as well. Just because they may understand what your message means, does not mean it will resonate with them.
Something funny or exciting in your area of the world could be completely offensive to somebody else in a different part of the world. Sadly, a simple mistake like this can really put people off – they may not know how you meant for them to interpret it.
Things get even worse if you work with people that may speak different languages. When KFC entered China, their slogan ‘finger lickin’ good’ translated literally to ‘eat your fingers off.’ Pepsi’s slogan, ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ translated to ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.’
While these examples are hilarious (especially since they happened with major brands!) it’s possible to alienate all but your local audience, even if they speak your same language. Pay attention to your messaging.
Since adopting this principal, I’ve tried to use less idioms and awkward phrasing in my messaging, as these may be translated poorly for people that aren’t native English speakers.
After all, I’m really curious how many travelers have misinterpreted this:
5. Operating From Negativity
People are twice as likely to take action to move away from negative emotions, than to move towards positive ones.
Therefore, you should never position your brand from a stance of negativity. This is just as true in advertising as it is in your content.
Despite the irony of writing a negative post like this one, a post about mistakes and potential failures, as marketers we’ve got to remain as positive as possible. We want our brand to invoke positive psychological responses, not negative ones.
Seeing our logo pop up somewhere should not feel like bad news to our customers. It should remind them of all the positive feelings they’ve felt while working with us previously.
We should serve to inspire and bring out the best in people. Solve problems, make their lives a little bit better. Paint a picture of what’s possible for them if they buy our products, and how they’ll feel once they do so.
By doing this, they’ll create their own stories in their mind for how your product will fit into their life.
These stories should be positive and optimistic.
Take this angle rather than painting a picture of what life will look like if people don’t buy your product. Try not to play into fear too heavily. Don’t attack your competitors.
Instead, focus on building this positive mental picture that customers desire to live out.
Ultimately, this will serve you much better.
6. Closing Off Communication
You like your customers, right?
Businesses are built on a fair exchange of value. If you’re hoping for people to give you value in the form of dollars, than you need to give people value in return. This is not only done through your product, but through your brand experience as a whole.
As the world becomes increasingly commoditized, this will become even more important.
Always show customers that you’re there for them – you’re happy to help, and that you understand their concerns.
Never let customers feel like you’re too busy for them, that their concerns aren’t a priority, and that they’re worthless to you after you have their money.
With the internet today, people can talk to thousands of people in an instant, and the record of your actions will be kept public forever. This is not a great way to build a positive image.
Remember, customers may just be complaining, rather than having any sort of real issue. However, that complaint is real to them. Simply acknowledging it and doing your best will be far better than ignoring the issue completely.
This is especially true during crisis situations. You must acknowledge the issue straight away, and let people know how you plan to solve it. When people feel like they can’t depend on you, they may stop themselves from buying – even if they really want to.
7. Not Living Your Brand
Branding is easiest when in a way, its a reflection of who you are too – or who you would like to become.
Would you buy your own products, if you were in the market for them? Why or why not?
Not every business owner can be passionate about the market they work in. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. However, any steps you can do to actually live your brand – as if you were a human embodiment of it, will give you a deeper understanding on how to actually craft your message.
If you’re just starting out, talk with people who are your target customers. Get to know them one-on-one. Interact with them through social media, browse their profiles, and seek to understand them on a deeper level.
Brands that are completely authentic are the ones that do the best. Authenticity is not something that can be faked – in fact, if you attempt to do so, people will see through it and trust you less.
Brands are special, because of the power that they can hold when done right.
A strong brand can cultivate a following that will buy anything you put out, just because it has your name on it. People will purchase from you even though you may be more expensive, offer less features, and even a worse overall product. Because they identify with who you are, and what they stand for.
Please avoid jeopardizing your hard work with mistakes that are easily avoidable. By keeping these principals in mind, it’s possible to build a company that will only get stronger as time goes on, and your brand continues to evolve.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas. I’d love to hear how you plan to shape your brand strategy going forward.
To your success,
– James McAllister
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