Top 5 Branding Mistakes
As you might expect, we have encountered a wide variety of brands over the course of many years at KODA. Some become clients and some do not. Everything from one-person entities to large corporations. Their org charts and revenue vary greatly, as does their understanding of what it takes to create a remarkable brand. You might find that a seasoned CEO completely understands the value of an effective brand while a small mom-and-pop operation does not, and very much vice versa.
The truth is, none of the people I speak of went to branding school, yet we all have brands that we have an affinity for in our daily lives. So why the lack of understanding? For lack of a better explanation, it’s because brand building is not as linear as a balance sheet or defined by who likes red vs. who likes blue. The essence of an effective brand is emotional and often times hard to quantify for a company stakeholder who is focusing on customer transactions without understanding the process that allowed the transaction to take place to begin with.
Therefore, in an effort to help provide some understanding to those who need it, I’d like to share what I see as the Top 5 brand mistakes organizations make .
#1 Lack of Understanding
Most people do not understand the value or potential value of their brand. They focus on lead flow, workflow, front flow, back flow, you name it. They’re looking at spreadsheets and fail to recognize that the efficacy of a brand has the ability to make those spreadsheets shine so much brighter. Focusing on numbers is good. No, it’s imperative, but so is gaining an appropriate understanding of what a brand means to your market segment.
If upper management doesn’t understand the value of their own brand, how are they ever going to lead the flock? Fanatical brand ownership and understanding must come from the top and trickle down - not the other way around. Most business owners are not trained to fully understand the impact of a brand, yet as noted above, we are all subject to brand affinity in our own lives at a very deep emotional level. Therefore, taking steps to understand what your brand means and how to communicate it is mission critical.
#2 Lack of Internal Buy-in
Let’s assume that top brass in an organization have fully bought in to their brand and understand its value. That’s great, but it doesn’t stop there. As a continuation from #1, the organization as a whole must fully understand the brand. This doesn’t mean everyone simply knows the tagline or loves their hip new business cards. It must go much deeper than that. All members of the team must have the proper guidance in understanding what the company as a whole stands for.
Remember, branding is not what you call it, but what you do as an organization that translates directly to the brand promise. If there is inconsistency within the organization, the outward story to the world is creating a disconnect that diminishes the intended brand perception. Test yourself… connect with various employees/members of your team (not just upper management) and ask them questions. “What do we stand for?” “What is our promise to the market as an organization?” etc. If you aren’t receiving consistent answers or close to it, you don’t have internal buy-in.
#3 Lack of Consistency
Most articles talk about branding and how you need to make sure your brochure matches your website or that your logo should always look the same, etc. Yes, that’s true, but shouldn’t that be a given - even if it’s not in many cases? What I mean by inconsistency is the details that get overlooked beyond the website or sales materials. Consistency doesn’t just apply to sales materials and a website. It attaches a responsibility to the organization to ensure ALL facets of the brand are harmonious.
I’m talking about the details. The granular stuff that people don’t think consumers notice. The handshake of an outside salesman, the cleanliness of the windows at a brick and mortar retailer, the on-hold music of an online customer service help line, the list goes on and on. Details matter. Why? Because, not every customer or potential customer notices the same thing, so you need to stack the deck in your favor by being consistent with everyone you’re targeting in order to create the brand perceptions you’re working to achieve.
#4 Lack of Investing
Investing in a brand requires two phases. Phase one is to develop the foundation in order to even understand what the brand represents and how to communicate it. Phase two is where you continue to nurture, evaluate and manage the brand to not only ensure consistency, but to adapt the brand with small adjustments as needed. Remarkable brands don’t go through phase one then “set and forget” it. They understand the value of fine tuning and the importance of ensuring the brand continues to represent the foundation that was set from the beginning.
What does it take to invest in your brand? Likely more than you expect is the best answer, for no reason other than our experience with the countless businesses we have consulted for over the years. Let me be clear, it’s not their fault that they don’t understand the capital investment in building and maintaining a brand. It’s no different than me claiming to understand what it takes to build a farm and maintain the land, crops and livestock. It’s not my area of expertise. However, if I were to build a farm, you better believe I would heed the words of an experienced farmer when they provide valuable insight into what it will take for my farm to be successful. Properly investing in your brand is equitable and provides notable value in the form of tangible returns. Period.
#5 Lack of Differentiation
Everyone starts their company wanting to do great things. After all, that is the essence of entrepreneurship. They visualize how awesome it will be to impact the world in their own way and create something they can be proud of. The same holds true for large companies as well with new staff coming on board with a fresh set of eyes wanting to do big things. Further, most (almost all) people enter the playing field saying, “I want to be different than the other guy”. That’s great and you should be, but recognize that you must have the courage to act on that by truly differentiating your brand from “the other guy”.
Differentiation takes work and a bold spirit to see the process through to the finish line. It’s easy to join the marketplace and feel safe, but it rarely leads to wild success when you’re one of many vs. the one that is noticed. I recognize that there are various degrees of differentiation that may be more appropriate for some businesses and less for others, but the concept rings true no matter what. Your brand must tell a story and connect with the market in a way that creates a connection. If you don’t differentiate your brand within the competitive landscape, you’re fighting an uphill battle before the gates even open. Be courageous and get uncomfortable.
Collaborating for a Better Brand
To summarize, developing an effective brand is something that takes time, capital and effort. It isn’t an initiative you should attempt in a haphazard manner or “when there’s time.” A brand deserves the proper attention from stakeholders in your organization to ensure that it thrives in the marketplace. There’s no question that the investment in laying a well-crafted foundation pays you back in spades over the lifecycle of the brand. Seeking expertise and guidance when developing a new brand or revitalizing an existing brand is of paramount importance as you seek to capture“mindshare” and marketshare in the competitive landscape of today.
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