Branding is a rite of passage that all businesses have to go through, and this passage is never-ending. Common branding mistakes are called so because of how easy it is to fall into these traps and how they can linger in one's blindspots. And these mistakes can occur in any stage of branding, be it planning, implementing, or executing. Although like most things, it gets easier to spot these pitfalls over time as the brand identity evolves. But a handy checklist is always useful.6 Most Common Branding Mistakes
1. Branding is More than Logo
Finalizing the brand logo is something all new entrepreneurs look forward to—one stage where you have tangible proof that your business is opening up for the public. But a logo is not the end-all and be-all of brand identity; you need to have a philosophy that drives the brand image.
In a workshop I once attended, I heard a teacher say, "The grapes and oranges in your logo won't sell your fruit baskets." You need a way to tell your prospective customer how fresh your fruits are, how you're sourcing them, and why they should buy from you. Transcribing that on the level of branding, you need to decide the voice of your advertisements, social media posts, copywriting, and customer support responses.
2. Not Being Consistent
One common goal while developing your brand identity should be making your brand distinctive and recognizable in the overcrowded market. Across different channels and platforms, your brand image should be cohesive, and across time your philosophy should be firm. This expected consistency includes logo placements, colour schemes, fonts, product schemes etc.Example
In 1975, in the USA, after the Pepsi challenge revealed that people preferred the slightly sweeter taste of Pepsi over Coke, Coca-Cola set out to create a new formula to compete with Pepsi. So, in 1985 Coca-Cola launched 'New Coke', which according to taste testers, was found to be better than both Pepsi and the original formula of Coke. But they made the fatal mistake of trying to discontinue the original Coke, and the outrage that followed was historic. People had nostalgia associated with the original Coke formula, and an abrupt change like that was not something they could accept. Coca-Cola had to return the original to the customers as 'Classic Coke' and the 'New Coke' faded away, only to be remembered as a harsh lesson for the brand.
Coca-Cola tried to nudge at the product, which was the foundation of their brand and almost bit their hand in the process. It just goes on to show that anyone can make these common branding mistakes.
3. Not Admitting Mistakes
If misshape has happened from the side of your company, being defensive will dig you a hole that you won't be able to crawl out of. When it comes to business, all press is not good press. And if lack of accountability is something that gets attached to your brand image, it will be difficult to shake it off. So, apologize for the mistake, take steps for damage control, and then accept it as a lesson for the future.
In 2015, Apple launched its music streaming service Apple Music. Before its launch, Apple announced that for the three month trial period, they wouldn't be paying the artists. This announcement gained a lot of criticism, but the loudest voice was of industry giant and megastar Taylor Swift. In a letter to Apple, she wrote, "We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation." Her main sentiment was that while popular stars like her could survive without payment for a few months, new and smaller artists couldn't. Apple was rightfully shaken by the bad press that came with this and, with an apology, withdrew their no-payment policy.
4. Being Unrelevant
All brands existing in the space of social media feel the pressure to be on top of all the internet trends to seem relevant. But where do we draw the line between relevant and redundant? Going back to the fruit basket analogy, it might not be wise to make multiple posts dedicated to the uber-trendy Dalgona coffee if your primary goal remains to sell fruits. But the charcuterie board and cheese platters splashed all over Instagram might be the right place to serve your fruits.
It is vital to find trends and aesthetics that serve your brand identity. Or you risk committing the common branding mistake of turning your page into a slightly glorified meme page.
5. Befriend the buyer
Now, here's where you cannot afford to be shy or reserved. You need to put the brand out there and start a conversation with your customers. Reply to their tweets, reply to the comments, reply to all emails, and not just that, but initiate the conversations. Ask for feedback, ask them to tag the brand page in case they upload an image with the product, ask them if they could use a promotional hashtag if they make something creative with it. And encourage all these with reposts and retweets. You should aim to create an ecosystem of conversation surrounding your brand and the products you offer. But make sure the quality of this conversation is not compromised.
Even big brands like Spotify take extensive measures to prevent this common branding mistake from happening. You'd think that their meticulous hiring policies take care of finding polished workers. But in an interview with Social Media Today, Spotify's Vice President of Global Customer Service and Social Media, Chug Abramowitz, revealed that to maintain a fast response to customer queries across all channels, their agents go through extensive training. He said regarding this training, "We don't let them get into social media until they no longer have to be thinking about how to solve the cases."
6. Diversity is the key to the future
To sum things up on a more moral note, make your business prioritize diversity. Open yourself up to diverse groups of people and to hearing their specific grievances. Hire from diverse groups of people, diverse race, gender, caste, religion etc. Know that having more voices in the team will help to reach more people. Be alert of unconscious bias during the hiring and the possibility of a hostile work environment for certain people. And it is often the case that a business is not as localized and niche as they assume. So, give people from different backgrounds a chance to discover you.Botton Line
This mistake is most commonly seen in cosmetics and makeup brands. Especially in India, countless influencers have called out homegrown brands for excluding people with dark skin in their product catalogue. Recently after a huge public outcry, Fair & Lovely had to change their name to Glow & Lovely. But for a lot of youngsters, the damage is done. The lousy optics and fairly abhorrent marketing have turned them away from giving the brand a shot. So, in a market where the consumer has hundreds of alternatives available, don't make this common branding mistake made by Fair & Lovely.
After all, the social media pundits and the social evolution have already predicted: the future is intersectional.