Forty years ago, building a brand meant coining a clever slogan, having slick graphics, and buying tons of ads on TV for everyone to watch.
And guess what? It worked. In fact, it worked really well.
This method still works today, but not nearly as well as it did back in the good old "Mad Men" days. The world is much more fragmented, and it’s become harder and harder to build awareness that lasts.
To get the attention you’re after, you need to stand out from the pack. In a highly competitive industry, your products and services probably won’t be enough to attract people’s interests either. That’s where the magic of a brand comes in.
A solid brand resonates with its target market in a unique way that competitors have a tough time duplicating. Creating this type of brand is often a tedious and meticulous process, requiring time-consuming research and testing to find your unique story and tone. Finding your perfect branding isn’t easy, but it’s certainly easy to make mistakes along the way. One wrong step can cause confusion with your audience and sorely change the perception of everything you’ve worked so hard to build.
Don’t make these common mistakes that stop brands from growing. Here are four brand-building blunders to keep your eyes on:
1. Not Sticking to Your Core Message
Your business goals and mission statement define the identity of your business. They provide the reason for your company to exist. If you veer away from your core message, then you’re essentially abandoning the foundations of your business.
The intention of Burger King when it debuted the King mascot was to get the attention of their audience in the hopes of increasing sales. As the second most popular burger chain at the time, Burger King was looking for something fresh that would drive more traffic to their brand in a quirky manner.
While they did get the attention they wanted, it was mostly for the wrong reasons, as the creepy King’s antics didn’t make you want to eat a burger. When Burger King focused on cheap thrills and abandoned the things that made it great, its market share dropped from 15.6 percent in 2003 to 14.2 percent in 2008.
Fix: Always emphasize the things that people love about your company, and build your marketing campaigns and strategies around your core strengths.
2. Not Knowing Your Audience
When I was growing up, my mom would tell me, “You can’t please everyone, Alex.” Well, it seems that many businesses today didn’t get the memo.
If you’re marketing in 2017, trying to please everyone just doesn’t work. Instead, you should put all your efforts on pleasing those types of people who appreciate what you bring to the table. Your audience is your lifeblood, so you need to do whatever it takes to resonate with them. You should know their pains, their joys, their dreams and their regrets. This way, you can truly connect in a meaningful way. By knowing what makes your audience tick and keeping them happy, you could encourage them enough to become your customers.
When Gap changed its logo from the elegant blue square to a more streamlined design, customers were enraged. Due to public outcry, Gap was forced to revert to its original design. Had it known its audience better, it wouldn’t have spent money making an unnecessary change to its branding.
Fix: Conduct focus groups before launching a product or service and find out their opinions about it. Split-test everything to see what works best, and run surveys to get into the subjects' heads. Their input will be crucial to the success of your business, since they will be the ones who have the greatest chance of buying from you.
3. Being Consistent for the Wrong Reasons
If you’re redesigning or making a website, remember that consistent use of your branding on all your marketing materials is a common practice in good business. The colors, font face and logo you use on your digital channels and print products are visual cues that your audience can associate with your brand. The more potent your branding is, the higher the chance people will remember your brand, even if they’re not your target market.
However, businesses looking to rebrand need to approach consistency carefully. If you’re hiring an agency, make sure to discuss this topic.
“Chevy” is shorthand for Chevrolet, one of the most recognizable automobile brands all over the world. The shorthand has become part of the American lexicon throughout the years, so abandoning the term of endearment would be ludicrous.
Unfortunately, that is precisely what Chevrolet did in a memo back in 2010. For consistency’s sake, VP for Chevrolet marketing Jim Campbell ordered people from within the company to use Chevrolet instead of Chevy when talking to non-employees. While the reasoning behind the memo is sound, taking away one of the most distinguishable facets of your brand is a foolish move.
Fix: If it's not broken, don't fix it. Similar to Gap, Chevrolet had something good going with its shorthand, so ordering people not to use it only created a problem.
4. Using a Spokesperson to Represent Your Company
This can be a huge asset, but it can also be a major blow to your brand’s reputation. A spokesperson represents the company in the public eye. Some use celebrities to gain exposure and piggyback on the celebrity's star power. Most of the time, spokespeople explain to the public the benefits that your business offers to its audience.
When Jared Fogle lost 200 pounds while eating Subway sandwiches, it gave more attention to the brand as a healthy alternative to fast food joints. By hiring Fogle as Subway’s spokesperson, the sandwich chain was able to triple its sales from 1998 to 2011.
However, controversy struck when Fogle was charged in 2015 with child pornography and having sex with minors. Subway immediately dropped him as a spokesperson and is still picking itself up from the rubble of the Fogle fallout.
Fix: Avoid using spokespeople to represent your brand. While Fogle's success story serves as an inspiration for people who want to eat healthy and lose weight, you just cannot control how a spokesperson acts outside the limelight. In most cases, it’s better to use a mascot instead so your business will have full control over how the public should perceive your brand.
Building a brand for your business allows you to connect more easily with your audience. At the same time, developing a brand is not an easy track. You will not only have to sweat the small things that comprise your brand, but also the blunders that you may commit along the way.
If you can avoid these four branding mistakes, you’ll have a much greater ability to build a solid brand strategy, connect with your target market and increase your sales in the long run.
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