The biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make in branding is overlooking branding. When starting out, small business owners often look at the business landscape divided into the small business space and the mid-size to large business space, and it is assumed that the best practices for each space are different. However, this is not true. Just as Coca-Cola has to be purposeful about their brand identity and vigilant about protecting it, so does the mom-and-pop-shop.
Creating a clear brand identity and effectively communicating it with your customers and clients is crucial. Running a successful business is more than the sum of its parts – driving revenues, keeping overhead low, etc. – and brand identity lives in that hidden space. You may not be aware of it, but it is working to propel your business’ market visibility, attracting customers and clients.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme.” Your brand identity is how your company frames and represents its reputation by conveying values and purpose.
As an entrepreneur, you may overlook branding when it comes to your own business, but you probably don’t miss it when looking at vendors and other companies. Your customers definitely don’t miss it either. A tech firm with an outdated website? A clothing shop with aesthetically unappealing designs? Any business that has an antiquated digital presence (or none at all)? Customers won’t feel inspired to do business with brands that look outdated, and your brand identity is evaluated a lot on first impressions.
Branding is often simplified into a cool logo or color scheme, but brand identity is actually the convergence of what you want to say about your company and its values. It’s also how you communicate your brand message to your customer base to evoke the emotions you want your customers to feel when interacting with you company. Don’t forget about the cool logo and color scheme though; visual design helps bolster this core brand identity you want to portray.
Even after getting a firm hold on the concept of branding and brand identity, there are still a lot of mistakes that entrepreneurs make in developing their small business’ brand identity, and in communicating the brand to customers and clients, and the world at large. Here are some of the common mistakes we’ve identified as brands search for their identity.
Being Everything to Everyone
No one person can be everything to anyone, let alone to everyone – this holds true in personal relationships as much as business matters. In romance, we often call this a co-dependent relationship. In business, this type of thinking can lead to an unfocused business plan in which the company does a lot, but not necessarily well (or as well as a company that has expertise in a niche space). The same holds true for creating a brand identity.
If you find it difficult to pinpoint your identity, try asking yourself these hard-hitting questions: “Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option?” Don’t have an existential crisis, but this is the time to think about who you really are and what you want your company to be, and to whom. Only once this is fleshed out can you start to build a brand identity on those things.
Stopping at the Logo
Visual brand identity like the logo and color scheme are important, but it is not the be-all and end-all of effective branding. Your branding strategy must transcend every part of your business and be the guiding light of your marketing strategy.
Think about it this way: your name is Bob. You are Bob inside and out, and everyone knows you are Bob. But say you decide to dress and talk like your friend Mark one day. Does this make you Mark now? No, you’re still Bob in everything that you do because that is who you are – it is your identity, and no amount of window dressing can hide that fact. Brand identity works the same way, so your marketing (how your business communicates with the outside world) must be informed by the carefully conceived and developed brand identity you have created.
Our own Mabbly founder, Adam Fridman, has some choice words regarding content marketing. “In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and brand promotions, only relevant narratives that audiences can relate to will see the most success.” To make your marketing content useful in any way, it must excite and engage people, and the only way to do that is with branded content that conveys your company’s brand identity.
Quitting Once the Story is Established
You did it! You have invested the time and money necessary to create a really stellar brand identity and you are effectively communicating it to your customers and clients. You are done now, right? Wrong.
A very common mistake that digital marketers see when looking at small business brands is that they are allowed to go stagnant. Yes, your brand identity will stay relevant and effective for a while, but brand identity does require maintenance. That is not to say that you will have to continuously brainstorm or rethink your entire brand identity, but times change and so do your customers. What may have been a fantastic brand identity and branding strategy in 2016 may not be that great or even relevant in a few years. Periodically evaluate your competitors’ presence in the market and technological advancements in design and digital marketing to inform your brand strategy – you may find a new, exciting way to promote your evolving small business.