I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard executives mention not having enough time to properly do their own branding (actually, I wish I had a dollar for any reason, but I digress). Not because they don’t feel it’s important, but simply because their clients’ needs always come first. With clients to make happy, who has time to work on their own stuff, right? Consequently, it is not uncommon for a company’s own branding to get put on the back burner.
At some point you will need to establish and/or roll out your brand. As a knoodle creative, I’ve helped many companies with this, including research, brand audits, logo development, type families, color palettes, brand standards guides and much more. Over the years, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and noticed some patterns from which we can all learn. Below are three of the biggest pitfalls you should avoid.
You might think this one is obvious, but apparently it’s not. We uncover brand inconsistencies all the time, something that might help with consistency is the companies response to customer feedback, for instance, could be using a software similar to repcheckup online review management software to converge all of your reviews in one place. I was just looking at a friend’s branding this past week. His website looks absolutely nothing like his business card. Logos, fonts, colors- completely different. While your inconsistencies may not be quite so extreme, don’t fall into the trap of thinking they don’t (or may not) exist. The larger your company grows, the more difficult it can be to maintain a solid, consistent brand. And this is especially true for companies using outside services, such as freelancers, to help develop branding materials. Just like a young tree that needs support in the early years, your brand needs nurture and love. That’s why it’s so critical to keep tabs on it all along the way, while it’s still young and impressionable. It’s much easier to keep it growing straight by guiding it little by little than to try to correct it once it’s headed a direction other than up.
A brand, like a city, must be built one element at a time. And you never arrive. A brand is fluid, living and breathing and it needs attention and nourishment in order to grow. So do yourself a favor and resist the urge to make it an item you check off your checklist. The best brands are built strategically and intentionally, layer upon layer until they become household names. That doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design. And it takes a smart, well-executed strategy. So assemble the smartest people you can in a room and put together a brand plan. Then execute it and don’t stop, adjusting as needed along the way. By the way, if you’re needing help in this area, I happen to know a few great knoodles I could recommend.
Online is Forever
Two things here First, never underestimate the reach of your brand. The moment you post any element of your brand online, you have just gone global. After all, online is forever- it’s the world we live in. Oh sure, your customers may be local, but you cannot control where your presence will go and who will touch it. If you don’t believe me, pull up Google Analytics and look at the world map of where your site traffic is coming from. Then go back to work and never underestimate the reach of your brand because reach means potential. It’s why you need to treat your branding with the utmost respect. Develop, implement and follow your brand through as if it were a global brand, because it is. Oh, and by the way, it goes the other direction as well. Many companies forget that their brand extends to their own employees, not just their customers.
Second, don’t underestimate your brand’s importance. Your brand is your company’s image in your client’s mind. More importantly, it’s how you make them feel about you. It’s much more than a logo and some trendy colors on a business card. It’s more than graphic icons, textures, photos and fonts. A brand, like a reputation, is an intangible. It includes every customer touchpoint. For example, how do you answer the phone? What tone comes across in your emails? How do you follow up with your prospects? Include these types of questions and more in your discussions about your brand. Ensure that every member of your team understands that they are the company brand.
So, maybe you fall in the category of folks who have successfully launched their brand and are in “maintenance” mode. Regardless, I recommend periodic audits to make sure you’re on track. Check your brand against these three pitfalls and make sure you’re giving it the love it needs to thrive. Proactively doing some research can go a long way, even if it’s a neutral online questionnaire or some brief phone calls. Check internally with your employees, expand out a layer with your vendors and partners, and ultimately on to your customers. Many will appreciate the opportunity to give input and allow their voices to be heard. And you might be shocked at an unexpected brand misalignment creeping in.
If research reveals your brand is weakening, injured, sick or struggling, then by all means, rush into urgent care and get a prescription. Let’s get it out of the wheelchair and on its feet again.
Branding mistakes can be a hard, costly lesson because they erode your foundation. Even some of the biggest companies in the world have felt the pain. Fortunately, you don’t have to.