Your brand is your promise to consumers and the world. Unfortunately, with very little effort you (or others) can screw it up, leaving you scrambling to do damage control. Here is a list of ways you can make a mess of your brand:
1. Ignore Your “Core Truth.”
Every brand has something that it does well that makes it unique. It’s the thing that people automatically associate with you. It’s the sweet spot where your brand and consumers’ views of your brand mesh. If you deviate from this core truth – try to be something you’re not – you can create disconnects with consumers and drive them away. When this happens, it’s really hard to regain a consumer’s trust and interest.
2. Forget Your Strategic Plan.
Too many businesses either don’t have a strategic plan (and strategic marketing plan) or create one and don’t look at it again. A good strategic plan is a roadmap for your business for the coming year (or longer). There are times when the market changes and you have to revise the plan. That’s fine. But if you consistently make marketing decisions without looking at the map, you could end up spending your entire budget on things outside of the plan’s focus.
3. Target the Wrong Audience.
It is generally not realistic to assume your product or service will meet the needs of everyone. You must decide on primary and secondary target markets and direct your marketing efforts (and budget) toward them. If you go too general in your demographic, you might miss your primary target (i.e., if your primary is men ages 18-49 but you say it’s all adults, you could end up using programs more targeted to women and miss reaching men). It’s easy to forget and push your message out to the world, but that probably won’t get you the results you want.
4. Send the Wrong Message.
Your messages should be clear, concise and represent your brand. They must also be geared to your audience so they resonate. The wrong message can draw consumers who really aren’t interested (and waste money) or completely turn off your core target audience to the point where you lose them for good.
5. Be Reactionary.
Many businesses will change up their logo and messages too frequently, thinking that making a branding change is like wearing a different shirt from one day to the next. There are times when brands do need a change to revitalize them; however, changing things too frequently confuses people. It can also make it hard for your prospect to immediately know your business. With advertising, people need to see your message a minimum of 3-7 times….if they don’t know it’s you, you’re wasting your time and money. So if you have a valid reason for a message change and research to back it up, make the change but then be consistent!
6. Be Inconsistent.
Your brand platform should include a logo or wordmark, standard colors and fonts, acceptable graphic/visual elements, defined messages, tone by target group, etc. Inconsistent use of standard brand elements can confuse consumers. You want them to know they’re in the right place when they contact you or visit.
7. Forget Your Customer.
Getting people to notice your brand is great, but if your customer service is bad, you won’t have a long-term (or sometimes even short-term) customer. Negative online reviews and word of mouth can kill your business. Fulfill your brand promise and you’re more likely to get the initial (and repeat) business.
Policing Your Brand
Despite your best efforts, your brand may be impacted by many people within (and outside of) your company. While your control of outside influences may be a little more complicated, you can train your employees on the brand platform so they are able to help you stay on brand and on track. In addition to training, using a branding checklist may help you keep them on track.
About the Author
Jeanne Frazer is president of vitalink, a creative and strategic marketing think tank based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also president of The Expert Speakers.