As a small business owner, you have to wear a lot of different hats, and marketing is probably not your area of expertise. Here are four of the most common branding mistakes that small business owners make, together with some actionable tips that will get you on the right path for shaping customer perception:
1. Not setting up brand guidelines
Your brand should always be recognizable, from the colors and typography of all text to the logo design, mascot, and taglines. It’s a good idea to actually compile these guidelines into a formal “branding file,” with copies of all the relevant images. You can consult this file anytime you’re adding to your online presence, so that you carry on the familiar look that customers will recognize from their previous experiences with you. Having this file will remind you that physical items such as labels and invoices should include some of the same recognizable elements as your blog headers, website front page, and Facebook page.
2. Casually changing your brand’s look
Consider the Coca Cola logo. Except for one strange year between 1890 and 1891, in which the whole typography morphed into a strange curlicue font, the Coca Cola logo has remained almost unchanged since 1887. This brand consistency has paid off by granting Coca Cola almost the status of a national monument. The point to remember here is that even though your great-grandparents saw the same Coca Cola logo that you see, there’s nothing about that logo that feels outdated or old-fashioned. Coca Cola knew enough not to change the look of their brand.
3. Using vague language or buzzwords
Your branding exists to bring your business into sharper focus. You achieve this focus by using active language with plenty of personality. Don’t get six people together in front of a white board to draft your company’s tagline or sales content: the result is almost guaranteed to be cumbersome and uninspired. Instead, hire a dynamite marketing professional — or, at the very least, your most expressive friend or colleague — to come up with the right words. Also, avoid the words that are trending right now across the online world. In six months or six years, those super-trendy words will sound dated, whereas simple classic language won’t ever go out of style.
4. Being accidentally offensive
Of course any offense you cause with your branding is accidental, because the whole purpose of creating a brand is to attract and retain customers. But it’s useful to learn from the Bic Pens “For Her” campaign, which generated multiple waves of sarcastic reviews. Further horrifying and hilarious examples of “brand blunders” can be found on this Inc. slideshow. The moral of the story? Run your idea by some savvy, global evaluators before launching it.
“Brands outlive products,” says Forbes. They are so valuable that some companies add them to their balance sheet. Your small company’s logo is just as important as Coca Cola’s: follow these simple tips and your branding will add long-lasting value to your business.