5 Branding Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

A company's branding should communicate value and commitment to its customers. There is no better time to convey this than in difficult and hard market times.

A company’s branding should communicate value and commitment to its customers. There is no better time to convey these objectives than in difficult and hard market times.

Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo

Small businesses and fledgling brands sometimes do a poor job of expressing who they are and what they want to do for their customers. They often think they are close enough to the customer so they don’t have to communicate their value proposition through their brand.

Still, companies that don’t communicate their brand objectives miss an opportunity to communicate value to their customers. It is always wise for a company to review or enhance its brand, but it is especially thoughtful for a leader to examine how their brand is communicating in a down market.

Every brand, large and small, can maximize their marketing and branding investment if they work a smart strategy to enhance brand messaging.

Through my work with CEOs, as they lead their companies, I have seen five common branding and marketing mistakes that businesses make. It’s important to understand these mistakes so you can avoid them and receive a higher return on your marketing investment.


1. Mistake: Replace mystery with monotony

There is a lot of companies that look and feel the same. Brands that stand out focus on leaving a little to the mind of the consumer. Customers should be inspired by a brand but should be left by asking, “What is that brand?” and “What can the brand do for me?”

Don’t be afraid to be bold in your branding; it will leave an impression if the mind of your customer. Think thoroughly about your brand promise and how you are different than other businesses like you in your market. Every company has its own unique fingerprint, and that fingerprint should be a part of your branding and marketing efforts. One of the best ways that a company can set itself apart is through its tagline that often communicates its brand message in four words or less.


2. Mistake: Focus on business instead of customers

One mistake that small companies make concerning their brand is focusing on themselves instead of their customer. The best brands are customer-facing, not company-centric. Small companies can excel with their brand because they are often closer to the voice of the customer. A good brand is one that speaks to the customer and communicates that you understand what the customer wants and why the customer wants it.

A brand refresh can focus on a change of colors, logo style, value proposition, or even brand positioning. Each component of the brand can be created and enhanced by concentrating on how a customer will consider or be impacted by those brand assets. A brand and market strategy is not complete until a company has considered the customer on each component of the brand and the brand assets.


3. Mistake: Overlook professionalism

Many brands reveal the limits of a company. For example, small community brands often look less professional than national brands. National brands are crisp, clean, and consistent. Local brands are often confusing, cluttered, and childish. Professional companies should always work to present a consistent and clear brand.

Small businesses should consider if their brand image and message could be used across the world in multiple markets. Many businesses, for example, only consider their local community when considering a brand. This attitude is a fatal flaw that impacts the power of the brand and brand message. Even small brands can act big and often deliver better than big brands and should have a big brand feel.


4. Mistake: Retract messaging from the market

The best brands learn the art of promoting their message in the marketplace. . Big brands spend big dollars on marketing. Small brands should be consistent and persistent with their message in the marketplace. When people see a brand over and over again, they are likely to create attraction to their company and their product.

Companies should not move away from their message in the market at any time, but especially in downtimes. Companies must continue to talk with their customer base and potential customers through speaking in messages that resonate with what the customer is experiencing and relating to the customer at all times.


5. Mistake: Focus on the logo in lieu of comprehensive brand assets

Branding and company positioning is more extensive than just a logo. Many small companies believe that they have created a brand when they have selected a logo for their company. Brands are bigger than a logo. A brand is consistent with a logo, a brand message, an understanding of the customer, a purpose statement, an engaging product, a brand promise and so much more. Many small companies give little attention to all of the brand assets that help a company to stand out from its competition.

Walking through a customer journey map, or understanding how customers will interact with the company is vital for companies to consider as they develop both the breadth and depth of the brand. Each interaction that a customer has with a brand is an important and defining moment for the customer. A better brand can be built when a company considers all the ways that a potential customer interacts with the brand.


Final Branding Thoughts

It is never too late to refresh or reposition your brand. One of the best tasks that a company can commit to is to think through and improve its brand. A better branding effort is one of the best efforts a company can undertake to create more value and to enhance its sales and marketing efforts to establish a relationship with better customers.


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