14 Crucial Branding Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re a start-up or small business, you might be caught up with customer acquisition, sales, overhead costs, and other technicalities. As a result, you may end up putting...

Iss Bautista
Iss Bautista September 24, 2021

If you’re a start-up or small business, you might be caught up with customer acquisition, sales, overhead costs, and other technicalities. As a result, you may end up putting your branding initiatives on the back burner.

Without a proper branding strategy, you could risk selling and marketing products without a clear vision of who you are. In turn, this could compromise how you connect with customers.

Any business, whether big or small, isn’t exempt from establishing a clear and consistent brand identity. It helps to think of your identity as your DNA: it’s found in every single element of your business and reflects the unique face of your brand. 

Clutch reports that brands with strong reputations have 31% higher shareholder return. In fact, these organizations have a more engaged workforce that can help brands grow up to three times faster than competitors.

That’s just how important branding is. 

So if you’re just starting out, here are crucial branding mistakes you should avoid:

1. Starting Without a Well-Defined Brand Strategy

Having a clear, well-established brand identity isn’t just limited to knowing your brand values or vision. It also entails taking a deep dive into your niche. That means you’ll need to get a full understanding of your brand and the entire competitive landscape.

Here are a few action items to get you started:

So before you start worrying about branding aesthetics, make sure you develop a brand strategy first. Without a firm grasp of your business objectives, even a beautifully designed logo won’t work if your brand lacks substance. 

Brand strategy encourages you to look at the bigger picture and ensure consistency between your vision and customer experience. It’ll provide insights on how you can win over your customers.

2. Targeting the Wrong Audience

If you think “anyone” can be your audience, you’ve got it all wrong.

Focusing on the wrong audience — or targeting anyone and everyone — can translate to zero sales and engagement. After all, if you’re targeting just anyone, you probably just have a generic brand message.

So target the right audience and avoid this from happening. Consider asking yourself these questions when defining your target market:

In today’s digital world, the best way to reach your customers is by getting up close and personal. You’ll need to establish trust and communicate with empathy so that your customers will recognize the value in what you’re offering. 

3. Not Having a Unique Selling Proposition

What sets your brand apart from the rest?

Make sure that your unique selling proposition (USP) is front and center in your campaigns. It can be hard to develop trust and loyalty if you’re offering the same thing as everyone else. 

Realign and recalibrate your messaging on online and offline platforms. Whether it’s your About us page or LinkedIn account, your branding should stay consistent and showcase your USP. Ditch the jargon or generic speak. Use power words that will inspire confidence and action.  

4. Not Having Brand Guidelines

A 2019 report from Lucidpress, a web-based desktop publishing software app, shares that inconsistent branding sets off potential customers. According to the study, 24.5% of respondents share that inconsistent branding could lead to market confusion — and it could undermine a brand’s overall trustworthiness. 

When developing your brand guidelines, consider the following:

Setting well-established brand guidelines makes it easier for you to organize your content on your website, social media pages, and more. Create an internal branding style guide to ensure cohesive, consistent messaging across all channels.

5. Underestimating Logo Significance

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to a logo, it’s worth an entire novel. 

Your logo is the face of your company — it’s the first thing your customers see when they find you online. So make sure your logo conveys your brand personality and reflects everything that you stand for. 

If you think your logo is outdated, it’s time for a rebrand. Logos for companies like Apple and Pepsi have gone through major changes throughout the years, for example. 

But take heart: don’t change your branding too much that it ends up losing the character that your brand is recognized for. Consider Gap’s rebranding fail in 2010. The American clothing giant ended up trading its iconic logo for the brand name and a tiny blue box on top of the last letter.

Screenshot from The Branding Journal

Gap ended up scrapping the logo redesign after six days because it sparked outrage on Facebook and Twitter.  

Another example of a bad corporate rebrand is from IHOP in 2018 when it flipped the “p” in its logo to a “b.” The “name change” turned out to be a publicity stunt so the restaurant chain could draw attention to its burgers.

Lesson learned: tread carefully when considering a rebrand, and make sure your new look will connect with your target audience and retain your old branding’s appeal. 

6. Making Vague or Insincere Promises

Unclear or over-the-top copywriting is a common mistake many brands make. All too often, companies publish content that beats around the bush, sounds generic, or makes empty or insincere promises.

But if you want to reach your target audience, you’ll need to craft personalized content. And that’s only possible through effective content marketing

Consider this: even if catching audience attention is your goal, it doesn’t mean you should compromise authenticity and originality. So don’t use words like “innovative” or ”one-of-a-kind” if you know deep down that this isn’t true. 

7. Failing to Proofread Your Content

There’s a hidden cost by operating on autopilot at work. When you’ve become too familiar with your tasks, you could overlook errors in your content, like misspelled words or misreporting the facts. It always pays to proofread your work because the branding consequences could be costly. 

Proofreading is essential in writing so make sure your content team stays diligent to avoid copy disasters. Use spell checkers or editing software when performing your final round of edits. Moreover, be mindful of language and humor. After all, some jokes could end up misinterpreted or harming your brand image. 

8. Jumping the Shark

We live in a time of immediate gratification, and it can be tempting to jump on-board the self-serving bandwagon. But unlike fashion, music, and other pop culture trends, updating your branding to suit the sensitivities of the times may not always be the right call.

Consider the green movement. Many companies decided to go “green” to keep up with the eco-friendly trend. But in reality, these brands were simply piggy-backing on environmental issues. In fact, some even got cancelled for “greenwashing.” 

Screenshot from Windex

In 2020, Windex joined the green movement with it’s recyclable plastic bottles made of 100% ocean-bound plastic. The “ocean-bound plastic” claim suggests that the plastic was retrieved from the ocean even though it was collected from plastic banks in Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia. Moreover, Windex markets its products as non-toxic — a claim that was legally disrupted in court. In 2020, the brand faced a $1.3 million class action settlement because Windex products contain ingredients that can be harmful to living things and the environment.

If that branding failure from Windex teaches us anything, it’s that we should think twice before jumping the shark. Overwhelm your customers with value, not false promises.

9. Neglecting Customer Experience

Your logo designs and the success of your ad campaigns are important. But how your audience reacts to them is just as crucial. Ask yourself: how do your customers feel? Is your message resonating with them? 

Focusing on customer experience can save you from devastating branding mistakes that could escalate just because you weren’t able to address a customer query right away. After all, customer experience always matters.

For example, make it a point to respond to emails within 24 hours or install a chatbot feature on your website. You can also improve your customer experience through the following:

10. Ignoring Public Opinions

Have you stopped to consider what the public thinks about your brand? Take a step back and assess where you stand if you haven’t.

Keep in mind that today’s customers engage with brands to learn more, share their opinions, or complain about a product or service. Tuning out what your customers have to say is the last thing you should do. 

So make the conscious effort to get to know your customers better. Carefully study polls or feedback forms to get their pulse and find out how you can serve them better.

11. Neglecting Current Market Trends 

In today’s day and age, people are always on. In fact, today’s youth are shaping up to be the most informed generation in history. And as said by Donny Miller, “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” 

Because of this, you’d want to stay in the know. So make it a point to always stay abreast of business innovations, trends and news. 

Just make sure you don’t get overwhelmed with the barrage of info online. Here are a few simple steps you can follow:

12. Rehashing the Same Campaigns

Growing your online presence entails creating personalized campaigns that resonate with your target audience. But after you’ve conducted AB tests and determined what works best, you shouldn’t stop there and rehash the same campaigns moving forward. 

You’ll also need to come up with new ways to win your customers over and inject variety into the way you promote your brand. 

Let’s consider how Apple continues to stay fresh in its branding. Check out its Instagram feed: you’ll hardly notice any on-the-nose photos of iPhones or MacBooks.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by apple (@apple)

The brand doesn’t stop there: it also encourages customers to reach out to Apple support for any concerns.

So innovate and dare to be different. But make sure your message is consistent across all platforms.

13. Handling a Crisis Without a Plan

In 2013, grocery chain Tesco was flagged after getting into a horsemeat scandal. It happened after traces of horsemeat was found in two of its frozen beef burger products, causing damage to its brand rep.

To add fuel to the fire, Tesco published a poorly timed Tweet after the event which still hasn’t been taken down.

The Tweet rubbed people the wrong way, dismissing it as a distasteful joke that tried to make light of the situation. Tesco defended itself by saying that the Tweet was scheduled for posting before the horsemeat debacle happened. But the damage has already been done.

No business is safe from PR and branding mishaps. And what’s important is that you can bounce back from these mistakes and provide a timely, appropriate response. So own up to your mistakes and show empathy instead of compromising your credibility.

14. Losing Sight of Brand Identity as You Expand

If your business is growing, that’s a good thing. But as you expand, make sure you foster a healthy relationship with your audience. The best way to do that is by sticking to your brand identity that your loyal customers know and love.

But don’t resist change; embrace it. If you plan to make any changes to your branding, communicate and let your customers know. Always remember that quality and substance matter, and retain everything about your brand that made things work before.

Strengthen Your Brand Identity Today

Maintaining a positive, consistent, and effective brand isn’t a one day process because it involves consistency and dedication. If you’re aware of the things that could go wrong, then you’re one step closer to making sure your identity and messaging are on point. 

Need help creating a strong brand? Get in touch with a CMO at Growth Rocket today.

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