How to Avoid Bad Branding Mistakes That Can Ruin Reputation

Last updated: 03-01-2020

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How to Avoid Bad Branding Mistakes That Can Ruin Reputation

Ah, branding… The one thing that is valued above all else, but that is given a little less attention. It’s probably because branding stems from a state of mind and is not so much a tactic or a tool that one can just use, set and forget – like Moosend’s pretty and freesubjectlinetester called Refine.

Branding is the practice of creating and re-creating, re-inventing, and re-imagining a brand in a way that will make it not only rise above the competitors but also remain relevant. In the end, the goal is to become timeless, like Levi’s jeans or McDonald’s golden arches.

But how did a brand like Levi’s manage to stand the test of time and reinvent its product constantly, even though there have been hundreds of brands with similar products around?

Well, it probably (probably!) avoided some very basic but very important branding blunders that could’ve cost it its reputation and overall well-being as a brand. Let’s look at some of the issues that can affect a brand’s reputation.

Without branding, there are no brand impressions. Without brand impressions, there is no brand. And without a brand, don’t even bother with a product.

The “build it and they will come” logic isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and very few industries can survive and thrive based solely on that kind of thinking. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Branding is one of the things that can create and change the way people think of and interact with your brand, and it is one of the things that can either make or break you.

The first thing to know when it comes to that is that branding is what will get your brand’s name out there, no matter what you’re selling. There are the logos, the colors, the brand tone – all of these are branding practices.

Let’s take, for example, one of the most characteristic cases of typography: Coca-Cola’s. This one’s got a name – Spencerian script – and it’s the type of cursive letters that were hip and trendy by the end of the nineteenth century.

But all of us know and refer to that type of typography as “Coca-Cola letters”, so much so that nobody else would even dare to use those letters, especially a competitor.

So, with that kind of branding and such a strong and recognizable logo, what kind of things do you think will happen?

Okay, so Coca-Cola made it, Levi’s made it; proper branding, in the end, made it.

Good branding is your most important lead generation tool, so to speak. It’s the way people will understand you and interact with your brand, and it establishes the ways that a prospect will interact with everything from interactive quizzes to the way they’ll perceive your ads.

Branding is what will set the tone for ads. Without it, you’re doomed, as you won’t really know what to do when it comes to your communication pillars and how to present yourself and your brand out there.

Proper branding will set the tone for you in the end, as it will portray the brand exactly as you want it. 

For instance, TikTok is marketed as an app for Gen-Zers. Its minimal approach, easy interface, and, above all, neon-ish logo make that super clear.

What is more, if a brand has the look and feel of something serious – i.e. a law firm – it won’t include TikTok in its advertising scheme and will go for something more like-minded, such as Facebook ads.

Therefore, branding plays a very important part when it comes to the channels to be used and the way the company itself will be presented to the media.

Proper branding can help you with all of the above, as it can turn prospects to brand ambassadors in exactly zero seconds.

Referrals are tricky business if you just shoot and pray, especially if your brand isn’t properly, well, branded. For example, you can’t create referral programs if your brand’s tone isn’t clear and your prospects aren’t at least familiar with your logo.

How are you going to be memorable enough to be referred to a wider audience, if you’re one of the many fast-food brands that have a burger on their logo? How are prospects going to remember you’re not McDonald’s or Burger King?

In other words, how are you going to make sure your reputation is established, to the point that one-timers and repeaters alike will go back home and mention your product?

Branding can do another couple of things, as well, and can help turn blunders into pure, unadulterated brand success!

More prospects means more customers. More customers means more reach and more reach means more value to a business.

When your brand is out there and recognizable, you can be more than sure that your brand will be one that competitors take notice of.

Not to mention how happy your staff will be since proper branding increases staff pride and satisfaction. A high-quality brand is a brand that urges staff to work better, deliver better, and be more satisfied when it comes to the results. 

Just look at Google’s offices:

They’re branded and for a good reason, as Google means business, but in a fun, creative way. 

Branding is what will set the tone and create what you need to be created before your actual product hits the road. So, let’s see what can make your message self-destruct faster than those messages Inspector Gadget used to receive.

So, let’s say that you see an email subject line that says “Apple’s Most Amazing Achievement”. You’ll open it because you’ll think about the colossal technology brand we all know and love…

And you’ll read something about how nutritious apples are because, at some point, you signed up to the mailing list of a blog that had something to do with nutrition and whatnot. So, yeah, not exactly what you were looking for, is it?

This is what not giving the right info right off the bat does for your brand. It leaves people with frowns, and frowning people shouldn’t be your kind of people.

Your brand should be easily recognizable throughout your marketing attempts, and that includes email marketing and social media marketing as well.

I can think of at least a couple of brands, both in the beauty industry, that I can recognize by the wording of their email subject line alone. You know why?

Because I’ve browsed through their social media pages a little more than a thousand times and I’ve also been on their website once or twice or, eh, I don’t keep count much. 

The point is that their branding is so specific and their tone is so characteristic that I can tell which one’s which just by a subject line. Strive for that kind of brand voice and consistency.

Your brand needs a clear, consistent message, and only branding can help you get it:

Is your website blue but your label white? Well, that’s inconsistent. And you don’t need that, do you?

We’re not here to call anyone a liar, but we all know that us marketers are sometimes overambitious little creatures that just don’t know how to stop. Or when.

Not all of the time, of course. But when you’re overly ambitious, sometimes you just over-market your brand. And when you over-market your brand, you know that you’re bound to tell a lie or two.

Which is logical and acceptable, but that shouldn’t be the norm here, see? 

You need to make sure that you’re not making empty promises. If your brand promises to make someone thinner, for example, it should make them lose a pound or two.

The point here is that if you’re about to brand your product as something that can get you something out of nothing, then make sure that you deliver.

For example, if you’re branded and marketed as a company with a 24-hour live chat customer service, you’ll need to make sure that this itty bitty live chat box is right there where they can see it.

So, one of the worst branding mistakes you can do is disappoint your prospects, plain and simple. It’s not that you’ll lose just them, but a negative reputation because of a failure to deliver means you’ll lose extra prospects as well.

Remember that even in 2020, word of mouth is the most powerful weapon, and it can cut both ways.

If your brand is one that has to do with cat food, it’s not too wise to partner up with a brand that sells, say, computers.

You’ll need to make sure to connect your brand to things it can be connected to in real life. Cat food brands can easily be connected to brands that create toys or clothes for pets.

If you need an even more unlikely (on first thought) pairing, think of the things your brand could collaborate with. For example, a barber shop could easily be branded as a lifestyle choice.

Smart choices when it comes to clothing is a lifestyle choice. And so is fine dining.

If you’d like to brand your modern barber shop, you could create an event collaboration with a clothing brand and a restaurant that delivers fine dining experiences.

Why would you need branding if you don’t want to adopt a tone of voice your audience will be happy with?

It’s like telling someone a piece of information: You can say the same thing a billion different ways. But the listener will comprehend very few of them and will want to actually listen to even fewer.

Your brand’s tone is the same thing and not listening to your target audience means that you’re not likely to have a great ARR at the end of the day.

Bad branding means not adapting your tone and listening to your target audience, amongst other things. So, when you use a tool to help identify your target audience, make sure you listen to them.

My Boomer mother is not convinced by personalized ads so easily. But personalized Pinterest suggestions that show authority? Well, sign her up, cause she won’t do it herself (she’s not sure how). But she’ll be your loyal Pinterest follower forever.

If you’re trying to market your brand to me though, a Millennial with a mild soft spot for all things personalized (no, not mild, I lied), then your brand’s tone should pinpoint how your product can make me better.

This is why Millenials pay so much attention to user-generated content. They want to see a sort of testimonial on how XYZ brand made their audience better.

But let’s say that you got me. Your branding was made according to the tone of voice I love to use. And then, I went and tried to contact your customer service because something happened with an order I made and ran into problems.

It happened to me recently. I won’t point fingers or name names, but it did. And let me tell you, I got way too angry.

Branding is creating an image and following through with a great delivery. When the image created has absolutely nothing to do with the way you acquire and retain your customers, then you’re doomed.

Be friendly, be approachable, and please oh please, lose the “Oh, I’m so sorry – I won’t do anything about it though” attitude that many brands seem to have.

Engage with your prospects, be friendly, and provide solutions that are actionable. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bunch of prospects talking a little too bad about you on the internet.

Branding is perhaps the most important thing to do before you use some actual, real-deal metrics and tools.

So, pretty please, nail the basics before you do anything else. Establish a consistent look, tone, and feel for your brand, and make sure that your website interface delivers on what’s promised and can be a prospect’s happy place.


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