Why does your brand matter?
When you think of your favorite brands, you might think of iconic logos, beloved products, or memorable Super Bowl commercials. These are all relevant elements of a brand, but they are just pieces of a much bigger branding puzzle.
Effective branding adds a protective moat around a company and its products or services. The right brand strategy helps to raise brand awareness and brand recognition. Ultimately, strong brands drive sales by building long term equity and relationships with consumers.
There are limitless ways to define and express a brand identity. Still, there are key functions that every brand provides for a company. Following branding best practices (and avoiding common branding mistakes) ensures your brand is the right fit for your product, company, and customers.
Here are the best practices and pitfalls to avoid while you’re developing your branding strategy.
Branding pitfalls to avoid
Don’t copy your favorite brand
Certain brands are widely recognizable and beloved in certain industries. It makes sense why leaders want to emulate them. Countless leaders want their brand to “think different like Apple”, but Apple’s massive success as a brand wasn’t built through comparison.
There’s nothing wrong with learning from successful brands that have captivated consumers’ imaginations, but you have to make your brand stand out. Whether you’re an established company or just starting out, your brand should be unique to you. Consumers want to know what makes your brand special, important, and valuable.
Don’t focus on features over value
Brands are more than a list of concrete facts about your product like price and specifications. Any computer company, for example, could describe how its machines are faster and deliver more storage than the competition. However, only focusing on product features pushes you into a race on price with your competition. This limits your opportunities to build meaningful connections with customers and build your brand reputation in others ways.
Don’t be inconsistent
Do serious visuals conflict with the playful, conversational tone of your social posts? Does your service team fail to deliver on your brand promise for customer care? Does your website have a totally different look and feel than your emails? Any inconsistencies in your brand expressions makes customers lose trust in your brand, which hurts performance.
Don’t refuse to change your brand
Most companies undergo a rebrand every three years. You want to show consumers that your brand evolves to meet shifting styles and perspectives of the moment. Of course, you can and should keep some elements of your heritage consistent. Consider how Coca-Cola largely retains the font from their original packaging while updating other elements of their brand to stay relevant.
Don’t think your brand is just your logo design
Your logo is critical to your brand, but it’s not the only thing you need to consider. Your brand is more than just a logo, it’s a complex ecosystem of elements, people, and processes. Your brand identity must be expressed in all aspects of your business.
Branding best practices
Know your target audience
Learn everything you can about your target customers, including age, demographics, lifestyle, budgets, perspectives, and more. Consider how a brand focusing primarily on busy moms might differ in its approach to reaching Gen Z consumers.
Communicate your brand’s mission statement
Great brands convey far more than concrete benefits. Simon Sinek explains this in his famous TED Talk “Start with why: how great leaders inspire action”. Successful companies like Apple focus on the “why” or the meaningful mission behind their brand as much. Making sure your brand reflects a bigger purpose helps customers feel connected to your brand, leading to greater brand loyalty and faster growth.
Convey your brand’s emotional benefits
Communicating concrete physical benefits is key to converting busy consumers, but don’t forget to convey the emotional benefits as well. For example, you might have the lowest prices, but what do your low prices mean for consumers? Show your customers what saving money on your products means for them. Will it gain them peace of mind, more time with their family, or more freedom to pursue their interests?
Define your brand’s personality
Psychiatrist Carl Jung famously applied the principle of archetypes — recurring characters throughout mythology and literature — to psychology. Many marketers have applied this concept to companies and brands.
Personify your brand. What would it be like to interact with your brand as a person, and what would they care most about in the world? You can then express this personality in your brand’s tone of voice and style guide.
Harmonize visuals and written content
You need to consistently express your brand across content and visuals. The best way to do this is by developing comprehensive brand guidelines.
Your brand has a lot of moving pieces; logos, color palette, brand voice, brand messages, and more. Brand guidelines act as a single source of truth for all the components of your brand. Brand guidelines help your staff and vendors understand how to convey your brand’s style and speak your brand language on every project.
Express your brand across channels and formats
You have countless opportunities to showcase your brand. Packaging. Social media. Customer service greetings. HR interactions with new hires. Your website. Your store. The list goes on.
There are endless touch points where your brand comes in contact with consumers. Wherever and whenever your company interacts with customers, you have an opportunity to make a good impression. Make sure your brand guidelines are tailored to all the channels and formats you plan on using.
More than ever, being an authentic brand will attract customers, particularly younger consumers. That means being honest and transparent.
Speak directly to customers and avoid corporate jargon, own up to any mistakes, and, above all, speak to your purpose as a brand.
Customers want to support brands that make a difference in the world. They want to contribute to that impact by belonging to your brand community.
Branding is both a science and an art. The best brands are multi-faceted and ever-evolving. Following these best practices while avoiding branding pitfalls builds the solid foundation your brand needs to grow and succeed.