HOW TO NOT SUCK 101:
6 COMMON BRANDING MISTAKES TO AVOID
Maybe you know how vital branding is to building a successful business. Maybe you don’t and instead believe that success is found by rubbing a unicorn in just the right way. Well, given a choice between writing an article on avoiding common branding mistakes or writing one on unicorn fondling, I’m afraid I’ll have to choose the former. After all, this is a family blog. We try to keep this shit clean, here.
Existing here in this industry, it’s not uncommon to see misbegotten attempts at branding cross our screens. The problem with bad branding is that it’s lousiness may not really show up until the brand is marketed. At that point, one may be more inclined to blame the marketing channel than the brand itself: “Maybe instead of buying those TV spots I should have just bought a blimp and put my brand on the side!”
Look, branding is one of those things that seems simple until you actually start putting thought into how to do it properly. Just like cooking. So put your apron on and let’s talk about what you should NOT do when you do what we do when we do branding. Got it?
THING #1: DON’T NOT KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This is a painfully common branding mistake in both brand development and marketing. And it’s easy to understand why.
Greed. Yep. Pure, naked greed is to blame.
You see, when you ask someone who the audience is for their brand, they start thinking. “Well, the people who are most likely to buy our sex toys are senior citizens, but what if EVERYONE bought one? If we could sell one of these sex toys to EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE PLANET then I could retire and buy my own island in the South Pacific!”
But this is not what we call “realistic” thinking. Not only are you going to fail to sell a sex toy to everyone, but you’re going to miss out on your most reachable market by trying to keep it totally wide open.
Here’s a little exercise to underscore this point:
Imagine you are writing a letter to someone, and you ABSOLUTELY MUST sell them a sex toy. Chances are, you’ll try to talk about the features and benefits of your sex toys, and how they will improve that person’s life and make the experience of being alive, at long last, complete.
Now imagine you have to write that same letter to a minister. Now think of writing it to your aunt or nephew. How about writing it to a marine corps drill sergeant? You see, each time you change your audience, those features and benefits change. So does your tone.
Don’t look like a pervert. Know your audience. Period. Now get on to the next thing.
THING #2: DON’T IGNORE COMPETITORS
Sure, your business is all about the customer. Customers are your focus. Your life. Your everything. Your customer service is so extensive that you offer to gently pat the sweat from their brows with a soft, fluffy towel as they consider their decision to purchase your sex toys. And they get it, so it doesn’t feel creepy at all.
But your customers aren’t just yours. They are also your competitors’. And they are naturally fickle. So, while you’re wringing out sweat towels, they are thinking about how much cheaper the sex toys are across the street.
Or maybe they aren’t cheaper, but better quality. Or maybe they aren’t even better quality, but the brand makes it seem like they are indestructible, which is exactly what they need in a sex toy.
You see, being weirdly obsessed with your customers doesn’t actually address their needs as much as it does yours. Sure, customers love good service (who doesn’t?), but that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY thing they want from a sex toy.
In building your brand, you need to look at your competitors and then be better than them. Better imaging, better messaging, better everything. This is the real way that customers know you care about them. By applying your brand to their needs.
THING #3: DON’T EVEN THINK THAT THE NAME ISN’T IMPORTANT
This goes hand in hand with Thing 2 above. It’s easy to believe that your business will prevail among competitors simply upon the strength of its products or services alone. But that kind of thinking is woefully misguided.
It’s akin to believing that the most famous people in the world are also the most talented, that the best team always wins, or that a rabid coyote will be subdued by your charm and good looks.
This is not a cartoon show. Get real.
Your brand name needs to speak to your brand in a meaningful way.
It can be impeccably designed. It can come coupled with powerful imagery or brilliant marketing copy (like mine!). But at the end of the day, if your brand’s name is “Mr. Wiggles” and you’re selling power tools, you’re gonna have a hard time.
On the other hand, “Mr. Wiggles” is actually a pretty good name for those sex toys you keep trying to peddle.
Get a name that matches your product or service and that speaks intelligently to your audience.
THING #4: DON’T STOP THINKING ABOUT TOMORROW
Now that I’ve got you singing a classic Fleetwood Mac song in your mind (you can admit it – I won’t tell), let’s address this annoyingly common branding mistake.
The point is that your brand is going to grow (assuming you follow all of the astute advice provide for you here). It’s gonna evolve and expand and blossom to one day be the brand it was always destined to become. Unless you don’t let it, that is.
The mistake is in trying to build a brand that only suits your business as it is now. Maybe it’s a startup, maybe it’s a rebrand of a more established brand, but you’ve gotta give it room to grow.
For example, if you aspire to expand into national or global markets with your brand, you don’t want to limit your brand’s potential with a name, image, or messaging that makes it look small and unworthy.
So while “Mavis’ Practical Sex Toys of Boca Raton” may be a very successful brand on a local level, it’s going to have difficulty convincing audiences that it’s not a tiny little shop run by someone’s surprisingly progressive grandma. Meanwhile, something like SEX MART sounds like it is larger and more nationwide in scale, even if it’s just a tiny little shop run by someone’s surprisingly progressive grandma.
It has room to get there, eventually. You can bet your Fleetwood Mac on it.
THING #5: DON’T GO CHANGING
Now that we’ve moved from Fleetwood Mac to Billy Joel, we can finally talk about consistency. I’ll pause while you perform an obligatory “sigh of relief.”
Feel better now?
That’s actually the point, but it shouldn’t be. Allow me to explain. It’s not uncommon for owners to change their branding, be it visually (logo and imaging) or through messaging as time goes by because they get bored with the same old, same old. But how YOU’RE feeling shouldn’t be used to gauge the brand’s effectiveness. You are not your audience.
Yes, there will come a time when your brand appears old and stale like a potato chip that fell under your desk last Christmas. At that time, modifying it a little may help freshen it up and revitalize your customer’s interest in it. But it may take years and years to get to that point. Don’t be impatient.
Remember that you spend a lot more time looking at and thinking about your brand than your customers do. So, their boredom threshold is a lot higher than yours. And if you go tweaking and changing your brand over and over again, you will irrevocably damage your brand’s equity. Brand equity is a fancy word for “recognition in the market.”
Which should make sense. After all, if you put on a disguise every time you went out, how would anyone ever recognize you? That’s assuming it’s a good disguise, and not just a moustache you drew on your lip with a Sharpie.
Consistency is vital to building brand awareness. Which is why this paragraph now contains an obligatory reference to sex toys.
THING #6: DON’T LOSE FOCUS
The strongest brands are tightly focused. They offer a clear brand promise and deliver upon it over and over again.
Their strength comes from their audience, who can easily identify them and knows exactly what to expect from them.
This is vital for building a memorable brand and avoiding all of the pitfalls mentioned in the above things. Not so much for writing blog articles.
Steve Jobs said it plainly: “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.”
So, even if you don’t want to listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to a dead self-made millionaire.
Of course, if you REALLY want to build an awesome brand that shoots across the sky like a meteor made of diamonds, you should call in the branding pros at DAMN GOOD. That’s always sound advice.