10 branding mistakes that your business needs to avoid
So, you've seen the signs that it’s probably time for a rebrand. You're fed up with what you've got. It doesn't reflect where you and your business are now. And you know to make the right first impression, you need a brand that communicates your values consistently.
But stop. Before you dive in headfirst into the process, here are the 10 most common branding mistakes businesses make when they decide to rebrand:
- Not doing enough research.
- Doing it because you feel like it.
- Not knowing who your brand is.
- Being too tentative.
- Being too radical.
- Not trusting the designer's advice.
- Reacting to branding trends.
- Rebranding to fit-in.
- Only changing your logo.
- Too many cooks.
As you can see, there are plenty of rebranding mistakes and pitfalls to avoid. Of course, some are smaller hiccups than others, but fortunately for you, the advice below should make light work of them all.
Branding mistakes #1: not doing enough research
I heard that groan, but seriously hear me out.
It stands to reason that the more effort you put in initially, the easier you'll make it for yourself in the end. And when it comes to rebranding your business, research is the first step that usually takes the most effort. And plugging in a few Google searches and mooching around your competitors' websites doesn't count.
The problem with only doing this level of research is you won't know what you don't know, and your perspective is narrow at best. This is because you're viewing everything in isolation, which is not how prospects see the market. Instead, they compare companies side-by-side and make their judgement based on what they see – so you need to do the same.
HubSpot has some free competitor analysis templates that will help you delve into the detail of your competitors' products, sales, and marketing strategies. From this, you can see exactly where the opportunities are and how your rebrand can outperform them.
Although, you'll be surprised by how helpful a simple slide deck with the logos and homepages of your competitors' can be. It's usually quite revealing, and you'll often see patterns that need to be dodged.
Branding mistakes #2: doing a rebrand because you feel like it
If you've been in business for over 20 years and you haven't rebranded since you were founded, then fair enough, it probably is just time for a refresh. Just as long as you're not rebranding because you're bored of it.
As GAP proved, 'feeling like it' is not only a valid reason but one of the biggest branding blunders you can make. Specifically, because people don't trust brands with an identity crisis. They need to be sure about who they're spending their money with. The general rule is that if it starts off whimsical, it'll finish like a car crash.
To make sure your rebrand doesn't end up in a ball of flames, here are some valid reasons for having one:
- You now realise you look like everybody else in your industry.
- You’re trying to attract a new or bigger audience.
- Your brand has expanded into new markets and territories.
- Your branding doesn’t reflect you or your values.
- You need to reposition your brand and move away from negative connotations.
- You’ve merged with another company.
Have one or more of the above? Then you're probably ready to move into the next phase in your rebranding journey – understanding who you are.
Branding mistakes #3: not knowing who your brand is
I know you think you know your brand, but do you really know it?
Can you identify your purpose, vision, mission, and values? Sounds like pure fluff, but it's fundamental to your business's core identity. And you can spot a company that hasn't had that clarity a mile off.
First, you need to understand what makes up your brand's DNA. These are the minerals that are woven into your business and that make it unique. Elements that are already there exist, but because they haven't been defined, you can't use them to your advantage. Defining these has the power to multiply your marketing's effectiveness and influence every part of your business. From the products you sell to the service you give, your look and feel, to the way you talk to customers. Being clear about WHO you are and WHY you exist makes showing people WHAT you do and HOW you do it all the more compelling.
This is particularly relevant for businesses in engineering and manufacturing, as the logical differences between products and services are pretty minimal. Therefore it's your brand that people buy into as much as what you have to sell.
You can of course attempt to do this work yourself. HubSpot, again, has some resources you can have a stab at. But – in our experience – it’s often best to seek fresh eyes from some professionals.
This is because you're often too close to see past what already exists. This makes thinking objectively hard and getting caught up in the weeds inevitable. At least with someone impartial, they can give you an honest assessment with tangible steps forward. You could ask one of our team about our Brand DNA workshops if you like.
Branding mistakes #4: being too tentative
Being too tentative may sound slightly cavalier coming from a marketing agency. But, on the other hand, you may even think that's precisely why you need to be conservative – as we creative types will run riot if you don't put your foot down.
Yet whilst I can't vouch for every creative, design, or marketing company out there, , I will say that your agency 'going crazy' is highly unlikely. At the end of the day, we're judged on better marketing (eyeballs and leads). For that reason, we're very aware of not alienating an existing customer base but also know you're spending good money – so you need to be impressed.
This is the line we tread and why being overly cautious can be very detrimental. First, it could mean people not noticing at all, and all that effort feels like a waste of time and money. Or worse, you risk not achieving the level of growth you'd hoped for because you've ended up looking like everyone else – more on that in a minute.
Branding mistakes #5: being too radical
Now, after the last mistake, you're probably thinking, "What? He just said to not be too cautious."
Yes, and I stand by not being too cautious, but one of the worst branding mistakes anyone can make is to throw caution to the wind. Creating something so far removed from where you are now you're unrecognisable is the cardinal of branding sins – especially since most corporate engineering and manufacturing companies have been around for decades. If yours has, your brand needs to be treated with a certain level of respect and responsibility. Our job is to make sure any brand recognition, equity, or heritage you've built is not only protected but elevated in the proposed design.
This could be anything – a colour, an icon, or a font – but if you're known for it, and it's something people automatically associate to you, your businesses, your products, then you need to keep it. It is a part of what people will expect.
Losing what you’re known for could damage your credibility. In essence, it says you lack professionalism and aren't interested in lasting relationships. So make sure when briefing your designer or agency, you clearly communicate the importance of whatever people know of you.
Branding mistakes #6: not trusting the designers advice
It doesn't matter what you do for a living, when someone who doesn't do your job tells you how to do it better, no one wins.
In the case of a rebrand, your designer's enthusiasm for your project will quickly evaporate if they feel their opinions aren't being heard. Feeling micromanaged will only ever lead to one outcome: a dog's dinner.
The lesson here is that just because you can doesn't mean you should and that less is always more. When your branding focuses on functionality and simplicity, you'll have something that never goes out of style.
Branding mistakes #7: reacting to branding trends
Out of all the rebranding mistakes, this is possibly the trickiest as it can be the hardest to spot. It's the equivalent of fast fashion – you wear your branding once or twice, but then you're tired of it really quickly.
For your business, this could be highly damaging. You won't scream 'reliable' if you're chopping and changing your branding every two or three years. Regardless of what industry you are in, customers want consistency and continuity. So the aim should be to rebrand as little as possible. A good rebrand should see you through to at least 10-15 years.
But how do you know you're not succumbing to a design trend? The quick answer is don't cheap out.
Any online retailer like Canva, Wix, and Looka might seem like a good idea. You can buy themes, and logos are thrown in with websites, but they're like branding junk food – full of empty calories and leaving you with hollow designs that don't mean anything to your business.
This lack of attention to detail is never a good look for any business. At FINALLY, brand creation and guidelines start from £9,450, and you'll get a lot more than just a logo.
Branding mistakes #8: rebranding to fit-in
This isn't school, this is business, and the business goal should never be to blend in, not make waves and stay quiet. Being a sheep needs to be avoided at all costs. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean you should.
The truth is quite the opposite, in fact. It's about standing out and getting people talking about you. It's about delivering distinctiveness, as most brands abide by category conventions. Break those conventions, and you become distinctive.
That doesn't mean behaving differently for the sake of it. Shouting can be as (if not more) off-putting. The whole point about the research at the beginning is to show you how and why things need to be different. That said, even the most plugged-in industry in the world sometimes misses the memo:
The point is, it can happen to the best of us, be sure that before signing off and you compare how your new brand stacks up.
Branding mistakes #9: only changing your logo
A brand is never just a logo. Your brand is what you think and what customers feel. Your logo is one part of what makes up your brand, and if your brand was a person, it would be your 'face'.
And much like the “it's so bad it's good”90's action thriller Face/Off, you won't get away with only changing your face. Turns out there's much more to it than that – bone structure for one – but you get my point.
If a brand was a person, they'd have a look, a style, a manner, a demeanour, a pitch, a tone, a personality. A brand should be your best salesperson – smart, intelligent, empathetic, sincere, knowledgeable – building trust every time they come in contact with you.
But suppose all you change is your logo? In that case, you won't communicate any of that because you'll be so inconsistent from your website to your signage, your brochure, to your social media profile icon. If they're all slightly different, you'll look and feel unprofessional.
This is why you'll hear agencies bang on about consistency. Because whilst you judge yourself on what you can deliver, prospects will judge you on what they see in front of them, right there and then, in the moment. And if you don't cut the mustard, they'll bugger off sharpish.
Branding mistakes #10: too many cooks
And here we are, at the end of this marathon of mistakes, and what better way to finish than to speak of the most irritating mistakes – simply because it's the easiest one to sidestep.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
A proverb that's been doing the rounds for many a century, and for a good reason. Design by committee is by far the most costly, both in terms of time and money. Hence, sending shivers down the spine as version 27 looks remarkably like version 1.
The answer? Only allow a maximum of three stakeholders and nominate one person as the final decision-maker. Any more, and the process will instantly be longer and less efficient. People's schedules get filled, meetings are missed, people go on holiday, stuff happens. Feedback comes in from all angles, and your project spirals out of control and into the pit of misery.
A little like this:
In summary: the top 10 rebranding mistakes and how to avoid them
There you have it, the top 10 mistakes businesses make when rebranding and how best to avoid them. It can be a delicate line to tow, and you'll need some discipline to ensure bad habits aren't slipped into.
However, one mistake that hasn't been mentioned that probably deserves a list of its own is choosing the right agency. Oh, wait, here it is: FINALLY’s 6 essential steps to avoid choosing the wrong agency.
Once you're done reading that, why not get in touch with one of the team? Any questions we haven't answered, we'd be more than happy to.