With the rise of influencer marketing, hyper-curated Instagram feeds, and online advertising opportunities, startups are more interested in branding than ever.
And for good reason: your company’s branding has the power to make, or break, your first impression with potential customers.
In my work as a brand strategist, I’ve noticed a few branding mistakes that entrepreneurs routinely make. By addressing these common missteps, you can sharpen up your brand and connect more strongly with your target market.
Here are three common branding mistakes and how to avoid making them:
Mistake #1: Operating without a brand strategy
Think of a brand strategy as a road map: a long-term plan that guides your visuals, social media, content marketing, advertising, and product packaging.
Many startups don’t have an overarching brand strategy, especially at first. The early stages of starting a business involve thinking fast and moving quickly, and later you may turn around and realize that your content, logo, and colors don’t reflect your company in the cohesive way that you’d like.
If you don’t have a well-developed brand strategy, today is a great day to start creating one!
Solution: What feelings do you want customers to associate with your brand? These are your brand attributes (examples include colorful, professional, energetic, subdued, dramatic, feminine, confident…).
Your brand attributes are the backbone of your brand strategy and will influence your future branding actions, so it’s important to take this step seriously if you want to grow your brand.
Decide on three to five brand attributes for your company, and write down the colors, shapes, and images that come to mind when you think of these attributes.
Mistake #2: Being inconsistent
Once you’re clear on your brand attributes, make sure all your written and visual content reflects these brand attributes going forward.
Think of iconic brands like Apple. Every image, sentence, product, and advertisement coming from Apple feels innovative, sleek, and creative. This is no accident. You will never see Apple share something that feels corporate, stodgy, and boring because those words are nowhere to be found in their brand strategy.
Keep this mantra in mind: Your brand is not for you. Your brand is for your target market. It doesn’t matter whether you personally prefer a certain font, stock photo, color scheme, or blog topic. The only thing that matters is whether those elements are attractive to your target customers.
Solution: Once you have a brand strategy in place, resist the urge to deviate from it.
Break your habit of “posting just to post” on social media, and take the time to create content and visuals that reflect your brand attributes and resonate with your target. Your reward of increased trust and brand awareness will pay off in the long run!
Mistake #3: Ignoring the importance of your website
Even if you have thriving social media accounts or a bustling brick-and-mortar location, your website is a crucial part of your brand. Think of your website as a living breathing platform that provides customers with a first impression of your company.
You can keep your website fresh by updating it frequently with valuable new blogs and videos. Double-check that the colors, font, imagery, and tone of your website all reflect the brand attributes that you chose for your company.
From the technical side, you can spruce up your website by testing its load speed and making sure the formatting looks attractive on mobile devices. You may want to take some time to learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). If your website is hosted on WordPress, the Yoast plugin is a great tool to help optimize your site for SEO.
Solution: Pretend you’re seeing your website for the first time, and review it from the perspective of a potential customer. Does the flow of pages make sense to them? Are their questions answered? Does the tone of your content resonate with readers? Do they know what to do next?
Branding includes many additional components – from content marketing, to email marketing, to color psychology, to logo design, to defining your target. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of branding advice, which is why many entrepreneurs throw up their hands in frustration and avoid thinking about branding entirely.
Developing and refining your brand will be a long-term project, and you don’t have to do everything at once. If you can take branding one step at a time and follow the tips outlined above, you will be well on your way to a memorable, eye-catching, and consistent brand.