11 common mistakes brands make and how to avoid them

What brands mean for consumers is changing. Evaluating, reacting and positioning for the future are activities which are now imperative for brands to achieve long-term success.

Here are 11 common mistakes to avoid when establishing, leading or managing a brand into the future.

1) Trying to be the hero of the story

It’s easy for brands to only focus on and talk about the products and services they provide. There are plenty of business books which support this approach by advocating how to become a rockstar in your chosen field, or how to convert customers into raving fans.

You and your brand are not the rockstars. Each individual customer is the rockstar.

For brands of the future, the hero of the story will always be the customer. Shape the brand’s narrative around the benefits perceived by the customer. As a brand, become more adaptive and flexible around the needs and wants of the customer. Shape your brand into a raving fan of your rockstar customers.

2) Thinking brand is a logo

A common misconception is that brand is only identity, ie a logo. Logos are incredibly important, but are only a single visual representation of the brand. The logo is not the brand.

Focus on audiences’ overall experience with a brand, beyond the logo.

The brand and the experiences are a culmination of the feelings and responses elicited by the interactions and touch points people have with a brand, including the brand’s products, services, staff and communications, while factoring in the context and environment those interactions take place.

3) Being the same

Differentiation is hard, particularly in highly regulated environments. It’s common for brands to take a ‘me too’ approach.

Differentiate your brand on as many levels as possible. Invest in the personal brands of leaders. Create customer service experiences which make it easy and efficient to do business or solve issues. Mean more to your stakeholders.

4) Getting value proposition wrong

Value proposition is all about setting expectations.

Setting the wrong expectations to the wrong groups of people leads to misunderstanding. As a result, the brand is misrepresented, which leads to adverse reputation, less than ideal customer experiences, and ultimately, the brand’s bottom line.

Getting the value proposition right requires careful articulation of a brand’s strongest selling point and who the target stakeholders are.

5) Digital is seen as separate

Ecommerce will lose the ‘e’ as commerce becomes integrated online and off. A common word is ‘omnichannel’, but the point is more about holistic and uniform brand experiences.

For boards of brands which have under-invested or avoided digital, it will be important to recognise that it’s not just about investing in digital to keep up, it’s about seamless integration to retain customers and market share. Seamless integration will also be important in order to centralise data collected.

6) Always trying to close

Brands which follow the “Always Be Closing” mantra from Glegarry Glen Ross, written by David Mamet, are in constant sales mode with their content marketing.

Social media channels riddled with promotional messaging, discount offers or constant corporate announcements lose the interest of their audiences. Being “customer centric” means brands need to shift to become more fluid in engagement. Customers will increasingly set the terms for brands, demanding relevant content, more pragmatic solutions, and brutal simplicity.

7) Poor visual communication

Communicating visually is a great way to stand out because of how poorly it is done by many brands. Poor visual communication diminishes the credibility of a brand.

Whether it’s the imagery chosen to reflect the brand messaging, or a brand’s overall style (or lack thereof), the look and feel of a brand elicits trust with stakeholders. Hastily chosen imagery, or websites which don’t look contemporary or functional, can lead to mistrust of a brand’s promises to its stakeholders.

8) Not living up to brand messaging and promises

A brand makes promises to customers as a extension to its positioning. Living up to those promises is vital.

Promising innovative solutions where there is no innovation sets false expectations. Promising excellent customer service where the experience doesn’t reflect this promise leads to mistrust. Deliver on promises or rethink them.

9) Having no voice

A brand’s voice is how it expresses its messaging. Not having a clear voice, tone or attitude which reflects its messaging means the brand won’t be instantly recognisable to its stakeholders and audiences.

Using an active voice is direct and engaging. It makes the communication stronger and more transparent. In contrast, a passive voice can make the communication come across as vague. Work hard at defining a style of voice and ensure it is adhered to across all communication across the organisation.

10) Being impersonal

Impersonal brands miss out making connections and resonating with stakeholders.

In a world becoming rapidly more technologically complex, it will be imperative for both B2C and B2B brands to be able to decode and navigate this complexity while becoming more personal and personable. In other words, brands will need to be more ‘human’.

Brands need to be more conversational and dynamic. Language will need to be more simple and direct. In order to exude authenticity, transparency and to drive engagement, keep it simple.

11) Being inconsistent

Having a distinct and unique brand makes you instantly recognisable to your stakeholders, as well as to the wider community. A key factor in building a strong identity is consistency. Consistent use of your branding, language, logo, colours and typeface will ensure that all your interactions and communications enhance your unique brand.

Consistency and regularity in your communication is also vital. Communicating too frequently creates noise and audiences switch off, potentially missing out on important messages. Not communicating enough isn’t conducive to relationship building. Talk to your stakeholders to get the mix right.