How to build a strong brand with thoughtful strategy.
By Sunny Bonnell (Co-founder & Creative Director, Motto)
This post originally appeared on Business Collective.
If you’re running a business right now, then you understand the importance of building a strong brand. What you may not realize is how many mistakes you might be making that are impacting your ability to do just that.
We’ve witnessed our fair share of branding mishaps, typically stemming from a lack of vision, inadequate brand leadership, shortsightedness, unrealistic process timelines, skimpy branding budgets and other brand suffocating mindsets.
Here are eight branding mistakes you’re making right now, and what to do about them.
1. Your Brand is Thrown Together
Far too many companies operate with a piecemeal approach fueled by disparate thinking, erratic decision making, inconsistent messages and poorly executed materials. Simply put, the brand is thrown together and sloppy. You cannot build a strong brand without a thoughtful strategy and sound brand foundation to underpin it and guide it. If a poorly executed brand enters the world, it becomes harder and harder to recover. Invest in the future of a holistic brand effort now.
2. Your Brand Does not Reflect Your Culture
Many times we’re brought in to help with a branding problem, and soon realize it’s a cultural problem. Most often, there’s a disconnect between what’s happening on the inside of the company (culture) and what’s being reflected on the outside (brand). In the perfect brand and culture symbiosis, each would support the other to create a unified internal-external brand experience, where what you say, how you act and what you do all align. The new normal for successful branding depends on how authentically your culture and brand mirror each other. Invest in a “culture workshop” to create brand alignment for a happier workplace and customer experience.
3. You’re Unrealistic about What it Takes from a Time and Budget Standpoint
Rome was not built in a day and neither will your brand. I’m not a fan of “the lean startup” approach to branding and I’ll explain why: it inspired thousands of entrepreneurs to rush to market with premature ideas and ill-prepared brands. For every 20 companies wanting to do a comprehensive rebranding in three weeks with little to no budget, there are a handful of educated companies who understand what it really takes. Don’t be unrealistic, cheap and demanding. If you want to craft a strong brand, be willing to generously invest. If your agency tells you it’s going to take four to six months, listen to them.
4. You’re Not Choosing Your Branding Partners Wisely
Who you choose to work with on your branding efforts can make or break your brand. From freelancers, videographers and photographers to branding, digital and marketing agencies, anyone who touches your brand should be vetted. Get a firm understanding of what the person or company did for their clients, how they think, and what their role was. We’ve seen far too many companies hire from a portfolio that might look great but isn’t an accurate depiction of their capabilities. Brands can fall apart during critical executions because the chosen partners did not fully understand the brand. Spend the time to find the right talent.
5. You Lack Vision
Every great branding effort starts with a clear articulation of vision. Having a big, bold, clear vision can make all the difference in the long-term trajectory of your organization. But having a vision is only half of it; the other half is the execution of your vision. A lot of people think it’s just about sharing your vision and helping others see what you do. While this may be true, others have to believe in your brand for the passion to transfer. If you lack vision, work with an agency or consultant to facilitate this important conversation.
6. Your Brand Doesn’t Tell a Compelling Story and Lacks Personality
Of all the key ingredients missing in most brands, it’s a great story wrapped in an engaging brand personality. A brand’s personality is the way a brand expresses itself: its narrative, character traits, attributes and tone of voice. Everything you say and do influences the way people perceive your brand. And while each person’s unique experiences and interests will shape his or her perception of your brand, you can have a heavy hand in guiding their experiences. Crafting an engaging story while infusing your brand’s personality makes your audience lean in a little closer.
7. You’re Paralyzed by Your Competition
Some of our clients are so focused on their competition that they put themselves into brand paralysis. Do a competitive brand evaluate and look at the image your competitors are putting out. Check their websites, read their content, take snapshots of noteworthy items, watch videos and analyze their visuals, messaging and social media. Then, compile this information into one document. This provides a good foundation for where you fit in, but at some point, you need to have the guts to blaze your own path. We have so many clients say, “Can you help us be the next Apple?” Our reply is “There’s only one Apple. The question you should be asking is, ‘How can you be the next you?’”
8. You Ignore Fundamental Shifts within the Business
In some cases, business models change and product focuses pivot. This impacts the brand in a fundamental way. When shifts within the business start to take place, you need to determine how the brand needs to adapt. Do you need to go through a rebranding? Does the culture need a refresher? Have you lost some passion for the business and brand? Some business leaders put off looming branding issues, despite the pleas of their team. If your brand managers tell you there’s a problem, you need to listen. If the business you’re in now is the not the same business you started or your brand image hasn’t caught up, act now.
About the guest blogger: Sunny Bonnell is a branding expert and serves as the co-founder and creative director at Motto. Motto is a comprehensive branding firm that works with ambitious companies and entrepreneurs who are eager to build remarkable brands. Follow her on Twitter at @sunnybonnell.