In today’s fast paced and hyper-competitive marketplace branding is everything. Branding is the difference between Coke and Pepsi, between McDonald’s and Burger King, between Starbucks and… basically everybody else who sells coffee. Branding isn’t just the domain of the multinational corporate giants, it’s equally important for small businesses whose brands are still nascent and finding their voices. While many entrepreneurs are cognizant of branding when starting out and will doubtlessly address it exhaustively in their business plan, branding is an ongoing exercise that should be in a constant state of flux and evolution, just like your business itself. Lots of great businesses can find themselves floundering by neglecting their brand. Here are some ways in which businesses can damage the impact and efficacy of their brand without even realizing it. If you’re doing any of these then don’t despair! We also include some alternative strategies that will help to build a strong and cohesive brand that will help to ensure the consistent growth and prosperity of your business.
Neglecting your website
Your website is at the heart of your online presence. It should be the final destination for anyone wanting to know more about your brand and if you’re using eCommerce then it should be generating a healthy turnover. A website, however, is not a ‘one and done’ exercise and many businesses falter because they believe it’s enough to simply have a website. Small business website design should attract more customers, promote loyalty and act as a platform for your brand’s aims, ideals and ethos while providing a pleasurable enough experience for customers that they’ll want to come back. If your website contains little more than an ‘About us’ section and a small gallery of images then you’re squandering your online potential. A brand friendly website should feature:
- A color scheme that matches your logo.
- Unique content such as a blog, an e-book or a white paper.
- A compelling call to action that will encourage conversion (such as an email sign up).
- A clear statement of intent for your business as well as core values.
- Opportunities for promotions or special offers.
Operating in a bubble
While you should be paying attention to your own content, it’s important not to operate in a bubble. By ignoring other brands and businesses you are placing severe limitations on your reach. Co-branding is a great way of aligning yourself with another successful, non-competing brand and working together on a project that will benefit both parties by piggybacking on each other’s reputation, brand prestige and existing customer base. There are many great examples of this from GoPro’s alignment with Red Bull to Bonne Belle’s partnership with Dr pepper to make flavored lip balm. If you’re unsure of how to do this, then guest blogging on a subject that’s of importance to your customer base is a great start, as is aligning your brand with a charitable cause.
Ignoring key influencers
The time when brand endorsement required throwing money at a slumming movie star is over. People now are less influenced by icons of music and cinema than by famous bloggers, YouTubers and social media icons. Getting one of these people to review your products is a great means of backdoor advertising that can allow your brand to reach whole new audiences. These individuals have loyal followings and because they’re effectively sole traders who make their income through advertising revenue from their platform they have no corporate agenda, enhancing their level of influence.
Using your CEO as the brand image
If you’re the CEO of a company then it may be tempting to act as the face of your brand. While this can result in positive associations (think Steve Jobs and Apple), it’s important to realize that your brand is bigger than you. Even if you’re a photogenic, charismatic and charming entrepreneur this can be an Achilles’ heel for your business as if you leave, your business may take a hit. Plus, you must be wary that being the face of your own business may strike some as a vanity move that can be off putting, especially if your face and voice don’t match their expectations of what someone in your position ‘should’ look and sound like. Instead, you should focus your attention on the customer experience and your core values.
All brands may tweak their logo and evolve their look to stay fresh and relevant, but rebranding completely can often be considered a sign of desperation. If something goes wrong with a product or high profile transaction, it can be tempting to demolish the whole brand and start again from scratch but this can be misconstrued as an admission of defeat, weakening the value of your brand. Instead, invest your time and resources in making sure your product is as good as it can be and your conflict resolution strategies are comprehensive.
By avoiding these common pitfalls you can ensure the future of your brand for years to come.