When companies get it right, branding can work like peanut butter and chocolate. But companies that get it wrong can face public backlash. Here are common branding mistakes that hurt your company image and how to avoid them.
Many companies fail in the branding department by creating inconsistent branding across channels. Good branding means that your brand will be recognizable on your website, on your social media channels, on your blog, on any written media, on any email, on any advertisement, anywhere your brand goes. Inconsistency makes people feel you lack attention to detail, disjointed, and untrustworthy. Good branding, on the other hand, creates trust and comfort to consumers.
Consistent branding goes further than just adding your logo to your channels. Your visual identity should be determined by your brand style guide. What fonts do you use, what colours, which logos where, what other visuals do you use, do you use a specific type of imagery as your blog headers, and so on? A style guide can help all of those in your company know how your image should be presented.
Being too trendy or choosing the wrong message
A brand’s identity should last the test of time. That means that you don’t have to jump on the figurative bandwagon when new styles become trendy. If minimalism is in and your brand isn’t minimalistic, you don’t need to make it that way, but many brands get that wrong. They follow trends and lose their core identity. Plus, trends go out of style and if a consumer can pinpoint a specific time, you’ll look dated quickly.
The handbag company Vera Bradley made a mistake when they used the tagline “We’ll take a handbag over a briefcase any day” in their branding. In this case, they missed the “empowering women” trend and set feminism behind. Outdated messaging is equally damaging to a company’s image.
Ignoring your past successes
Over the years, both Coca-Cola and Apple have successfully redesigned its brand and updated its logo. Gap, however, when trying to add a minimalist, hip vibe to their logo was less successful. Gap tried to swap their recognizable blue-squared logo with the “GAP” font with a logo that made the clothing company seem more like a tech company. It only took one single week for the brand to pull the new design (probably hundreds of thousands lost in cost) because consumers did not take kindly to it.
Another example of branding failure is when Tropicana went from its recognizable carton with their usual font and the orange with a straw, to represent that the product is pure, natural orange juice to a more modern design. Tropicana lost $100 million with sales falling 20%.
Again, if you’re rebranding ensure every element doesn’t change at once. It’s okay to alter your brand’s image over time, but it’s best to understand what makes your branding unique and recognizable to your audience and to keep those elements as you evolve.
Sponsoring the wrong events or products
Be selective with where you put your brand and sponsorship. For example, Key Medium works with Grounded in Philly, Coding for Causes, and Philadelphia Works. All of these companies align with what we do and what we value. However, if we were to place our logo or sponsorship, say, on an avocado slicer company based in Idaho, it wouldn’t align with what our audience expects. (Let’s just hope there’s no such company!) There was an equal backlash when the Hannah Montana brand attached its logo to red cherries of all things (t-shirts and chapstick must not have been working anymore).
Not preparing for international recognition
Your brand may not be international yet, but it may be in time so it’s important to think about how your brand and its messaging may be received internationally. Sometimes, your branding and advertisements will work internationally, but sometimes they won’t. It’s important to understand the culture of any country where you’re planning to take your products or services.
For example, both Coke and Pepsi ran into trouble in Chinese markets (and think how big both of these brands are). Coke wrote a tagline that translated to “Happiness in the mouth.” And Pepsi translated “Pepsi brings you back to life” more literally to mean “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Since ancestor worship is important to Chinese people, that latter didn’t go over very well.
American, Canadian, England, Spain, and France have some shared cultural events, attitudes to life, culture, and language, so it’s easier to provide cross-branding in these countries, even though a closer look will reveal many differences in the way these countrymen live. The basis of Western culture is values based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, a Newtonian understanding of science, Enlightenment principles, a linear understanding of time and history, different languages based on the same letter system, among other factors. However, many Asian countries have different foundations including Confucian/Buddhist/Taoist religious and philosophical tradition, a circular understanding of time and history, a language based on thousands of characters and not letters, and a relationship to color association that Western societies don’t have, amongst hundreds of other factors.
Not describing your brand correctly
When someone clicks on your website or a social media page, they need to know and understand what you do. Have you ever been to a website and their language is so vague and their website is so confusing that you don’t know if they are a software company or if they sell t-shirts? Avoid using buzzwords, especially if many in your industry use that in their branding. Arm & Hammer doesn’t “revolutionize” toothpaste so they don’t use that word in their branding. (Plus, let’s face it Arm & Hammer are in the multi-product game.) When branding, be true to who you are and be accurate. Focus on the benefits of your product or service. How will your product or service help your consumer save time, money, and effort?
Branding consistency, consciousness, and deliberateness are incredibly important to creating a cohesive message to your consumers. Good branding can create positive feelings towards your brand, including trustworthiness and value. But the wrong type of branding, imagery, or a complete overall can do the opposite of your intentions. Check out our piece on The importance of branding in web design and SEO. Get in touch with Key Medium for all of your branding needs.
Elaine Frieman holds a Master’s Degree and is a UK-based professional editor, educational writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, traveling, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.