" You can't market your way out of poor branding."
Marketing is about communicating to the outside world. It doesn't matter how much money you throw into marketing; every penny will be wasted if your brand lacks a strategy. If you want to build a business or market the business you already have, you need a strong brand.
I see it time and time again - many startups make branding mistakes in early-stage and sabotage their growth. Many entrepreneurs don't quite realize the real potential of having good branding and therefore make a lot of costly mistakes. What is a brand? To set it straight, a brand is more than just a logo and other visual artifacts.
Branding is about seizing every opportunity to express why people should choose one brand over another.
Hence, all forms of communication—not just visual—are key in reinforcing this trust and making your brand top-of-mind with your customers.
Learn how to avoid making branding mistakes, whether it be a strategic or visual aspect of your brand.
First things first, let's start with the strategy that is so often overlooked.
Your brand is the representation of your company and its values, traits, and behaviors. It does the talking for you when you're not around; it holds and sometimes strengthens your ground when a competitor tries to take your place. Professional branding will improve your audience's trust and increase your market share. I can't think of anything more substantial. I really can't, can you?
Not defining your brand strategy first
You need to understand the landscape including the competition and their strategic positions, then define your brand, and who the customers are.
You need to develop a brand strategy, and understand your business objectives and shift focus to that instead of designing a beautiful logo that won't work.
After all, an argument based purely on aesthetics is doomed unless it can be tied to accomplishing a business objective.
Remember it's about the big picture and aligning a business's vision with its customers’ experience is the goal of brand strategy. When you understand the objectives you will see that it's less about the typeface or color you like and more about what is more persuasive to the target audience.
Being on the strategy and on message with every element of the work is what makes it viable.
The best brand strategy is developed as a creative partnership between the client, the strategist/designer.
Together, we need to determine the business and marketing objectives that should guide the way forward.
Starting with a cheap brand identity
Almost everyone is concerned about the budget, but we all know that quality stuff cost a lot of money. People often make the mistake of using a cheap logo design services, or even worse, use some online logo makers.
For a logo and identity design, you can pay any kind of price, but as usual, you get what you pay for especially when it comes to service.
Of course, you can get "a logo" for cheap, but it will hurt your business. You can pay any price for a logo, anywhere from $5 to $300 on websites like Fiverr or Canva. If you pay pennies you often get some stock image, or a mashup of anything and everything and it actually costs your business much more in the end. The logo is something that you do, but there's a process before you actually do something that can be valuable if you do it correctly. Therefore even a good-looking logo won't fundamentally move the needle — it won't help you get one new client because it's not tied to achieving a specific business objective.
Failing to differentiate your brand
We are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages 24/7. In order for your message to cut through the clutter it must not only look good, but also be unique.
Good design informed by strategy makes you stand out, not just fit in. You must be unique so people can remember you.
If you look like all the other companies in your space, then guess what, your customer will shop around and opt for the cheapest option.
If they don't see the difference, why would they choose you?
You need stand out among your competitors in order to communicate your value.
But how do you differentiate from the crowd if you don't really know who you are? That's where brand strategy comes in. It's by researching your competitors, looking for points of differentiation, then defining who you are, who your customers are, and how to connect with them and that's exactly what happens during a brand strategy session.
Branding is the ultimate differentiator of any business.
It uncovers who you really are and builds on that. Once you have a clear mission and vision in place, then you can create visual and verbal messages that will help you stand out and communicate your value.
Not connecting with the right audience
Connecting with the right audience is crucial. It's not about just finding a great designer with the style you like. What you like, may not necessarily be good for your business. This is where a lot of people fall short.
When you start the branding process, you begin to know your target audience:
Where they are
What they do
How old they are
What their income is
What are their needs
If you don’t connect with your customers in a personal way, you’ll fall behind competitors that do so.
That’s just the way business works these days.
Whether you’re a just starting out or you have been in business for years, you’ll find that personalization is more important than ever before.
But what if you’re trying to connect but the audience just isn’t receptive?
This can be discouraging. Luckily, you can often pinpoint the reason why your audience isn’t connecting with your brand, and if you fix the issue, people will be more than happy to engage with you in the future.
A crucial step is to create customer personas — again this is why brand strategy is fundamental.
Social Marketing: Your brand is the emotional connection that customers have with your business. It is shaped by your name, logo, overall visual and verbal identity, marketing and advertising, and—most importantly—the experiences customers associate with you. Poor branding efforts always lead to lower conversion rates, lack of engagement, and poor market positioning. What you are sending out into the world can be just as or more important to your customers than the products or services you're selling. Inconsistent and notably unprofessional appearance sends the wrong marketing message. So, you have to get it right.
SEO: Before you consider WHERE you want to be seen, you must focus on WHY you want to be seen. Instead of focusing on what the content search engines will find, brand strategy tells your brand's story. Brand storytelling not only builds trust with a buyer but also creates a bond.
As Google constantly updates quality guidelines for website content, your content strategy could be obsolete within months. Your brand, however, will always remain. In the end, being found by a search engine won't matter; being remembered by a customer will.
Collateral Marketing: The collateral of your brand is often the first impression of your product or service and first impressions really count. A poorly executed design can do as much damage as a great professionally designed solution can do to enhance the perceived value of your offering and increases your sales. This collection of media used to promote your brand and support your sales and marketing is the tangible evidence of the brand and should be designed congruent with the brand’s core values and personality. When done correctly it always makes the sales effort easier and more effective.
A well-defined brand strategy makes your marketing easier and, therefore, less expensive to consistently market because your competitive advantage is already woven into the brand narrative. Once a campaign is over, your brand is still there, ready to effectively drive your next marketing campaign.
Yes, professional branding costs money.
The idea of saving money on professional branding by doing it yourself or cheaply is entirely backward. Yes, it seems like a great idea to save money in the short term, but you'll soon start to see the actual cost. I am reasonably sure that you will have to do it all over again further down the line if you do it cheaply. How do I know that? Cause I have seen it happen time and time again. I have witnessed firsthand all the common mistakes when it comes to "do-it-yourself branding". Poor quality logos, bad design choices, bad font choices, and no design versatility inconsistent marketing, content that looks and acts like clutter. And all of this just leads to one thing... trying to market your way out of poor branding.
How do I know for sure that branding provides a return on investment?
The effect branding can have on pricing is powerful. Remember when water was free? Now people will spend anywhere from $1.99 to $23 for a bottle of water. Yes, $23 DOLLARS. That’s branding!
The thing is, not all ROI is tangible. This is where branding often gets tossed into the 'expenses' pile rather than the investment pile. But the benefits of branding are there, even if they're not visible on your analytics dashboard.
If your brand is strong, it will do a lot of good things for you. Here are a few:
Clarity - Professional branding provides clarity of your message and helps explain your offering fast— especially important when there is lot of noise in your market.
Positioning - Well-considered branding differentiates your business from the millions of others and makes it easily recognizable. The brand strategy makes it possible to position your brand for the correct target market and connect deeper with your audience.
Design with meaning- A well-defined brand strategy leads to well-executed consistent brand design and messaging that creates a solid emotional connection with customers.
Client loyalty - Professional, relevant branding encourages brand loyalty and repeat business.
Trust - Professional design conveys a message of quality and consideration, meaning customers will trust your brand as one that operates to a high standard at all times.
Command premium pricing - When people value and trust your brand will pay more for your products or services.
Flexibility – Having a solid and influential brand makes entering new markets, launching new products, and changing direction completely all much less risky.
All of the above translates into a healthier bottom line; you simply need the reconsider what your brand is worth to you. Remember, absolutely no amount of marketing that can make up for an unprofessional brand.
Looking for some good news?
Paying for professional branding isn't as expensive as you are imagining. Cheap branding is a bad idea, but the good stuff is actually affordable.
Need a branding consultant that will help you do the branding process the right way?