Tips from the Brand Trenches: Five Branding Mistakes You Must Avoid!

[Note: I’m delighted to feature this two-part guest post on branding mistakes by Debra Semans, marketing research and brand expert.]

For all types of organizations, brands are powerful tools for creating loyalty, increasing sales and improving profitability. Strong brands can be leveraged into new products, new markets and new channels. Companies with strong brands can command a price premium over competitors’ weaker brands. Brands can even create differentiation in commodity markets.

Given that you have a brand and can leverage it for business growth, it follows that you need to be aware of it and work to continually protect and strengthen it. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations don’t get that and can actually be hurting their brands. Here are the first five of my Top Ten Branding Mistakes (in no particular order) that you should avoid at all costs:

  1. Losing control of your brand.  Letting your ad agency, your marketing research firm, your distribution channels, your subcontractors – just about anyone – take control of and define your brand. No one knows your brand – internally and externally – like you do. No one understands your business strategy and objectives – and how your brand fits into those – like you do. And most importantly, no one knows better than you what is authentic for your brand. So maintain control!
  2. Not establishing a differentiation.  Differentiation is the one thing that makes your brand stand out from the crowd and gives the customer a reason to choose you. If your brand is not differentiated, you have eliminated any competitive advantage and are well on your way to becoming commoditized. Nowadays, it is becoming difficult in many industries to have a true differentiation but, your brand must be distinct in order to stand out among competitors. So while you may not be truly different, it is critical that customers see your brand as distinctly better on a key attribute.
  3. Not managing your brand.  This is the situation with many brands today. You’re not really hurting them, but you’re not strengthening and enhancing them either. This is possibly the most vulnerable brand state. If you’re not paying attention, you can bet your competitors are and are poised to take advantage!
  4. Not defining a target market.  No one brand can be “all things to all people.” If you are trying to do that by avoiding targeting a specific market segment, you will end up being “nothing to everyone.” No brand can exist without a clearly defined target audience. Without this, brands lose all focus, effectiveness and efficiency.
  5. Not aligning promise and delivery.  The number of brands who do not deliver on their brand promise is legion. “We love to fly and it shows.” No, it doesn’t. “We try harder.” No, you don’t. Why waste advertising dollars making a promise that your organization is simply going to break? The sad fact is that not only does this waste today’s marketing budget, it can actually erode any positive equity your brand may hold.There are two aspects to aligning brand delivery and brand promise. The first is making sure that your internal operations are capable of brand delivery. The second aspect to aligning brand delivery and brand promise is very simple: Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. (This is related to the first mistake – ceding authority to your brand to an ad agency, marketing partner or other agency. Through no fault of their own, they may not be familiar enough with your internal operations to know whether you can deliver the brand promise or not.) It is absolutely critical that you take responsibility for the brand promises you communicate to the marketplace – and make sure they are delivered.

[Stay tuned next week to learn about the other branding mistakes you must avoid.]

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