|11 brand mistakes companies regularly make|
|Published Monday, September 9, 2019|
Whether or not you realize it, brand is tremendously important to every aspect of your business. A well-crafted and well-executed brand strategy can cut through the noise of a million messages, articulate your promise to the customer, set you apart from the competition, scale your business, and establish yourself as a leader in the space.
Problem is, most leaders underestimate and neglect their brand. Even those who think they know brand inside and out often have big misconceptions or serious flaws in their strategy, and, in this case, what they don't know can hurt them.
"Misunderstanding brand leads to costly mistakes," said Lindsay Pedersen, author of “Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader's Guide.” "Only by recognizing common missteps and avoiding them can you fully realize the power of a strong brand and put your business ahead of the competition."
MISTAKE 1: You don't claim your brand position at all. Instead, you let the market do it for you. Position happens whether or not you are driving it. If you allow yourself to be positioned by the market, it most likely will not be your optimal brand position for growth.
MISTAKE 2: You delay on brand strategy. Ironclad brand strategy is not just for established businesses with traction. It is also for startups. The sooner you have a brand strategy, the sooner you'll have both your North Star and your rudder. Know your purpose now; you can always revisit it later as your product gains market fit and momentum.
MISTAKE 3: You focus on the category benefit of your product. Assuming you do participate in careful brand positioning, the most common business pitfall is choosing a positioning idea that is not ownable and differentiated. Many businesses pin their brands on a category benefit or "table stakes": a benefit that is not only not unique to the market, but is a must-have for anyone in the space.
MISTAKE 5: You don't recognize the vastness of brand. Lots of people misunderstand brand because a lot of different components and tactics make up brand. It includes things like logos, advertising, TV and social media, the product itself, customer experience, tagline, SEO, font, your business's personality, and even the color of your employees' uniforms. But none of these are, by themselves, brand. Brand is the interconnected web of what your business means and how you deliver that meaning, all made possible by your special position in your customer's universe.
MISTAKE 6: You fail to get the customer's attention. A customer can engage with your business only when he knows it exists. That means you must make it easy for them to notice you. The solution isn't to shout loudly (and most lack the marketing budget to shout loudly enough). The solution instead is to speak with bracing clarity, which most businesses fail to do. Be crystal clear about what your business is and why that matters to customers.
MISTAKE 7: You forget to consider the customer's frame of reference. A frame of reference is that thing your customer would be using if your product or service didn't exist. It's what they would buy instead of your offering. Businesses tend to think about their frame of reference from the business's perspective, instead of from the customer's perspective. This is a huge missed opportunity.
MISTAKE 8: Your brand doesn't have "teeth." Your brand strategy must be demonstrably true. It must have the power to make people believe it, trust it, and follow it because it offers compelling proof that it will live up to its promise; in other words, it has teeth. Those teeth can be an attribute, a feature, a fact, a guarantee, an ingredient — any special thing the brand offers and follows through with that provides its promise.
MISTAKE 9: You fail to narrow down your target customer. Your target customers are the people you want to attract more of. They are the people you are most able to delight because of your distinctive strengths. Most businesses characterize them in a superficial way and end up describing little of their inner world. Instead, characterize your target customer as a subtle and empathetic picture of how they view themselves. Remember that identifying your target customer does not eliminate your larger addressable market!
MISTAKE 10: You wind up too low or too high on the benefit ladder. A benefit ladder spells out the layers of your benefits from product features and specifications at the bottom to functional benefits in the middle to emotional benefits at the top. Savvy leaders choose to shine the spotlight on the rung of the ladder that is as high as their customer currently permits them to go, but no higher.
MISTAKE 11: You try to reach all customers with one-size-fits-all messaging. There are five stages of a customer's journey with your brand: Unaware, Aware, Consider, Purchase, and Loyal. Your goal should be to craft a messaging hierarchy for customers at every stage of the journey. Unfortunately, many people are tempted to develop a sentence or paragraph so great that it will serve all your purposes — all stages of the journey. Resist the temptation. There is no one magic message that will advance all customers at all journey stages.
"It's never too late to brush up on brand and start making better choices for your business," Pedersen said. "Don't let past mistakes derail your future success. Even if you recognize yourself or your product or service in every common mistake, you can still turn things around by making changes that will help you thrive starting today."
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