6 branding pitfalls to avoid

Branding your business is not simple and the pay-off is often uncertain.
Bad branding can sink even the best of products and services, while no amount of good branding can save a bad product or service. With that said, let's go straight to the first pitfall:

1. Prioritizing branding over your core business

Branding shouldn't be an afterthought, but first make sure you can answer the following questions: what are you selling, to whom and how? What does your revenue and cost model look like? How do you get in touch with your customers? How can you make sure you're doing the best you can, and how are you setting yourself apart from your competitors?

If you can give meaningful answers to all these questions, you're already halfway there in laying the groundwork for what comes next. Trying to create a brand with no solid underpinning is like trying to build a house on quicksand.

2. Being clever for its own sake, or playing it too safe

Being clever or cute can get tired very quickly – beware novelty wordplays or confusing visual identities. "But it catches attention!" you may say. Yes, but often not in a good way. Natural disasters catch attention, too, and no one would say natural disasters have a positive brand.

The flipside of trying overly hard to get attention is to be like everybody else and jump on a fad: don't call your business iSomething or Shoplr. Even worse is being stale by using things like the Papyrus font. But how can you know if something is original enough or not, or may in fact be outdated, or who knows, cutting-edge (once more)? Well

3. Not asking a professional

Especially if you run a smaller business, you don't need to hire a full-time designer, but it's not because copywriting, branding and design aren't exact sciences with a crystal-clear return on investment, that you should cut corners by doing everything yourself.

Everyone has an opinion on what makes for a good tagline or an appealing logo, but chances are people who are paid to be good at these things will be better at it than you, your accountant or your best friend. If you're not sure about the professional's work or opinion, ask a second opinion (but don't ask for freebies, designers hate that).

4. Closing your eyes to the world around you

Branding is everywhere. In fact, it's so omni-present that we are routinely ignoring it. Look around you. Every company has a logo and a name, and most have taglines, too. Can you remember which ones made you smile and why? Can you remember an example of branding you didn't like – clashing colors, ugly fonts, confusing copy?

On my way to work from home, I see dozens of branding examples. Some of them belong to well-established supermarket chains or car brands, but I'm mostly passing by local stores, small businesses and the like.

The one that stands out the most to me is a children's boutique (despite not having kids of my own) that calls itself 'The Little Bandit' and has a cheeky-looking raccoon for a mascot. It is both visually appealing and aligns with the shop's core business. You can likely find similar examples in a 5km radius from where you live or work.

5. Inconsistency across channels

Nearly all marketing 'how to' guides on branding list this one as a big pitfall. If you set up a web page, Facebook page or a webshop, keep in mind that this is what many people's first impressions of your business will be. If your store's primary colors are blue and orange, making your online shop green and white is pretty jarring.

The same is true for your messages. While they should obviously be tweaked to the channel (e.g. you will have more time explaining what you're all about on your website than on the doors of your delivery van), they shouldn't differ very much in nature and content.

6. Form over function

Today's restaurants often offer a way to make reservations online, which is good. But many restaurants tuck away this functionality and confront the visitor with a giant logo and a high-minded explanation of what food they serve and where it's sourced from. I don't care. If I landed on their website, I was most likely aware of what food they serve.

The same is true for many webshops. I don't need to see the entire range the store has on offer because I'm most likely looking for one or two typical products. Big marketplaces like Amazon get away with this because it's their business to be a wholesaler, but if I look up a local business, I'm not willing to wade through interminable carrousels of products I don't want.

The Sayl Retail proposition

Since our online pop-up store platform, Sayl Retail, was co-designed by marketing experts, we are all too aware of all these pitfalls listed. Sayl Retail offers freely customizable branding and automatically puts it in the most optimal places – things like headers, footers and messages go where users expect them to go.

Furthermore, our setup model is such that it helps you think about snappy product copy and automatically links up to other channels you are already using. We cannot guarantee your end result will look fantastic, but you won't be thrown into the deep.

Summary: branding checklist

Here's a handy checklist for when you're doing your branding exercises:

  • Can I answer basic questions about my business first? Remember: only do your branding when your foundations are solid.
  • Can outsiders immediately tell what kind of business or service I'm delivering? Remember: don't try to be too smart.
  • Have I checked in with a professional? Remember: finding the optimal balance between cost, quality and time isn't easy, but doing everything yourself will most likely deliver subpar results.
  • Have I looked around to see what kind of branding appeals to me most? How are my competitors doing it?
  • Am I applying my branding consistently across channels, both online and offline? Are there places where my branding takes a back seat? Remember: branding shouldn't stand in the way of making money – your identity is not the primary thing your customers care about.
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