After being in branding and business for the last 15 years, and working behind the scenes of more than 500 brands, I have seen some cringe-worthy branding mistakes. 🙈 🙈 🙈 … Let. Me. Tell. You!
(And frankly, I made my share of them in the beginning, too!)
It’s so dang sad when an entrepreneur has a particular genius locked away in his brain – and it’s not coming across. Because when you’re not showing up with your best brand, your ideal clients don’t ever get to experience your magic…
You’re not memorable. Your messages don’t stand out. Or land right. Or resonate. And you’re perfect people just keep walking… or scrolling. ( ← Seeeeee? I told you. Sad. 😔)
So, while I generally like to keep it positive around here… this week I have just GOT to share the top four mistakes that I see brands making… the ones that are limiting their potential and repelling those who would’ve been awesome potential clients.
(And I’m so glad Y-O-U are here… because if you’ve read this far, it means you don’t want to make the mistakes that others are making – which makes you one smart cookie!)
…So read on to avoid these common branding pitfalls – or you can press play and watch the 🎥 video version of this week’s post:
1. Thinking “I don’t need a brand.”
The first mistake is one that still surprises me. Even as a brand strategist (who generally surrounds herself with others who are interested in branding!) I still hear this from the occasional entrepreneur…
“I’m just a small business. I don’t need a brand.” … or…
“I am the face of the business. I don’t need to have a specific brand, because it’s just me they’re hiring.” … or…
“I’ll just get referrals. I don’t need a brand.”
However they articulate it, the common denominator is this: They think if they haven’t intentionally built a brand, that they don’t have one.
… which could not be further from the truth!
Because here’s the thing: Anyone who is showing up in the market has a brand. People believe things to be true about you based on what you’re putting out into the market. By definition, that is a brand – whether you think of it that way or not.
And the problem with this strategy is that by not being intentional about shaping those perceptions, you’re leaving your brand to chance. That’s certain to ding your credibility, and you’ll miss out on opportunities to develop trust with your ideal customer.
A lot of trust is built simply through the quality – or perceived quality – of your messages, visuals, business decisions, and all the ways you show up. (i.e. your brand! 🤓)
If you have a compelling, professional-looking, engaging presence and platform online – people also assume that YOU are compelling, professional, and engaging – as a human or as a product or service.
The other pitfall with this “no strategy” strategy is that it causes you to miss out on the chance to build a long-term relationship with your ideal clients. If you’re showing up in all sorts of ways – with little concern for consistency – you can end up looking like a different person each time they come into contact with you. So, you’re not memorable or top-of-mind when it’s time to buy. And you never get to take advantage of the “snowball effect” that happens when you build a great brand.
Okay… so can we all agree (pullllleeeeease? 😉) that *all businesses* have a brand – and that it’s best to intentionally shape it?
Okay, cool. Now on to mistake #2…
2. Being brand-obsessed.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum… The next common branding mistake I see entrepreneurs make is being completely ob-SESSED with their brands.
Often this looks like this: You’re constantly tweaking everything. You’re in this perpetual cycle of rebranding and rebranding (and rebranding and rebranding again!) – but you never really figure out what’s at the core of it. You’re changing your message from one thing to the next… without first finding a throughline that’s based on your personality, your point of view, or your vision.
This usually results in building your brand on trends… instead of on your truths. And then you never quite feel like you’ve nailed anything in your branding. You always have this nagging feeling that it’s not quite right.
So you keep trying all these different identities on for size… and looking different every day. Unfortunately, that means the *all-important* trust factor takes a hit again… Because your audience is basically thinking,
“Who are you really?”
“What can you help me with?
“Like… can you really help me with all of these things?… Or are you just saying it? How are you always learning all these skills…or becoming this new person…?”
The solution? It’s to do the foundational and inner work first – before you make any of the outward-facing brand decisions.
When you do that work first (and base your brand on truths – not trends!), it’s totally okay to make occasional tweaks. You can update your design styles from time to time… iterate and improve your messaging… change policies as you learn how you want to run things… as long as you’re staying true to your foundational elements. When that throughline is clear and stays intact, you are good!
Oh, and one more note… Sometimes I find that entrepreneurs get caught in this obsessive re-branding trap because they sort of get bored – or they think they need to change a lot – to stay fresh or relevant. But, in reality, this backfires. It causes inconsistency and gets in the way of you being memorable, known, and trusted.
If this is your tendency, remember… If you’re getting sick of your brand, you’re probably doing it right.
If you think it’s repetitive, your audience sees that as consistent. If you think it’s “same-old, same old,” your audience sees that as trustworthy.
You probably should be tired of telling the same stories… or using the same words… or promoting the same products… As the person who is the visionary of your brand, you are the one that will tire of it first. So be okay with that.
As long as your brand is not truly outdated – or literally scaring people away… if it looks good, it communicates who you are at your core, and it’s built from a strong, rock solid foundation (not just built on whatever was trendy at the time), then you probably should be sick of your brand. 🤣
But others won’t be. So, don’t go changing, Genius! 😉
Build your brand on that strong foundation so you don’t feel the need to keep reinventing yourself every four, six, eight months.
Pin this article to reference later! 📌
Pin this article to reference later! 📌
3. Attempting to emulate the success of other brands.
I have to tell you… this is the one that makes me cringe the most – and I see it all too often. Because…
To be completely transparent and honest, this is one I suffered from. And it was not pretty.
In the beginning, when I was trying to be successful in business, I was looking at what all the successful people were doing. And I was trying to model my brand around what I was seeing.
I admired one very outspoken, assertive, super-strong entrepreneur, so I thought, “I should be like him.” So I started this motivational Monday video series called “Your Monday Morning Kick in the Pants.” ( ← OMG. So embarrassing, in retrospect.)
It didn’t really feel great. And it definitely didn’t work.
Then, at one point I was following an entrepreneur who had a very “come-hither,” feminine, flirty vibe… and she was getting clients and making money… so I updated my website hero image with the message, “Hey, Bombshell!”
So not me. 🤦🏼♀️ And, yeah… that didn’t work either.
Later, I became aware of an entrepreneur who had a luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle. (Literally. She was always jetting somewhere.) And she sure was successful… so I thought, “Oooohhhhh, so that’s what people want….” So I re-built everything around the idea of “finding your it factor.”
And (surprise, surprise!) that didn’t work either. I felt like I was wearing someone else’s sweater… it just didn’t fit. (And it was itchy, too.)
None of these approaches worked because they weren’t true to who I am – at my best. (Spoiler alert: Later I discovered the brand archetypes. Once I defined my brand based on my truths – and around the Sage and Magician archetypes, it aaaaaalllllll started to fall into place – finally!)
Bottom line here is this: Potential clients and customers truly do sense and gravitate toward authenticity. If they sense you are just copying others… that are unsure of who you are (or that you might be wearing someone else’s proverbial sweater! 🤣)… they will likely run for the hills.
So, make sure you’re not getting too inspired by what is out there in the market. Do the work to discover and define your own innate advantages. Build your brand on those – and don’t try to mimic what others are doing. (Trust me! I learned the hard way that it doesn’t work! 🙄)
4. Trying to use #allthethings – at the expense of a cohesive brand.
Okay, now… the last of the four big brand mistakes I see? It’s when entrepreneurs – usually the super-creative ones – try to have all of the things in their brands.
You know this is you if…
You love all the fonts – and you want to use them all. (You might even have a digital folder jammed with a whole bunch that you’ve purchased!)
When you see a color palette you love on Pinterest, your knee-jerk reaction is to start adding it to your Canva brand palette and creating new social templates with them.
You think… “Ooh, let’s do these colors for this product… and these for this product… and oooooh, how about this one, too? Yes! I have to have it!”
It’s all fun and games until someone gets poked in the… brand. 😜 Yep, it’s fun in the moment, but then you end up with this jenky hodgepodge of ideas… looking all Scotch-taped together… instead of having a coherent theme that runs throughout your brand.
And – much like with the first three – the consequence of this mistake (or set of mistakes, because you’re a magpie and you’re collecting #allthethings… 😜) is lack of impact. Because you’re not consistent, so you’re not able to be memorable, stay top if mind, or build brand trust.
The key to avoiding mistake #4 is (yes, again!) to invest time into the foundational branding work. Build your brand around your own innate advantages – and decide to be discerning… Discerning about what assets you use – and what messages you convey through your brand.
Ready to make some decisions – so you can show up confidently and attract the right people? 👇👇👇
You can create your *Crystal Clear* 1-Page Brand Plan with me – in my FREE “Define Your Brand” Masterclass.
Whether you’re just beginning, or have been in business for years… this is the best place to start. We’ll banish the brand fuzziness, define your brand based on your truths, and get confident in your messages.
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