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BRANDING MISTAKES your small business could be making

By News Express on 08/05/2017

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When you think about great branding, Coca Cola’s distinctive red and white lettering, Nike’s swoosh and Adidas’s three stripes likely come to mind.  But as a small business, imagining the level of investment that’s gone into these iconic images can make the thought of undertaking your own branding initiative seem overwhelming.

It’s actually easier to do than most imagine. Just make sure to avoid some common pitfalls and branding mistakes.

Not understanding the power of a brand

From a customer-relationship perspective, having a strong brand is obviously advantageous.  For instance, when people think of online shoe purchases, they think of Zappos. You want to have that kind of immediate, definitive relationship with your buyers as well.

Defining your brand is also valuable from an SEO perspective.  It’s something of an open secret that Google likes to prioritise branded listings in its organic search results, since visitors are more likely to click on them.  More clicks tends to equal happier customers, which means that focusing on brand building could lead to unexpected website traffic and awareness benefits.

Forgetting to establish defined brand guidelines 

Even when you know that your company may want to develop a brand, but what exactly does that mean?  When creating a brand identity, you will want to establish defined guidelines that cover all of the following elements (as well as others that are relevant to your field). Here are a few points to consider: Logo (both an overarching logo and any other logo lockups your company uses for individual product lines), brand colours, fonts/typography. The “voice” used in your branded materials, Mascots and spokespeople.

Clearly, this list is not comprehensive, you can include more. If there is some other branding characteristic you feel is necessary to define your business, go ahead and add it to your brand guidelines documentation.  The worst thing you could do is to avoid creating these important documents altogether. Without them, your branding efforts will lack the consistency and direction needed for success.

Over-complicating your brand

Take a look at how Coca Cola’s classic script logo has changed, since its first usage in 1887.  While the fonts used have varied slightly, the original look is still largely intact, after more than 127 years of service.

Small businesses can learn a lesson from this beverage industry giant.  When initiating the branding process, it can be tempting to add more variables than you truly need.  But your logo doesn’t need to involve six different colours, and it doesn’t need to have six individual graphic elements to represent the different arms of your company.  Clean, simple elements are more likely to be recognised and remembered by consumers, so steer clear of over-complicating your company’s branded elements.

Falling into the vague branding trap

But then, again, do not go the opposite direction and develop brand guidelines and elements that reveal nothing about your company and its value proposition.  Chances are you have seen this before in generic logos or in marketing language that is downright repetitive. For example, “best-selling” books, “championship” golf courses and “award-winning” ad agencies really don't mean anything.

This type of lazy branding is referred to as "wallpaper copywriting" or the use of vague, catch-all nonsense that is been repeated so often it’s lost all meaning. So the solution is: clear language, logos and imagery.  For a great example, take a look at the screen-shot of mobile-payment processor, Square's landing page, or those of any of our banks here (GTBank, First Bank Plc, IBTC Stanbic Bank, or even PAGA and e-Tranzact.  Not only does the company’s logo mimic the product in a way that’s unmistakable, the value proposition stated in the company’s tagline, “Start accepting credit cards today,” is clear.  

“Cheating” on your brand guidelines

So you have sat down, and crafted careful brand guidelines and begun implementing them across all of your company’s marketing materials and on-line properties.  But two months down the road, you need to create a new ad for a product line you are launching, and it had be really great if you could use a few colours, outside of the palette you specified out in your branding documentation.

Can you do it?  Of course, you can. But keep in mind every time you deviate from your stated brand guidelines, you dilute their power by some small amount.  By doing so, you are essentially introducing a new brand image to your customers, diminishing the strength of the association they have had, to a more unified branding campaign. 

Not policing your brand’s usage 

Developing and implementing your small business’s brand guidelines is only half the battle.  In addition, you have got to be proactive about monitoring where and how others are using your branded elements on your behalf. If not, you could have competitors creating a logo that looks similar, a review website using your logo and not linking back, or a partner publishing an ad featuring your logo but with the wrong colours.

Some of these issues may be minor, but in other situations, it may be necessary to pursue legal action, if you feel your branded elements are being infringed upon. 

Rolling out brand changes poorly

There’s nothing wrong with rebranding. That is, unless you approach it poorly. Bear in mind, any changes you make to your established brand reduces the connection you have built with your customers.  Therefore, it’s important to only make changes when the benefits truly outweigh the risks of losing business. If you do decide to make an alteration, you need to clearly educate your followers on the changes you are making.

While branding is certainly a marketing discipline in its own right, it doesn’t need to be over-complicated.  Good intentions (and avoidance of the mistakes described above) will go a long way towards helping your small business form vital connections with your target customers.

For more on the subject, send me a message via WhatsApp or SMS.

•Lawrence Nwaodu is a small business expert and enterprise consultant, trained in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with an MBA in Entrepreneurship from The Management School, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, and MSc in Finance and Financial Management Services from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Netherlands. Mr. Nwaodu is the Lead Consultant at IDEAS Exchange Consulting, Lagos. He can be reached via nwaodu.lawrence@hotmail.co.uk (07066375847).

Source News Express

Posted 08/05/2017 1:51:44 PM

 

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