The 9 most common branding mistakes

Building a brand is not easy. A few bad decisions can start a snowball effect and leave a brand in a sorry state. All that time, money and effort wasted unnecessarily. 

All for a mistake that could have easily been avoided. But that doesn’t have to be the destiny of your brand!

To make your branding even better, I’ll tell you about the 9 mistakes people often make when it comes to brands.

1. What should the brand stand for?

It’s one thing to deliberately come up with a brand name and quite another to string together random words and call it a brand. 

Names stick, and you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong name. When choosing a brand name, you need to make sure it is meaningful and associated with positive emotions.

Brand owners need to think carefully about how they want their brand to be perceived before settling for a generic or negative brand name. 

Most experts would agree that AirWaves is a terrible name for a bubble gum brand. Nothing about the name tells you that the product is chewing gum. You don’t want to make that mistake.

Think about the emotional experience a potential customer would have interacting with your business. 

The brand name should evoke this experience.

2. The brand must be attractive to new customers

A large but loyal customer base is the be-all and end-all of any business. But brands, in proportion to their size, lose customers – it’s inevitable. 

So the customer may be loyal, but they can stop being a customer for whatever reason.

In How Brands Grow, author Byron Sharp describes the customer cycle. He starts as a light buyer and then, if everything goes well from the company’s point of view, develops into a heavy buyer. 

Over time, however, the status of the buyer develops back to being a light buyer before they may no longer buy the product at all.

Brands should focus on attracting new customers to grow their business. Sharp says that brand growth is driven by new buyers, not increased loyalty, so your goal should be to use targeted branding to attract new customers to your brand.

While it’s great when a brand keeps existing customers happy, if that customer base doesn’t grow steadily, the company will decline. 

To avoid this, the company should be on the lookout for new customers and position the brand accordingly.

3. Don’t try to target everyone with the brand

I just spoke about the need to attract new customers with a brand. But there are also limits! 

There are situations in which a brand realignment can be promising, but usually the brand loses its good reputation within a clearly defined market segment.

A brand may be productive, but it cannot fight against its own limitations. A good example of this is Toyota – a brand known for cheap cars. Toyota developed the Lexus brand in order to gain market share in the upper middle and upper class segment. Since 2006, cars that compete internationally with Mercedes, BMW, Audi, etc. have been produced under this name. 

If the manufacturer were to market the same models under the Toyota brand, they would not be considered true luxury cars.

So, don’t weaken your brand with extreme product line expansion, but develop new brands for market segments that involve fundamental differences.

4. Brand building takes much longer than is often assumed

The brand has established itself when its market segment not only knows the brand, but also associates it with the desired values. 

Brands do not become a hit overnight, but are often only really noticed after years of effort.

When building a brand, it is necessary to develop a strategy. Creative briefings need time to reach a tangible result. 

Research cannot be rushed. Iterative adjustments are also necessary, especially with digital or technically demanding products, in order to keep up with the competition and to defend your USP.

Branding is not a band-aid that can simply rid a company of fundamental problems. The brand must be built on a strong foundation to stand the test of time. 

You can’t build it up over and over again, because once it’s afflicted with negative values ​​and emotions, there is rarely a successful comeback.

5. Trends and topical issues are addressed too often

Jumping on the trend is a great way to ensure a brand stays fresh and personable. But you shouldn’t overdo it when it comes to branding either. 

Trends are basically fads and we know how they fizzle out. Investing time, money and effort in trends cannot be a sustainable practice. 

A brand should survive trends and not only be guided by them.

Not all trends fit a brand. If the trend doesn’t help you improve your brand’s relationship with the audience, then why even bother to respond to the trend? It’s too easy to put yourself in the role of a copycat. 

The authentic power of a brand is severely weakened when it reliably follows the latest trends.

I am not saying that one should fundamentally not follow what is happening out there in the competitive digital world. 

Being up to date can pay off and in many cases is necessary. The trend can certainly be perceived by your brand, but it shouldn’t define itself by it.

6. Mental and physical availability of the brand is neglected

A brand’s popularity doesn’t mean much if the product isn’t on the shelf. To truly gain popularity, a brand needs to be both mentally and physically available. In other words, when a customer makes a purchasing decision, your brand should be one of the first options on their list. 

Subsequently, the customer will only buy if the product is available for purchase.

So it’s not enough to just advertise on a single medium, even if it generates sales. 

The brand must be omnipresent in order to really be remembered by customers. 

Successful brands therefore use media such as video, print, social media and advertising space to be present in as many facets of the target group’s everyday life as possible.

Branding must be seen and evaluated as a whole. So it can happen that individual parts of the marketing measures are not profitable, but benefit the brand awareness as a whole and thus contribute to the bottom line of success.

The second component that is important is physical availability. 

Here it is important to make the product available everywhere as much as possible. If a potential customer is ready to buy a product and this customer finds this product in the form of your brand, you not only generate sales, but also strengthen the branding. 

Brands like Coca Cola or McDonald’s are not only popular because they invest a lot of money in advertising, but also because they are available everywhere.

Mental and physical availability must not take a back seat in a brand strategy. 

Although availability cannot always be maximized all of a sudden, every step towards it contributes to success.

7. Unclear brand positioning

According to Porter’s competitive matrix, a brand should clearly find itself in one of the segments of cost leadership and differentiation, either industry-wide or in a niche. 

If a brand wants to differentiate itself, it must have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in order to be able to compete successfully. 

If this USP does not exist, there is no reason for the target group to prefer this brand to other brands.

Only a few companies can even achieve cost leadership. 

These are usually large companies that can achieve economies of scale through higher production volumes and implement standardized processes that result in lower production costs. 

As a rule, this requires high investments.

Differentiation, possibly limited to a clearly defined niche, is ideal for many smaller companies. 

The smaller this niche is chosen, the less competition there is. On the other hand, the target group is also shrinking. 

Another advantage lies in the possibility of meaningfully expanding the niche after successful market development.

8. Regular discount influences consumer behavior

Discounts are a great way to keep brand excitement going. But planned and regular discount sales can have undesirable consequences. While it would lead to more sales in the short term, it would not affect market penetration in the long term. 

While the number of sales increases for a short time, after the promotion it would fall below the usual level.

Regular discounts can also influence purchasing behavior in the long term. The customer adapts their buying cycles to the discounted sales – i.e. only buys when products are offered at a discount. 

This is especially true when it comes to products that are not absolutely necessary, but are lifestyle products.

Discounted sales serve a specific function. Use them to generate interest in your brand and reward customers for their loyalty. But they are not a remedy that should be conjured out of a hat on a regular basis.

9. Marks must not follow a zigzag course

Again, branding is a long-term and carefully planned affair. 

Constantly reacting to changes in the market and changing course once set only creates confusion for the customer and can set back the progress of your marketing efforts by months.

Sales can also drop once in a while without having to fundamentally change the branding. 

Anyone who then panics usually does not solve problems, but gets even deeper into misery. 

Successful rebranding does exist, but it doesn’t happen every few years or even months.

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