Just like Rome, brands aren’t built in a day. Building a brand that excites people requires constant maintenance and a lot of creativity. The moment you open your doors for business, you have to have more to say than I’m here! Look at me! Buy me! or people will tune you out. Or worse, they’ll take one look and feel turned off.
In order to break through the noise and reach the customers whose attention your competition is probably paying a lot of ad dollars for, you need to differentiate yourself.
But it’s more than simply talking about how your product or service is different. A brand can differentiate itself in the way that it presents itself to the world. How it’s designed, the tone of the messaging, the content you produce, and the events and workshops you host to help build community. All of these things matter. But there are still a few mistakes even the most well-intentioned businesses make when building their brand.
Here are 5 of the biggest mistakes brands make that prevent them from standing out:
1) You look and sound like everybody else
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t it obvious that if you want to stand out, you can’t blend in? Sweet lord, YES. And yet, businesses everywhere are quick to jump on the latest design trends. A certain logo style or color starts making its way into every company’s rebrand. Every website starts following the same copy patterns and using the same buzzwords. Everyone is using illustrations one day and photography the next.
When you’re approaching your visual identity and copy style, step back and evaluate:
Based on my audience and what I’m putting out there, what is a reasonable aesthetic?
Where can I stretch the limits of what my customers expect and where do I need to follow “the rules”?
How can we present ourselves visually, as well as manage our tone, in a way that is fresh, but not jarring for our audience?
The answers to these questions can liberate you and allow you to get creative and experiment, but also they also establish reasonable branding boundaries.
2) Your site design leaves something to be desired
You’ve got the chops to be in business but if your brand design and website look unprofessional, visitors are going to turn the other way.
Ever heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, we all do and so do your customers. You don’t have to be a designer to recognize when something looks tired or outdated. A byproduct of our world being blanketed in advertising is that we subconsciously attach ourselves to certain visual styles that appeal to us. Designers of every discipline will spend hours pouring over pixels and measurements to make some element appeal to our senses just a little bit more than last time.
There is a science to the art of design and it’s amazing what a simple change to the equation can do for your perception.
3) You’re afraid to narrow down your audience
It is a cardinal marketing sin to say, “We’re for everyone!” Service-offering businesses, I’m looking at you! It can be tempting to say your service or product could be used in 10 different verticals and 10 different industries. And maybe it can. But unless you have a sales and marketing team in the hundreds, there is no way you can effectively reach and provide targeted messaging or design that appeals to everyone.
Start with one audience and build your brand strategy around them. The risk of having multiple targets and user personas in your head is that you begin trying to make every tagline, blog post, and piece of copy, please everyone. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
As you grow and are able to dedicate more time and resources to your brand and marketing efforts, your secondary audience will announce itself naturally and you’ll be better prepared to expand your brand strategy to include them.
4) You’re not making an emotional connection
There is a reason you’re in business and it goes beyond needing to pay the bills. There is something driving you to build something. Don’t shy away from this fire. Don’t be afraid to give it a voice. Stand for something and own your purpose. Marketing your business and clarifying your brand identity will be a thousand times easier when you put your values on the table.
People connect with people, not products. You give your customers something to hold onto and follow when you put yourself out there and state your purpose. Now we don’t all have to be the Patagonia and TOMS of the world, but we can take a page out of their playbooks.
No one built a following because they made a million dollars in revenue, had the slickest UX, or scored placement in the trendiest stores in town. You build a following by figuring out a solution to a problem and driving home that the emotional benefits of your solution are just too great for someone to pass up.
5) Your visual brand and your brand vision don’t match
Have you ever seen a tech company unveil a logo in a scripted font? No. Ever wonder why that is?
It’s because they’re trying to convey “bold”, “forward-thinking”, and “modern”. Your logo and brand elements are just as powerful as your copy in telling your brand’s story. When your grand vision doesn’t align with your brand identity it can really confuse potential clients into thinking that you’re a particular kind of business servicing someone else.
You have mere seconds to grab your ideal client. Your visual brand needs to prep them to understand your story and your vibe so your copy can close the sale.