Avoiding Some Common Branding Mistakes

Good Branding Keeps Your Brand Alive

Each brand grows and evolves throughout its life and needs to be properly managed and nourished to make sure it stays healthy. Even healthy brands can quickly lose momentum when treated poorly or neglected. Unfortunately, many of us do great harm to our brands despite our good intentions.

Branding Pistol

I’ve had the opportunity to manage brands in multiple industries and at various stages of the brand life cycle. This experience has included established brands that were number one in market share to freshly launched startup brands. Regardless of size or age or industry, they all needed proper nurturing to become healthy and grow.

Even Good Intentions Can End Badly

It’s possible that external events can cause damage to the brand, but there’s often little we can do to protect against that other than damage control after the fact. Even if you make all the right moves with your brand, unforeseen events may still occur that are beyond your control. Since it does us no good to dwell on those things we can’t control, we’ll focus on the things we can control. Brand Management, or mismanagement, is something we can control and is the point of this discussion.

In my experience, most of the harm we do to our brands is the direct result of the decisions we make and the actions we take. While the abuse we sometimes cause may be unintended, it is generally not accidental. Following is a quick breakdown of what I consider to be the three most common ways we abuse our brands despite very good intentions.

Branding Mistake #1: Narcissism

Quite simply, this is when we, as marketers, attempt to make our brand a reflection of our own desires. Here’s a newsflash for you. It isn’t about you! The single most important role for any manager of brands is to serve as the voice of the consumer within your company. This means you need to set your personal wants and needs aside and focus on satisfying those of the consumer.

I’ve encountered this at every company I ‘ve worked with and with many people both inside and outside marketing. My favorite response when I encountered this was a pointed reminder of the role of brand management. It went something like “What you like doesn’t matter…we focus on what our consumers like”. Any company unwilling to adhere to this approach with their brands will eventually have some very weak brands.

Branding Mistake #2: Everything to Everyone

Branding MistakesOur brand is a great brand. If we water down the brand attributes that strongly define it as belonging to a particular segment it can appeal to everyone, right? Wrong. Your brand is what it is and the attributes that clearly differentiate your brand from the competition are strengths. It’s rare that a strong brand can have universal appeal.

I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that, if you focus on everything, you’ve focused on nothing. If you want a brand that is built to last, it is absolutely essential that you remain disciplined in your brand positioning. This means you appeal strongly to the target consumer base and you accept that this means your realistic market potential has its limitations. Even the biggest brands have to live with this if they’re going to survive.

Branding Mistake #3: Handyman Special

This may be the worst of the bunch and I’d estimate it’s the most common. This is the death of your brand through excessive tinkering. I’m guessing most of you have seen this. You have a healthy brand experiencing steady, organic growth and you have some turnover on your brand team. Then a new guy comes in and he’s god’s gift to marketing and decides it’s time to change your brand strategy.

Big mistake. A brand strategy is a long term plan. While it’s healthy to periodically evaluate your plan and refresh your tactics, you don’t change your strategy if your brand is healthy. I don’t care if you change out your brand managers every six months. You don’t change your strategy to match. You’re much better off to maintain consistent implementation of a good strategy than to keep changing in pursuit of the perfect strategy.

It’s About Discipline

This is by no means a full list of all the ways we abuse our brands and just knowing what they are won’t guarantee that you avoid them. At the end of the day, brand management success will be much more dependent on remaining disciplined in your brand plan than on brilliant innovation. I know big, radical change is fun and sexy but it’s not the key to long term success.  Your brand team, like any other team, should be well versed in the fundamentals of brand management and kept within the boundaries those fundamentals provide.

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Article written by John Howard

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John is the founder and President of Frontera Marketing Group. A graduate of the University of Iowa, John had more than 20 years of professional experience in Sales and Marketing prior to founding FMG. His corporate background included a number of companies, industries and roles including National Account Manager, Product Manager, Brand Manager, Director of Trade Marketing, Director of Marketing and Vice-President of Marketing.

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