Top 10 Branding Mistakes to Avoid

Top 10 Branding Mistakes to Avoid
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Branding Mistakes Can Make or Break Your Growth Strategy
It is not always easy to live your brand promise.  With the speed of social media, it is far too easy to make big and visible branding mistakes these days.

Top 10 Branding Mistakes that Companies Make 
The most common branding pitfalls that our clients report include:

  1. Lack of Differentiation
    Failing to truly create a unique value proposition that resonates with your target clients. Differentiation is a critical component of a successful go-to-market strategy. It allows you to combat pricing pressure and stand out from the pack. True differentiation means that there are no other perceived substitutes of similar value and that you can back up your unique claims.

    For example, on the TV Show, Shark Tank, entrepreneurs are often tripped up by the celebrity investors when their products are not perceived to be appreciably different. From Custom Chef Hats for women that can be replaced with shower caps to selling socks in sets of 3 in case you lose one, smart investors (and customers) know “different” when they see it.

  2. Inconsistent Messaging
    Using complicated, jargon-based, inconsistent, contradictory, and confusing messaging can alienate consumers and customers.

    For example, we recently took our car to a 10-minute oil change place. Once we gave them our car, it took 20 minutes to change our oil. Now that may be faster than our normal garage, but we left dissatisfied because they did not fulfill their brand promise.

  3. Over-Extending the Brand
    Extending the brand too aggressively and not focusing on what you do best.

    For example, in the 1990s, Harley Davidson motorcycles had acquired a cult-like status. The brand stood for toughness, masculinity, freedom and power. In a bid to leverage the brand, Harley introduced wine coolers, aftershave, and perfumes. After robust criticism from loyal customers, Harley discontinued many inappropriate products.

    More products do not always mean more sales.

  4. Neglecting to Engage
    Neglecting to truly engage your internal and external customers with your brand. According to Inc. Magazine, customers who engage with brands online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company’s products. They also reported that 70% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies who they feel provide above-par customer service.

    For example, AdAge reported that as Samsung and Apple continue the fight for market share, Samsung’s marketing is clearly winning the battle for consumer love, with its cool selfies and earned media strategy. It’s a rivalry that would prompt any brand to change up its marketing approach and invest in digital marketing and social media support — an area in which Apple has been less aggressive than its competitors.

  5. Underestimating the Competition
    Theoretically, every company in a free market (even those that introduce a new category) has competition. The competition is either direct or comes in the form of a substitute product or offering.

    For example, a considerable portion of Blockbuster’s inability to survive occurred because it waited until 2004 to address the threat of Netflix, a more convenient DVD-by-mail service substitute that went public in 2002. Now Netflix is facing increased substitute competition form Hulu, Walmart, and YouTube.

  6. Failing to Align
    Misjudging the importance of aligning marketing, sales and service causes problems and inefficiencies through the entire customer lifecycle.

    For example, Comcast Cable advertised the new Xfinity1 platform in our area. We received weekly fliers and sales calls about the promotion. When we finally picked up the phone, they spent 15 minutes asking questions and running through our account. Then they told us it was not yet available in our area. They wasted our time and their time.

  7. Forgetting to Align Internal and External Brands
    Branding is about more than a name, logo, and selection of colors. Employees bring a brand to life. A bad brand experience can happen anywhere at any time. Would you be troubled by a Ford dealer who prefers to drive Toyota cars?

    For example, after losing its way in the early 2000’s with customers, physicians and employees due to an overemphasis on profits and cost cutting, Aetna Health embarked on the “New Aetna.” They realized they needed to bring back the company’s core values of customer commitment, responding quickly to natural disasters, and company pride in everything they do.

  8. Breaking Brand Promises
    When it comes to customer engagement and loyalty, unbelievable or un-kept promises are worse than making no promise at all.

    For example, the last time I rented a car form Avis, their “We try harder” tagline seemed pretty ridiculous on the banner behind the customer service rep who appeared uninterested in helping the long and disgruntled line of customers who had reservations but no car. Then I learned that the company consistently rates poorly in J.D. Power customer satisfaction studies. Are they really trying harder?

    Then there is AIG’s promise — “The strength to be there.” They wisely discontinued this campaign after the company had to be bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis.

  9. Selecting a Dumb Name
    Names that are not clear, simple, global, memorable, or easily pronounced can cause problems.

    For example, General Motors introduced the Chevrolet Nova into the Spanish-speaking market to disappointing sales. “Nova” translates as “doesn’t go” in Spanish. The embarrassed automobile giant changed the model name to the Caribe. Similarly, the Toyota Fiera, which means “ugly old woman” in Puerto Rico, was pulled from the market.

  10. Being Narcissistic
    Thinking it is all about you instead of being customer-centric.

    While some companies like Apple have successfully met “unknown” customer needs with innovative new products, most companies ignore their customers at their own peril.  For example, think about the “New Coke” or Netflix’s famously failed attempt to split their DVD and streaming video business in two. Both resulted in a horrendous backlash and negative financial hit.

The Bottom Line
If you want to grow, you must align how you go to market with what matters most to your customers and your employees.  Otherwise, you will fall behind.

To learn more about branding mistakes to avoid and how to align your go-to-market strategy, download 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Current Sales Strategy

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