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The Top 3 Mistakes Most Founders Make When Branding Their Business

We’ve all seen it: the branding faux pas that makes us cringe and wonder, “Really?! What were they thinking!”

Those branding mistakes aren’t solely limited to large, tone deaf corporations that have lost touch with their customer base. Startup and small business founders make some pretty epic branding mistakes too. The difference is that when you’re a new startup or a small business, your mistakes don’t often end up trending on Twitter for everyone to see.

Just because your business is too small to have your mistakes published all over social media doesn’t mean you aren’t making them and it certainly doesn’t mean your audience isn’t taking notice.

Below are 3 of the most common mistakes most founders make when branding their businesses and how you can make sure you avoid them at all costs.

Mistake #1: Me Too-ism

It’s natural to see another business have some success and think, “If I follow their formula, my business will do just as well.” The reality is that great branding isn’t about simply emulating the already successful (although certainly there are valuable takeaways to be gleaned). Rather, great branding is about learning what connects your business with your audience and giving that back to them in spades.

Moreover, there are very good reasons to avoid “Me Too-ism”:

  • It assumes that the brand you want to mimic has the same audience as you. Do they really? Are you sure?
  • In the age of “authenticity,” copying another business’s brand is likely to be met with contempt.
  • Adopting a purely copy-cat approach is lazy, plain and simple. It’s not strategic to your specific business goals and it’s unlikely to get you to where you want to be with your branding.

Instead of going the “me too” route:

  • Research what your customers like about your business (if you’re not sure, ask them).
  • Research how your competition brands themselves. Note what they do well and what they could do better. Can you take advantage of their branding weaknesses?
  • Understand your business’s place in the market, then try to stand out instead of giving in to the homogenous branding of your industry. It’s usually a mistake to pass on the opportunity to stand out because it leaves the door wide open for the next new business to make a big splash.

Mistake #2: Making it Personal

We get it. Your business is your baby. You’ve poured your life into getting it off the ground, and so it makes emotional sense that the responsibility of designing your brand should fall squarely on your shoulders. But is that a smart idea? Sure, you’ll likely save some money short-term, but what might the opportunity cost be of getting it wrong?

Unless your brand is designed to be an extension of your personality (ie. you’re a personal trainer, celebrity chef, etc.), then your branding should be more strategic than showcasing your own personal preferences. Like any other tool, you should leverage your brand to win customers and it’s critically important that you think of it this way. Use your personal preferences in your branding only if they align really well with your target audience.

Mistake #3: Being Trendy

Branding trends are just that: trends. Cool one day, dated the next.

If you choose to go the trendy route, make sure you’re doing it for prudent reasons. One example would be if your business is itself trend-driven. In this case, it might make sense for your branding to look current. Keep in mind, though, that needing to look on-trend doesn’t describe most businesses. For most businesses, branding should be used to help establish lasting credibility and to build trust with your audience.

At the end of the day, it’s fine to consider being trendy with your branding. Just make sure you approach it with a healthy dose of skepticism and root your decisions in research and longer-term thinking.

At Your Brand Week, we aim for strategically-driven brand design—always. We’ve condensed decades’ worth of experience designing brands into a concise methodology called Deductive Branding™. It not only helps our clients to avoid common pitfalls like “me too-ism” or making their brands overly personal, it also reveals valuable insights into their businesses, goals, preferences, and audiences. Together, these are the drivers that help us produce excellent branding to move their businesses forward.

Are you ready to brand your next big thing? View our case studies.

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