Brand and marketing, Customer experience, Insights, Product development

Brand strategy consulting – 10 common mistakes to avoid

A brand is vital to any company’s success, regardless of size. The brand creates your identity, and it’s part of the purchasing decision for consumers you’re buying from, so your company, its values and ethics matter. A brand is a unique wrapper that defines your personality, appearance and voice.

Seventy-seven per cent of consumers make purchases based on a brand name, and 91% say they will buy from an authentic brand.

A strong brand can boost your bottom line. Brand accounts for more than a third of shareholder value, while 82% of investors believe brand strength and name recognition are critical to guide investment decisions.

Apple is an example of getting branding strategy ‘right.’

Its products are pricier than competitors, but it made its mark as a company that pushes boundaries and promotes creativity. Newer disruptor brands also understand the power of a brand. Tesla, for example, has a clear brand purpose, the ‘why’ behind its brand: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Good brands evolve.

Virgin, for example, is an excellent example of a brand positioning itself as an inclusive brand as demonstrated by its airline advertisement featuring people outside the “norm”.

What is a brand strategy?

Brand should link to business objectives.

Branding strategy sets out a plan for shaping customer perceptions. It helps to set your company apart from the competition and affects all aspects of your business. It goes beyond the logo. Specifically, 45% of a brand’s image is what an organisation says and how it says it.

Some common aspects of a brand’s strategy include:

  • Purpose – Good brands have clear intentions. Their brand connects directly to business goals.
  • Consistency – Consumers recognise and engage with brands thanks to consistent channel messaging.
  • Emotion – People connect emotionally with your brand and prefer to buy from you than from others who may be providing similar goods and services.
  • Flexibility – Good brands flex and shift with the times. They reflect societal trends such as greater awareness among consumers of sustainability.
  • Employee involvement – Good buy-in from employees can motivate and enlist them as guardians of your brand.

However, getting the brand strategy right is a challenge.

What are the consequences of getting your brand strategy wrong?

Lousy branding is bad business – and 54% of people simply don’t trust brands.

Distrust in a brand stems from “broken promises, bad experiences, and brand dishonesty”.

While there is lots of advice and guides on creating successful brands, it’s worth being equally aware of where and how brands can get it wrong.

What is brand strategy

10 branding mistakes and how to avoid them

1. Not appreciating the importance of brand strategy

Let’s start with the most important – assuming that brand is easy and you don’t need to invest in a brand strategy.

The reality is you do.

Perceptions of brand can be skewed by high-profile, high-cost projects such as the logo for the London 2012 Olympics, which cost a reported $625,000 and met with widespread criticism for its controversial design.

Good branding goes way beyond the logo. A brand strategy encompasses customer experience (CX), builds brand loyalty and trust, and is easily recognisable visually and by its tone of voice (ToV). It can win your business financial gains and recognition and give you a competitive edge. A brand is your customer-facing identity and encompasses product packaging, your website’s look and feel, culture and more.

It’s crucial to build your corporate identity, which in simple terms, is how your company presents itself to the public.

The three key elements to creating your corporate identity are:

  • Corporate communication
  • Corporate design
  • Corporate behaviour.

2. Not identifying tangible business goals

While brand strategy is important, don’t create it in isolation.

Ignoring business strategy or not identifying the need that underpins your brand is a big mistake. Identify what you’re trying to achieve and how a brand can support that objective. Using the example of Virgin, we could infer its business objective is to become the ‘most inclusive airline’, which its brand advertising reflects.

Similarly, a brand can’t fix a failing business.

For an intelligent brand strategy, set clear, measurable goals and boundaries around what the brand can’t do.

Read our guide on the benefits of using a management consultant.

3. Unclear brand messaging

The best brands are instantly recognisable from their logo, visual identity and also by their messaging, which is clear and consistent.

The acid test is guessing the company behind the brand without seeing a logo. Unilever, for example, excels. Its Dove brand promotes natural beauty in everything it does and stands out from its competitors by embracing a diverse understanding of self-image.

Consider what you want your customers and potential customers to see, think, feel and do as a result of your brand messaging. Can you sum it up in a couple of lines?

If not, your message isn’t clear enough to you or your customers.

4. Failing to find a voice that articulates your brand strategy

Often companies focus on their visual identity and spend less time considering how they sound or their tone of voice.

Create an identity unique to what you want to say, and let that guide your visual style. Another common mistake is emulating other brands or trends within the market; it may seem like a quick win, but by following the latest design trend, you’ll soon look out of date.

Branding strategy

5. Getting the brand tagline wrong

A great tagline is a perfect way to express the core message driving your business and, therefore, your brand.

It has to grab attention and be believable.

A good tagline is:

  • Concise
  • Simple
  • Memorable

The most effective taglines condense the essence of a brand into three to six words. Think Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different”.

Examples from Dove all have Real Beauty at their core:

  • Beauty is for everyone
  • Real beauty from Real Care.
  • Let’s change beauty.

6. Ignoring the competition or imitating their brand

Taking inspiration from similar brands is an excellent idea, but while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it doesn’t make the best business sense. Your brand needs to reflect your unique selling points, what makes you different and why a customer would pick you.

That doesn’t mean you should make the branding mistake of ignoring the competition, either.

Branding enables you to distinguish yourself within the market. You may have spotted a sweet spot or a gap that no one else is filling. Where does your brand sit within the broader landscape – and how can you bring that story to life?

7. Trying to be all things to all people

You want to reach as many people as possible, but spreading your brand too thinly will dilute it.

Make sure you know your audience well. Talk to existing customers about what makes them tick. When considering potential new customers, what is the problem you’re trying to solve? Consider where you want to be and where you’re starting.

A good brand articulates the aspirations of where a company wants to be, and in doing so, it draws people in.

8. Not using your employee’s voice to advocate the brand strategy

A common brand strategy mistake is failing to communicate it internally.

Assuming you’ve done everything else right, not using employees to spread the word and safeguard the brand’s integrity is a big mistake. You want your employees to live the brand, from how they answer the phone and greet customers to how they collaborate with other teams. A good brand strategy galvanises everyone behind a single, shared goal summed up by a tagline.

Read our guide on employee engagement in change management.

9. Creating loose brand guidelines or not enforcing guidelines

Once you’ve defined your brand, you need to build it.

It is crucial to have proper guidelines that define the brand to your people, supply chain partners, collaborators and the outside world.

To safeguard your brand:

  • Create a small branding team.
  • Have clear, proper guidelines explaining how to implement the brand.
  • Make your brand guidelines and assets available, including logo files, colours, and typography.
  • Launch the brand and socialise it with staff at all levels.
  • Get senior leadership buy-in to help establish the brand.

10. Not seeking professional support for building a brand strategy

A common branding mistake is thinking you know everything about your brand.

It’s easy to be too close to your vision.

Seeking expert brand support can challenge your assumptions and push you to articulate your mission, vision and values. A professional can help you explore the competition and what it is doing. They can take a holistic view to explore a logo, tagline, colours and related brand assets and create these assets for sharing.

Brand strategy success

Brand strategy consulting

Brand strategy consulting can help you create the right brand strategy for your business.

Portevo connects clients to independent brand strategy consulting expertise through its data-driven matchmaking marketplace. With just one contract, Portevo will help you build a strong statement of work, search for consultants to compete for it, and then select and contract.

Read our guide on signs your organisation should hire a consultant.