Starting a small business venture is so uncertain. You can study every angle, make every projection but one, tiny mistake can make your target demographic doubt you. These days, when social media is king and everything is boiled down to what grabs attention fastest, it’s crucial that your marketing game is sharpened to a point.
Marketing has several facets and offshoots that define it but one that is certainly central to a small business is branding. Apple, Mercedes and Jordan all represent more than just the products they make. In many cases, it’s their logo and the brand they’ve built that are thought of first. The bitten apple, the three-pointed star and the legendary “Jumpman” are iconic hallmarks of these giants of the industry.
Fortunately, creating memorable branding is not difficult. Unfortunately, so many small business owners make innocent but sometimes irreversible mistakes when doing so. If you’re starting out with your own small business or rebranding your existing one, here are some blunders to avoid:
Fail to recognize a brand’s reach
Remember, your brand is what people will relate to most. Say “basketball shoe” and the reason so many people think “Jordan” is because it’s a brand built on strong marketing over decades. Images of Michael Jordan, advertisements of people being both stylish and active, and so on. Ensure your product is so synonymous with how you’ve branded it that people cannot help but think of your brand name when your product category is mentioned.
Also, don’t forget how crucial branding is for search engine optimization (SEO). The Search Engine Journal has said straight up that Google prefers branded names because they’re searched for more. It’s what separates small businesses that market their product from small businesses that build a brand around it.
Keep it simple
Like a new car, small business owners tend to treat their branding like it needs all the extra bells and whistles. Branding does not need every design technique imaginable included to make it powerful.
Nike uses its trademark Swoosh while Adidas uses nothing but three individual stripes. The simplicity is almost offensive, yet it is successful at making their name synonymous with their brand. When you see a shirt with a Swoosh on it, you aren’t asking if the wearer bought it from Nike. That would genuinely classify as a stupid question. That is how powerful a brand can be.
We can all aspire to create a logo like that of Porsche or Alfa Romeo that is stylistically intricate but let’s first remember that we can be as simple and as powerful as three simple stripes.
Don’t dilute without reason
Say your company is all about women and women’s fashion, and your brand has revolved entirely around feminine imagery, let’s say that of a butterfly. The colours are vibrant and loud, and the shapes are curved and almost calligraphic. This is what your client base has come to associate your brand with.
Now you’re looking to introduce a men’s line of clothing. Let’s say you now want to introduce more masculine imagery, like that of a sword. The colours are now darker and more muted, and the shapes are now more solid and jagged. It might be a great business move to make if the interest coming from men is substantial but don’t make that move yet unless you fully understand how much it will dilute the way your existent female audience will confuse their association with your brand.
Define your brand’s limits
Products can change. Updates are necessary. New items are important. Changing the brand itself around with those products, however, is not clever. Toyota doesn’t change its logo with every car it releases and the Compare The Market meerkat doesn’t have a new accent every year. The hallmark of branding is consistency so even though change may be needed sometimes, it’s important to keep some constants in taglines, colours, spokespeople and the brand name itself to name a few.
Treat your branding as a business plan. Have a document for your branding guidelines and refer to it often when making marketing decisions so as to ensure your brand stays relevant and true to how it began.
Change only when necessary
In line with the previous point, sometimes a change in branding is absolutely necessary due to a change in direction, management, goals, etc. It’s understandable. What isn’t understandable is a sudden, band-aid approach to rebranding. You can’t just rip it off in one clean swoop and expect your audience to follow loyally.
Treat rebranding like introducing a new food. Small spoonfuls overtime to help the diner adjust. In marketing, this means social media posts with gradual changes in colour to match your new brand’s colour or design leaks to hint at a rebrand while making it abundantly clear that something new is coming so that your audience isn’t left to question. Otherwise, you’re risking your clients disassociating your brand from your product and turning to another source with less sporadic and more consistent branding.
Marketing isn’t impossible but it’s one thing out of many moving parts that small business owners need to think about which can make the whole ordeal overwhelming. Educating yourself can save you thousands or ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth when paying someone to do it for you. Remember these key mistakes many new small businesses make and ensure you swim against the current.