How would you describe your brand in 30 seconds or less?


If this is your response, it’s time to get to work branding your business.

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What is Branding?

Branding tells the world – and most importantly, your target audience – who you are and why you matter. It’s more than just developing a logo for your business; it’s creating a look, voice, and image so that it uniquely sets you apart from your competition.

Sounds easy to do, right?

I have a feeling if I were presenting this in front of a crowd, I would again hear crickets.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Yes, branding is important to the long-term success of your business, but here’s the great news: you’re in control! You decide the messaging, the look, and even the feel of what you are selling AND you get to decide how to communicate all that wonderfulness. Now, are you excited? Maybe just a little?

In this post, I’ll tell you the mistakes people commonly make when branding their business and tips on how to build an effective brand.

Let’s get started!


A Brand is More Than a Logo and Colour Scheme

If only branding your business was as easy as picking out a couple colours and a choosing an attractive logo. If it were, millions of marketers would be out of work and this post wouldn’t be necessary.

No, it’s much more than that. Think of the golden arches, a smiling mouse, or a bullseye; what comes to mind? McDonalds, Disney, and Target of course. Are we brainwashed? No, they are great marketers and their branding is a strong part of modern culture.

You can be, too. Thanks to the Internet, even the small guys can compete with their bigger counterparts because of tools like social media and smart content marketing. By creating a thoughtful brand and using it strategically, anything is possible.

In school, teachers would talk about the five Ws and one H: the who, what, when, where, why and how. If you are truly starting at ground zero regarding your branding efforts, this is a great place to begin.

Mistake Number One: Not Knowing Who You Are

Do you offer brand names for less or designer names at a premium? Are you hip and cool or are you classic and reliable? You can’t be both.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when branding their business is they try to be everything to everyone. It’s just not possible.

This is why you need to start the branding process by asking yourself this basic question:

Who are we?

If you struggle to find an answer, think back to why you started your business in the first place. If you have nothing unique to offer regarding your brand, no one will care.

For example, perhaps you opened a running supplies shop because there are hundreds of running enthusiasts in your neighbourhood yet not one shop in the area that sold compression socks and the latest running shoes. Now, you are the only local running supplies shop in the area specialising in the latest running gear, shoes, and apparel.

That’s a great starting point.

Why Your Brand Name and Customer Matter

What is the name of your business? Does it make sense?

Here’s another bad branding mistake: overlooking the importance of your name.

For example, if you decide to sell Chinese food but have decided to name your business Antonio’s after your father, you might get some people calling for a pizza margherita instead of a chow mein.

Before any branding efforts commence, be sure to start with a name that makes sense.

But does your business name have to make complete sense?

Let’s take a look at some of the world’s biggest companies:

  • Apple: Sure, it’s a fruit – but what does a fruit have to do with technology?
  • Coca-Cola: This is a funny one. Because without Coca-Cola would anyone know what Cola was? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
  • McDonald’s: Ray Kroc named McDonald’s after visiting a food outlet by two brothers named Dick and Mac McDonald. They had nothing to do with his business, but we know their name now!
  • Adidas: Came from the name of their founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler. Makes sense, sure, but has nothing at all to do with sporting goods.

Here’s the deal:

The name can help. But it’s the power of branding that has the most impact. If you sell shoes and your name is Joe Bloggs, you don’t need to call your brand Bloggs’ Boots.

Your business name is important, absolutely. It needs to be snappy and memorable. But it doesn’t matter if it’s completely sensible if it has these other qualities.

The “who” consideration not only applies to your business and your name, but also your customers.

Who are your customers?

What do they care about and why should they care about you? Not taking into consideration your customers’ perception is another big mistake businesses make when developing a brand. If you aren’t focused on your end-user, your business will not survive.

If you don’t know whether your name will work, why not ask? Think about who you want to “get your name” — say, your potential client — and ask them! Ask your friends! Your family! Do they like the name? Does it evoke the kind of business you do? Just get out there and conduct some basic market research. It’s a start.

Mistake Number Two: Building Rome in a Day

Do you think Walt Disney just decided one day to build the biggest mega-entertainment brand on the face of the planet? No! He started with a mouse and turned it into something magical over many years based on rich history and original creations. That kind of magic can’t be built in a day.

However, it can be built over time with strategic marketing planning, which brings us to our “what.” What kind of product or experience do you have to offer?

Another big mistake business owners make is attempting to speed up their marketing efforts by trying something for 3-6 months, ditching it because it hasn’t produced the immediate results they desired, and then trying something else, and so on. Not only does this confuse your customer, but it also damages your brand! It can take a long time for your brand to catch on, but it will. There’s nothing you can do to speed up results but you can build quickly once you start getting some traction.

Instead of trying to speed up your marketing efforts, ask yourself what makes you different, special, unique, fantastic, (insert your own adjective here) — you get my point. Why should anyone pay attention to you? What do you have to offer?

Decide on core messaging and commit to it. Yes, your marketing campaigns and methods of advertising will evolve over time, but the central identity to your brand should remain unchanged. Defining and knowing your brand is a key step to every step you take from there. From your messaging online to your sales brochures, you should hire a design agency that knows how to define your brand and create messaging and materials that work to build your brand.

Mistake Number Three: Customers Can’t Find You

Now that they know who you are and what you offer—how can they get it? In branding, it’s visually important that they recognize the look and voice or your brand. But if they can’t find you; what good is it? You must capitalize on that recognition by being readily available when they need you!

This means you need to include important details like location and contact information in all your branding and marketing efforts (think advertisements, marketing materials, and website narrative). Don’t make the rookie mistake of creating marketing materials without listing important details such as contact information and locations or important dates and times. Make sure you are on top of your game!

This also includes another mistake we see in a lot of websites – NO CALL TO ACTION. Potential customers should not have to search your site to find out how to contact you, or what they can do to reach you. If you don’t make it easy for people to find you online, in your marketing materials, in real life (Did you really think you could escape?) how do you think you are going to build a brand?

Mistake Number Four: Not Having a Plan

Why are you branding your business? 

This is the question you must always ask yourself regarding any marketing efforts: why? There are a million advertising and sponsorship possibilities and sometimes new owners will throw their money at every marketing opportunity that comes their way to make themselves known.

This brings us to the next mistake: purchasing marketing instead of investing in a marketing plan.

You need to think strategically when it comes to how you get your brand out there. Knowing where you should invest your funds is an important first step that many companies (even marketing and creative agencies) seem to miss. Yes, this step takes some time, effort and a lot of hard-earned research, but it’s worth it.

Buying things like sponsorships, T.V. adverts, and paper advertisement are all good ways to promote your brand when done strategically. To create a plan, thoughtfully develop marketing content designed for your target audience, find out how they receive this information, and purchase advertisement based on your research.

If you instead purchase every marketing opportunity that comes your way, your marketing budget that was supposed to last all year will be gone in three months, and you will be disappointed in your return on investment.

The Final No-No: Not Taking Care of Your Brand Everywhere

When it comes to branding your business, your image is everything. You must be vigilant regarding how your name, logo, and messaging are presented in every single aspect of your marketing.

It’s easy for owners to make the mistake of mismanaging their brand after they have done the hard work to create it.

For example, you may have created an attractive website with specific colors, images, and messaging, yet none of that marketing is found on your social media accounts. Your customers will be confused, and you will look disjointed as a brand.

We know it might seem expensive to have to redo all of your marketing material and to go back and rebrand your social media sites, but it’s worth it. That’s why it’s so important to make the brand work from the beginning, and that starts with smart, effective design.

We’ve talked a lot about this before, but you can read Exploring the Value of Design to get more insights.

Bonus No-No: Too Many Cooks in the Marketing Team

Another way to mismanage your brand is if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. Whenever your brand is up for public consumption, whether in a television advertisement, a print ad, or a sponsorship banner; you must have an approval process in place to ensure your brand is properly represented.

This is why many owners choose to hire a marketing agency to handle the management of their brand. After all, they are trying to run a business and don’t have time to make sure the colours are correct in their print advert or whether their latest television commercial is promoting the correct offers. When you have a team of marketing professionals committed to ensuring these things are on point, your brand will thrive.

Branding your business is easier when you can learn from the mistakes of others and thoughtfully build a brand from the inside out. It all starts with you and how you envisioned your product or service could improve the lives of your customers. From there, follow these recommendations to build a brand that truly represents who you are and why you matter. If you do that and avoid the mistakes above, you are on the right track.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned in business, and we hope these branding no-no’s have given you a good start. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Amy Aitman is the owner of 8menCan, a content agency based in Toronto, Canada. She works to create content strategies and digital marketing plans for businesses around the world. Away from the office, Amy takes her team out for chicken tacos and martins, extra dirty, extra olives of course.


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