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Avoid the most common branding mistakes
June 9, 2009 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

A solid brand can be the difference between business success and failure – especially in this economy. A strong brand helps you stand out from your competitors, adds value to your product or services, and helps you connect with your consumers.

The advantages of a solid brand are significant, but there are a lot of ways to get it wrong. Here are some ways to avoid making some of the most common branding mistakes.

1.   Understand how your consumers see your brand. Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your consumers say it is. So find out how they perceive your brand. Identify what the brand experience is like from their perspective. Even if you’re pretty sure you know what your consumers want and what they think of you, make the effort to ask them. The additional insight you gain with brand research will help you focus, strengthen and re-energize your branding efforts.

2.   Differentiate or die. What makes your product or service special? Why would a consumer choose you over your competitors? These questions are at the heart of branding. If you don’t know how your brand differs from your competitors, you won’t be able to give consumers a good reason to choose your brand. A great way to determine how you’re different from your top competitors is to ask your consumers.

3.   Deliver on your brand promise. Don’t make a brand promise you can’t keep. And once you make that promise, do everything possible to keep it. Your brand promise, combined with the experience your consumers have when they interact with you, IS your brand. For example, if you promise great customer service, you have to focus all aspects of your corporate culture on supporting that promise. Once the promise is made, you are held to a higher standard. Average customer service is no longer good enough.

4.   Make branding everyone’s responsibility. Branding is not owned by the marketing department. It’s not just the responsibility of upper management. It’s up to every person in the organization to understand the brand promise and do what it takes to deliver on that promise at every opportunity. Companies with powerful brands typically have a leader who is passionate about the brand, and employees throughout the company who believe in the brand and understand how their daily actions contribute to the power of the brand. In well-branded companies, it’s the employees that make sure the consumer brand experience is consistent and on-brand.

5.   Define your target market. No brand can be all things to all people. If you’re trying to target everyone, you’re actually targeting no one. It can be hard to decide that someone is not a potential consumer for you, but branding is about focus, and focusing your target market helps you differentiate yourself from competitors and ultimately helps you deliver on your brand promise.

6.   Don’t brand on price. There’s always a competitor willing to beat your low price. Basing your brand on price is a dangerous strategy. Building a strong brand gives your consumers compelling reasons beyond price to choose you. In fact, a strong brand moves the consumer’s decision away from price, focusing instead on your differentiators, your brand promise and the overall consumer experience.

7.   Be consistent. Your brand is like your personality. It should be consistent. Brands don’t change radically, they evolve. Your messaging can and should change over time, but the heart of your brand should remain as consistent as possible.

This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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