I’m still shocked by the number of small business owners who don’t invest in the creation and development of branding. We’re not just talking a logo here, I mean a full brand with consideration for the business’ character and values, something you can’t afford to cut corners on if you want your business to start – and grow – strongly.

Yes, reputation and trust is built over time, but done badly your brand (or lack of) can work against you and you might not get the chance to show the world what you’re made of.

Below are 5 common branding mistakes small businesses make

Underestimating Your Brand

From a customer’s perspective your brand is the one thing that will make them buy, or walk on by. Whether they realise it or not, they’re making snap judgements about your business, its service/product and the quality of those offerings in the few seconds it takes for them to take in the look and language of your ad.

As a business, your brand is your one, biggest, most valuable asset. It epitomises your business and what it stands for. It provides a level of expectation in terms of quality and the integrity of every  single person within the organisation.

Never, ever underestimate the power of your brand.

Bypassing Brand Guidelines

Having a set of Brand Guidelines – essentially a rule-book for your brand – is a common mistake for small businesses. Maybe you think you’re not ‘big enough’ to need them, or there’s only a handful of people working the business and they all know what they’re doing.

Those things may be true, but still I can’t stress enough the importance of Brand Guidelines. A good set of guidelines is far more than a Dos and Don’ts of colours and fonts; it’ll also cover the character, values and tone of voice of the company, something that can easily be forgotten or warped over time. It’s vitally important to ensure your brand is treated professionally and (here’s the important bit) consistently in every advert, leaflet, poster and email if you’re hoping for your customers to not only recognise your brand but also see its integrity.

Bending the Brand Guideline Rules

Ok, so you’ve carefully crafted a set of brand guidelines and begun implementing them across all of your company’s correspondence, marketing materials and online platforms. Fast forward a couple of months and you’re launching a brand new product, it needs some ads and you’d really like to use a different font to those specified in your Brand Guidelines.

Can you? Of course. Should you? Well… keep in mind that every time you deviate from your Brand Guidelines you’re diluting the power of your brand. You’re essentially introducing a new brand image to your customers, losing that association with your established brand; a brand they’ve grown to trust and recognise for that wonderful reputation you’ve worked hard building.

Not Policing How Others Use Your Brand

You have a strong set of Brand Guidelines, and everyone within your organisation is sticking to them like glue. Good job! Now you have another problem.

Think about every person who will use your brand outside of your organisation. Every designer, printer, signwriter, journalist, blogger… every single instance of your brand being used or featured anywhere must comply with the Brand Guidelines if you want to protect your brand. Every one! That means providing a copy of your Brand Guidelines to everyone and anyone who handles communication around your business. You’ve come too far to have a local magazine feature your business but change your logo to match their colour scheme – that’s not what you want your customers to remember, and it’s up to you to make sure you protect your brand like the precious baby it is.

Never Considering a Re-brand

You’ve just got all that covered and now I want you to change it?! Not at all, a rebrand is a huge decision and undertaking, one that has to be handled delicately and perhaps even slowly, phasing in any big changes over time to minimise any confusion to both staff and customers alike.

However if, a few years down the line, a rebrand seems like the right approach then be excited! This is a new phase in your business! Maybe your current brand was a little too reliant on current trends, and that time has passed. Maybe you’ve gone through managerial, organisational or product changes and want a refresh of your brand to mirror that. Whatever the reason, if it’s right for your business at that time don’t be afraid to re-brand.

I once had a client mortified at the idea of a rebrand, declaring that “Apple aren’t going to suddenly change their logo to a Pear!” Let that sink in for a minute (it took me longer). Yes, your brand is absolutely, 100% your biggest asset and you must guard it with your life. But times change, businesses change, mistakes happen and sometimes a facelift is just what your business needs. It could be a complete overhaul or just just some careful little tweaks to typography and colours.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with Apple’s brand development to date. Just saying.

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