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5 common branding mistakes to avoid making with your small business

Every business – even yours – has a brand.

One common misconception is that your brand is your logo. Your logo is a single visual representation of your brand, but it is not your brand.

Your brand represents everything you are, and aspire to be, as a business. It is the culmination of many things including, the type of language you use in your communications, your website, your signage, your packaging, your website, your presence on social media and even the way you and your staff answer the phone.

A brand makes promises to customers. To build your brand it’s important that you live up to the promises you make to your customers. If you fail to do this you will damage your brand

Your brand is valuable, so nurture it

A well-regarded brand will help to attract customers to your business. Over time, a strong brand can become one of the most valuable assets a business can own, so it’s worth investing a little time and effort in developing yours.

Think of the Virgin brand, and how Richard Branson has been able to take the trust he built up with customers in one sector (record shops) and transfer it to businesses operating in completely different sectors including, an airline, a train franchise and space travel!

With your brand being such a valuable tool you need to look after it, nurture it, and ensure that you never do anything to undermine it.

It’s easy to do brand damage that can take years to repair. This is especially true in these days of widespread use of social media. Within hours a company can see a single act of poor customer service ‘go viral’, tarnishing the brand and hurting the business.

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5 common branding mistakes to avoid

Your brand is an important tool in helping to bring new customers to your business, so you want to make sure that you do everything you can to develop and build a brand that people trust.

With such high stakes, here are 5 common branding mistakes you need to avoid making with your small business:

1. Branding on price, service or quality

The people who run pound shops have a problem. Apart from inflation damaging their proposition, the only reason they are giving people to pick their business is that they are cheaper than their competitors. This is a dangerous message.

If your customers have picked you only because you are cheaper than the competition, then when they are ready to buy again in six month’s time, they will happily switch to any competitor that is now beating you on price. The internet makes this easy for them.

You have a similar problem if your brand is built around having the best quality or service. Does any business admit to having the worst service or quality? Of course not.

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Yet when all businesses claim to have the best service and quality, it won’t work as a differentiator for any of them. The key is to build a brand that relies on something your competitors don’t have, such as you! Virgin is built around Richard Branson and no-one can copy that.

2. Not living up to your brand message

There’s no point claiming to be the most innovative business in your field if you don’t spend the most on research & development and launch the best new products.

Customers expect a consistency between what you say and the way you act. They will quickly discover if the two do not match, and you will lose their trust in a way that can never be regained.

Trust buys a lot of business and needs to be protected. Make sure your business lives up to its promises.

3. Changing your message too often

You also need consistency with the brand message you are sending out. It’s OK for a new business to play around with a few messages to find the one that sticks.

But once you have developed a reputation for, say, innovation; you can’t switch to developing a reputation for “friendliness” without damaging the relationship you already have with your customers.

If they pick you for innovation and you suddenly declare innovation to be unimportant, that will have an impact on customer retention and future sales. A consistent message delivered badly is often better than brilliant delivery of several inconsistent messages.

4. Being the same as competitors

When you are starting your business it is very tempting to look at who else is in the marketplace and emulate them. In a way, it is the logical thing to do.

After all, if one company has succeeded in that way, then surely you will? Sadly you are unlikely to. You are telling the marketplace that you are a “me too” – a business that gets its ideas from others and doesn’t stand for anything on its own.

Me too businesses tend to survive only by competing on price… and you now know what a risky game that is.

5. Trying to be all things to all people

A successful brand will repel as many people as it attracts. In fact, the less appealing your brand is to people outside of your target market, the more it is likely to appeal to those within.

If you try to appeal to everyone with your brand, you risk diluting your message and failing to appeal to your core customers.