How Not to Build Your Brand: 5 Damaging Mistakes

Aubrey Phelps

Developing and maintaining an effective brand strategy isn’t often at the top of many firms' priority lists; they get the logo design, print the business cards and call it good. But without a strategy, you’re almost certain to make at least some of these common branding mistakes:

  1. Equating design with brand is shortsighted. Your logo is not your brand. The colors, the design, the marketing slogans are no more your brand than they are your entire company. What’s more, if the superficial details need to change in order to maintain or increase your brand awareness, so be it. Your brand is your reputation in the minds of your customers and potential customers. An updated logo isn’t going to change that. True, there are downsides to changing up certain aspects of a long-standing brand, but the upsides of a well-planned rebranding strategy are almost always a net gain.

  2. If your services aren’t focused, neither is your brand. You may want to be everything to everyone, but that actually dilutes your brand and makes it harder to attract and keep clients. It may seem intuitive that the more lures you have in the water, the more fish you’ll attract. But that’s not necessarily the case. Effective brand development favors entities that provide a specialization or focus that becomes the basis for your brand’s identity in the minds of the public.

  3. You don’t contrast with the competition. You have to highlight your edge over the next guy; otherwise, you’re just another face in the crowd, another link in the search results. You might offer (and deliver) the best quality service in the business. You might offer clients value that your competitors simply can’t match. But they likely aren’t experts in your industry, and it’s unlikely that they know even the most basic difference between you and your competitors. You have to highlight what’s right about your firm and establish that quality as part of what people know about your brand.

  4. You’ve forgotten to educate your client base. I often see this problem with corporate Web sites that are designed more for industry professionals than for prospective clients. If I have to be an expert on your services just to decipher the copy on your site, I might not know that you have what I’m searching for. Your customer base knows far less about your brand and the services you offer than you think they do. And they’ll stay ignorant unless you do something to change it. Give people the information they need to make a decision; often that’s all it takes to get someone to bite. Aim every part of your brand identity toward the client, not toward your industry at large, and you’ll see an uptick in converting site visitors to leads, and from leads to paying customers.

  5. You don’t know enough about your clients. You can’t do effective online PR without knowing who you’re targeting. Few firms do the research necessary to understand just who their customers are or—more importantly—which types of customers they’re failing to attract. By investing in some detailed market analysis, you’re going to see just how effective your branding efforts are, what people really think about your company and what weak points you need to shore up with your PR, customer service and marketing efforts.

Most of these mistakes are simply a result of failing to develop a unified brand strategy from the beginning. If you start with a comprehensive plan, developing knowledge of customers and ways to communicate with the public about your company, you’ll do a much better service to the image and awareness that your brand creates in the public mind.

Aubrey Phelps is an account executive at with an expertise in SEO.