Having worked in the world of B2B marketing for nearly 15 years, I’ve seen countless mistakes made with company brands (I’ve even made some myself!). But these are the 4 I witness most often:

  1. Forgetting the words and focussing on the pictures.
  2. Saying you have a target audience, while still trying to appeal to everyone.
  3. Being a follower rather than a leader.
  4. Presenting the brand inconsistently across all channels.

Let’s explore each in more detail…

Forgetting the words and focussing on the pictures

Contrary to what some people believe, a brand is not a logo. It’s not a colour. And it’s not a fancy font. A brand isn’t about the way you look, because that would be really superficial and we’re in the game to build lasting relationships.

A brand should encompass EVERYTHING about you – who you are, what you do and how the experience of working with you makes people feel – which is why it needs to cover the realms of design and copy.

Defining your brand tone of voice is really important for injecting personality into your brand. The last thing you want to be is another corporate that blends into the background, so think about how you’re going to present yourself to the market.

For example, are you:

  • Very corporate
  • More friendly
  • Sharing stories to educate
  • Straight-talking and factual
  • Purposefully challenging the status quo

Saying you have a target audience, while still trying to appeal to everyone

Just because your product/service CAN be used by anyone doesn’t mean that you SHOULD try to appeal to everyone. One of the most powerful things your brand can do is repel the wrong people, so you can focus your efforts on the right people.

So often the focus is on QUANTITY when it should be on QUALITY.

What’s better: having 100 customers who sign up and never renew. Or having 20 customers who love you so much that they quickly sign again while shouting about it to their LinkedIn network.

Granted, it’s a crude example, but the most important and valuable thing you can deliver to your business is a tribe who is invested in your success. Theses people eagerly await new product releases, engage in your online conversations and aren’t afraid to go out and ‘sell’ you to their network.

Creating a brand that only appeals to a very specific audience indicates that you’re ‘one of them’, they can trust you, and that being associated with your company is valuable to their business beyond the product/service they buy from you. Through your brand you can transition clients to advocates.

Being a follower rather than a leader

What are you passionate about? Why does your company exist? How are you hoping to change the world for the better?

One of the worst things you can do for your brand is to jump on the latest bandwagon. And it’s really easy to do. Take Pride and Black Lives Matters as wonderful examples of how to not present your brand in the best light.

Yes, these subjects are important, but all over social media you see brands just slapping a rainbow on their logo to demonstrate how they support the LGBTQ+ community, or highlighting that they have managers who are black so they must embrace diversity.

It’s so wrong. And your customers and the public are quick to call you out and prove you wrong if they feel you’re being fake.

If these things are core to your business, that’s great – add to the conversation, debate and challenge where appropriate. You won’t need to resort to cheap tactics because these commitments are core to your brand and therefore flow through everything you do.

If they’re not core to your business, it’s ok. Maybe your commitments are to other things, like the environment or sustainability, furthering innovation and technology, or supporting the next generation workforce. It doesn’t matter what your ‘thing’ is, but make sure you have one and lead by example.

When I work with my clients on their tone of voice, I always get them to write a list of things they do AND DON’T talk about. By making it clear within your brand guidelines, you retain consistency over how you present your brand and don’t risk jumping on that bandwagon.

Presenting the brand inconsistently across all channels

There’s something really jarring about a company that presents itself as super corporate on its website, and then floods its social channels with emojis. It comes across as false because you start to build expectations about that company, and then feel disappointed when they show up somewhere else looking different.

Consistency is key to branding.

And that’s not to say you must be identical in every channel, simply recognisable. So for example, while your company website may be more corporate in tone, you might publish thought leadership articles on LinkedIn by your subject matter experts, which are naturally more conversational in tone and use anecdotes to provide context. Whether the audience consumed your content on your website or LinkedIn they’d have the same experience because both are born from the same core messaging.

The best way to ensure you present your brand consistently across all channels is through:

  • Brand guidelines: these set out how your visual elements are to be used.
  • Editorial guidelines: these set out how you communicate with your audience.

Want to learn more?

The next instalment of ‘More than words via email’ is shining a light on the wonderful world of branding. Sign up to receive it, and you’ll receive 5x useful assets, including:

  • The Little Book of Baking a Brand
  • Questions to ask your business to help create a brand that means something.
  • Messaging framework template.
  • Interview with a visual branding specialist (ideal for helping with your brand guidelines).
  • Interview with a written branding specialist (ideal for helping with your editorial guidelines).

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