PBranding is an incredibly important part of starting and growing a business. It allows your business to establish an identity that sets you apart from the rest of the businesses and to retain your existing customers. However, there are 4 mistakes that you can make which can cost your company a lot of money or kill your business altogether.

1. Lack of Consistency

One of the basic principles of branding is consistency. After all, there is a reason why you put your logo on all your products. Branding not only establishes your ownership of something, it also allows you to build trust and familiarity with your customer base. Still, the one mistake I see over and over, is the lack of consistency. For example, last night I got a spam e-mail from a “Joshua Tolento” offering me website design services. He gives me a link to his “website and portfolio”, which is “WWW.JTMARKETING.INFO” (yep, yelling it out in all capitals). After clicking on the link, the domain name forwards me to “Tolentogroup.com”. Their business name shows “Tolento Group Consulting” and their logo reads “Tolento Group Consulting & Design, LLC”. Also, their banner image included a young man, who I assume was Joshua, with his arms crossed in front of a car. Not really what you’d expect from a design and consulting company. So at this point, how can any customer trust this business? How do I know who I am dealing with in the first place? Before I even consider making the payment, I feel mislead and confused. Lack of consistency.

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Thanks for the spam, Joshua.

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The famous header image.  Screenshot from archive.org.

It’s the little details that matter. For starters, keep all your domain names the same, including capitalization in e-mails and even “www” in front. Also, please don’t forward customers from one domain to another. The only time that’s okay is when your business has changed names (but even then, a simple text can let them know “we’ve moved to ____”) or if you have typo domain names and you want to forward the customers to the right name. For example, Google.com owns Gooogle.com. They have millions of people who type their domain every hour, so it’s only safe to assume that a good portion of them tend to mistype their name.

This extends to your logo as well. Keep your logo the same everywhere you use it. That includes colors, proportional sizing of text to symbol, fonts, and more. Corporations have literally booklets that they give out to designers before any work, describing how they can and can’t use their logos. Don’t confuse your customers by constantly altering your logo from product to product. Once your brand is strong enough, you may choose to use your symbol instead of using the entire logo with the text. A good example is Nike. The Nike swoosh is now a globally recognized symbol, no one needs to be told what company that is.

However, brand consistency extends beyond your domain name and logo. You also need to be consistent with your brand’s message. This brings us to a second commonly made mistake.

2. Lack of Depth

Many companies believe that their logo is their brand. While in some ways that’s true, a brand is more than a logo. A brand is about building a certain perception, trust and loyalty. Every action that your business takes will either add value to this or take away from it. Let’s take one of the top boxers in the world, Manny Pacquiao as an example. After all, his name is his brand.  Up until now, Manny Pacquiao was not only regarded as one of the top fighters in the world but also as a family man with values. He was loved for his genuine personality and respect of his fans. However, recently, Manny decided to blurb something out on Twitter about his beliefs on homosexuality. Within minutes, his single tweet traveled around the globe and was shared on nearly every major news outlet. Nike terminated his contract (worth millions) almost immediately. One tweet cost Manny thousands of fans, millions of dollars and possibly put a dent in his legacy.

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Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli, becomes the villain of the pharma industry.

Now, a lesser known person or company may afford to be able to make small mistakes now and then. However, there’s no telling what it will cost you. Just recently, a low-key pharmaceutical company called Turing Pharmaceuticals dramatically increased pricing on some drugs that they own. At the same time Hilary Clinton, was looking for a hot issue to stir up and chose drug pricing as something to fight if elected. Their timing was unfortunate, because Hilary was looking to make an example out of somebody. It took Hilary only a few mentions of the company, and their pricing increases, and the entire world was attacking the company for its otherwise normal practices. Bad timing is all that took for a small company to go from unknown to America’s most hated. This is why branding requires careful crafting and maintenance.

A very common mistake that nearly every company is guilty of is misplaced advertising. Whether a banner appears on their site that directly contradicts what their company stands for or they themselves advertise their business in the wrong venue. Some companies also waste precious marketing dollars on advertising in venues that will inevitably result in terrible conversion rates. Think about it this way, what if there was a charity event to end hunger in Africa and McDonalds came out and plastered advertisements for burgers everywhere next to the pictures of the starving kids? It would only take one snapped photo of this to hurt their entire company’s brand.

Before posting a tweet, collaborating with a company, hiring an employee or otherwise exposing your brand, ask yourself this: will this add value to my brand or will it do nothing or possibly even put my brand at risk? If done right, every action will add trust and value to your business.

3. Ignoring Your Customer Base

When creating a logo, name or maintaining your brand, your customer base is incredibly important. After all, every single dollar that your company makes depends on them. However, sometimes companies seemingly go out of their way to ignore their customers.

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“Evolution” of Gap’s logo

Gap worked for many years to establish its brand and their logo was another globally recognized mark. However, the company decided the blue box with the classy letters “G A P” is a bit out of date, so they spend millions to modernize their logo and re-brand their company’s look. Well, the customers didn’t like it and there was a huge backlash. Gap was forced to revert back to their old logo, which in turn cost them even more money.

In another case, the company Xerox had so much influence in the copying machine business, that their name was interchangeably used as the word copying. As in “James, can you xerox these documents?” Seems like a fantastic thing. But Xerox got greedy, they wanted to expand into new markets and they didn’t want to be known simply as the “copy machine company” and their name being only using to describe copying. They resisted their customer base and in turn allowed competitors to swoop in and cost a good portion of their share in their own market.

The lesson here is this: if the customers love something, embrace it. Don’t turn an advantage into a disadvantage. Most importantly, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to change, experiment and evolve. Just do so subtly.

4. Failing to Evolve

Everything gets old. Products, names, logos, ideas – they all get boring after a while. It may not necessarily be a bad thing, if you are still dominating your market and have increasing sales. On the other hand, if this is causing your sales to decline or you are losing market share, or simply want to stay ahead of the competition, you have to evolve. Staying stagnant can kill your business. Branding visually and audibly represents your company and staying relevant is important.

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Blockbuster at one point dominated the video rental market. They created a monopoly in new releases and capitalized on it by increasing their prices. However, new companies started to pop up that offered alternative ways to watch movies without the hassle of going to the store on foot and hoping that their VHS or DVD was in stock. Blockbuster seemingly ignored these new ways, hoping that their customers would stick around. Well, Blockbuster is out of business, while Netflix, RedBox and several online streaming companies share this market now. They could have easily acquired one of these companies or at least adapted to the new ways, but instead they chose to do nothing. Don’t be afraid to adapt your business and products.

If you want to search something online, searching is almost synonymous with Google. If you find yourself on Yahoo, it is probably accidental. But things could have turned out differently for Yahoo, as in 2002, before Google went public, they had the chance to acquire its competitor. However, the price of $5 billion seemed to be to steep and they decided to try to crush their competitor instead. But we know how this turned out as Google now controls about 75% of the search engine share, while Yahoo owns a measly 10%. Don’t ignore your competitors, stay ahead of the competition and make acquisitions when necessary.

Evolving is important not only in your business practices and your products, it’s also important in branding. Imagine if a company kept their website design and logos from early 2000’s? Even if their products were new and revolutionary, new customers would question whether or not their business is legitimate or even if they are still in business all together. While a logo doesn’t have to drastically change over the years, subtle changes could tell your customer “Yes, we are still here and we are still on top of our game”. And at the very least, it’s visually pleasing. Google’s logo changed 6 or 7 times since its inception, but it has been easily recognizable through out. Their last logo can be easily linked to their first. Why is this important? People simultaneously love and hate change. A new customer wants something modern and unique, while your existing customers want to keep the brand they love and trust. Subtle changes allows you to keep both parties happy.