There are lots of ways to build your brand–from the design of your logo to coming up with a great hook. Not all of branding deals with the esoteric, though. In many cases, branding is more about improving your company’s visibility, and this is where most entrepreneurs and startups often miss the mark.
It’s easy enough to understand why this happens. When you’re first starting your business, funds are limited. You only want to spend money on the most important things that you need right now. Everything else is secondary and, often, subject to corner cutting and “making do”.
Sometimes this works. Sometimes presenting yourself as the low budgeted and “scrappy” startup does a lot for your brand. This is particularly true if part of your image is being small, local and independent. At the same time, though, being small and scrappy is no excuse for being sloppy. Scrappy builds your business. Sloppy costs you business. Here are some of the things that will make you look more sloppy than scrappy.
Failing to Diversify Your Literal Image
In this case we mean “diversity” in the way that typically only gets talked about in social spheres. One of the worst things you can do when you are branding your company is to present it as homogenous. It is important that your marketing include people from a variety of backgrounds, upbringings, etc. For example, when casting for a group photo of satisfied customers, make sure that you represent different nationalities. It sounds callous to put it so plainly, but the number of companies who fail to include diversity in their marketing and branding efforts is astounding.
It’s also important that you take into account people who are differently disabled. Including braille in your business cards, for example, seems like a small thing, but you would be surprised at how many people fail to do this.
Brand Everything You Put Out Into the World
Make sure your logo and contact information is printed on everything that you send out into the world. Direct mail should be on company branded letterhead. Freebies and giveaways should have your company name. Send out your merchandise in branded corrugated boxes and envelopes. Have your company logo printed on any company cars you offer to your staff. You get the idea. These things might not seem like a big deal but it is these subtle steps that help build a lasting imprint of your business in the world.
Smooth Out Your Operations
Branding isn’t just about promotional materials. A big part of your brand and image is tied up in how your business operates. Consider, for example, Southwest Airlines. Once upon a time this airline was known for it’s friendly and professional service. Now it’s known for lost bags, late or totally cancelled flights and PR disasters like forcing individuals who look overweight to buy extra seats. They’ve recently given themselves a corporate makeover of sorts, but until they have a proven and current track record of providing smooth travels for its customers, all of the new paint in the world won’t help it recoup its losses.
This is true for your company too. You can have the best logo and marketing materials but if your employees are rude, orders are sent out late (if at all) and are incorrect, your physical location is run down or messy…people won’t work with you again.
Make Good Stuff
Never ever skimp on your product costs. The last thing you want is to have to issue a recall, a la Lululemon, because you skimped on materials and created a sub-par product (and hoped nobody would notice). Remember: just because you can make something more cheaply doesn’t mean you should–even if you’ve set a low price point. Don’t assume that an affordably priced product should automatically be mass produced in the cheapest way possible.
There are lots of branding and image mistakes being made every day. You only have to turn on the news to learn about a new recall or a company that has alienated a huge segment of its customer base because the CEO did something unpopular (remember GoDaddy?). Don’t allow these things to happen to you!
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk / Flickr