Sometimes we learn best by making mistakes, but it is generally cheaper and less painful to learn from the mistakes of others. With that in mind, I decided that this next post should point out a few branding mistakes that you should try to avoid making with your business. Including a few that I am currently making!
Firstly what is a brand? A brand is the identity you create for your business. Your brand is how you communicate everything about you. It tells your story. It is more than just the logo. It is more than just your visual identity. It is telling the world what kind of company you are, the personality of your business and the things your company cares about. Your brand is who you are as a business and getting this right can make a difference.
My first business was a children’s clothes shop. I had a complete vision for my business and I knew instinctively what would and wouldn’t work. I had a consistent image and I was able to make my decisions on everything so easily because I knew my brands personality and it was obvious to anybody that dealt with me which company I was part of. Whether you like it or not your small business or charitable organisation is in none stop competition with everybody else that does what you do. Your amazing products, fantastic services and wonderful good deeds mean nothing, if the people you want to share them with don’t think you are professional enough to engage with.
According to Interbrand the top three global brands are currently Apple, Google and Coca Cola. All three of which have very well known and easily recognisable visual identities. You know instantly that you are dealing with those companies. At it’s cheapest and most basic, branding can be your logo and the font you use. Having a logo is a way of identifying you, so try and make sure that you have a half decent one. When you are starting out in business, you need to watch costs and logo design is one of the many things that it is easy to knock off the list. If you have graphic design skills and are able to produce something professional, then go for it, but sadly the majority of people don’t and shouldn’t try and create their own logos. In the same way that most people shouldn’t try and cut their own hair, do their own plumbing or perform any other skilled task without the necessary knowledge and experience. Owning some design software is not the same as being a designer.
This point brings us to one of the mistakes I’ve made recently with my business Village Web Company. Writing your company name in a cool looking font isn’t necessarily the same as designing a logo. Guilty as charged.
Get a logo that you are happy to have your business associated with and use it. Include it on your website, social media and written communications. It is an easy way for people to identify your business, don’t make it difficult for people to remember who you are.
Before I became self employed I used to work for Royal Mail, a huge publicly owned company who employed thousands of people. During my career I watched them change. We’d always had staff uniforms and matching liveried vehicles with the logo on them so we didn’t have to make any changes there, but in an organisation made up of different businesses, which employed thousands of people, in hundreds of buildings there was a variety of different communications being sent out. Some had the new logo, some had older versions, whoever wrote the letter could pick which ever font they liked and generally did. There was no consistency.
So what does a massive company have to do with a small business like yours? You don’t have to be a large corporation to have a corporate font. Whether you are communicating on behalf of Royal Mail or as a sole trader, the way you communicate says something about your business and that communication should at least tell people who you are and indicate that you are professional.
The Royal Mail was created in 1516 and has been a public service since 1635, so it’s a fairly safe bet that the majority of UK citizens know who they are and regard them as a professional outfit. Small businesses, especially those in the first few years of trading, don’t have five centuries of heritage to rely on, so we need to work a little bit harder and usually on a much smaller budget.
“Everything communicates” Sergio Zyman
At the very least make sure that all your communications match. When people see you online or receive a communication from you, make sure they know it’s you, especially if you have already communicated with them. If you decide that your current identity doesn’t reflect your company, you can always rebrand your business but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. That brings us to mistake number two. Guilty as charged.
Sometimes you know your business, it’s aims, goals and personality so well that you can easily make decisions on what fits your brand and sometimes you don’t. If your business provides a service it can be difficult to separate your business from yourself, especially if you are the only employee. Whilst you are deciding what you want your brand to be, you sometimes feel as though you are not moving forward. It can be easy to waste so much time planning your business, that you either never start it or start it and never do any of the work that generates an income. To avoid that situation it’s tempting to get a bit “he who dares” and launch your business shouting the phrase “carpe diem” without finalising certain aspects of your business. Yet another guilty plea.
At the time of writing I’m in the process of updating The Village Web Company which includes using the new logo and branding. Hindsight is an amazing thing, looking back you can always see what you should have done and more importantly what you shouldn’t have done. Having three visual identities in less than a year on the same website is definitely something I shouldn’t have done, yet here I am. Making stupid mistakes, so you don’t have to.