Head of Creative at Printed.Com and speaker on Future Startup Now Founders, Marius Bogdanas gives an insight into the 7 most common branding mistakes that founders make when branding a new company.
I’ve worked in branding for 12 years, and having consulted companies like Groupon and QVC, there are a few common blunders that founders and aspiring designers keep repeating.
Read on to find out what these are and how you can avoid the pitfalls.
1. Branding for yourself and not your audience
All of us have an alter ego we want to get out and often impose our views and feelings to others - in many ways an identity that forms who we are and what we stand for. A brand is exactly the same, but as a founder you mustn't forget that your brand will need a growing audience in order to thrive. The best brands in the world always put their users before themselves. You might have an amazing business idea, but if you don’t have a style that will resonate with your audience, you’re off to a rocky start. Ideally your offering should always be making life easier for a very specific group of people. Find out who is most likely to pay for your product or service and what emotions you want to evoke in them.
Any parent would be terrified to step into this store with their little ones.
2. Not being clear on brand values
When a brand doesn’t have brand values or at least some sort of a manifest, it simply drifts away in random directions and never finds its feet. The worst are the kinds of brands that keep copying the latest visual styles and trends, but never have their own and original look. Similar to the types of high-school kids always trying to get accepted by different groups, not really knowing where they belong. The starting point for any brand are the brand values, and these have to stay front and centre the whole time.
The City of Chicago has a logo which doesn’t quite make you want to visit.
3. Having logos that are too complex
Have you ever seen a logo you couldn’t read? Bet you have. Annoying right? It’s one of those “I’m too clever for you…” type of teases of stush founders. Trying to be so unique and out there that you are left standing alone in the rain, with no one to pass you an umbrella. An illegible logotype goes against the very premise of what it needs to do - to make the observer remember the name and slogan of your company. Failing at this is like shining your shoes so hard you slip on all that grease.
The 2012 London Olympics logo faced a lot of controversy for not being legible.
4. Losing sight of design systems
For any good brand to truly have a consistent look and feel, it must adhere to some basic design systems. The corollary is to have a style guide that can lead any creative to correctly visualise the brand and its values. A strict but simple approach is the safest bet. A brand that plasters their logo anywhere, changes their body fonts like socks and has more colours than the rainbow will struggle to remain integral.
Yahoo has changed its logo quite a few times and the only thing they’ve kept is the exclamation mark.
5. Using inconsistent photography
This is key to get right. Jumping from black and white to modern and colourful will at some point contradict the brand values. We’ve all seen what happens when a mood changes too much in the movie SPLIT. You won’t know who you’re dealing with! Lacking the eye to detect images that are not on-brand is normal, takes years of practice.
An easy hack is to use filters and colour schemes that cast a subliminal reference to the brand. Avoid the biggest fail of all - not editing photos! Posting random pics in various styles is an immediate sign of a lost identity. We all know a good Instagram account when we see one - all the images sit together well and flow nicely. Where nothing sticks out like a sore thumb - all appearing like a harmonic world of its own.
This image on the M&S site shows how one bad photo can damage your brand.
6. Using fluffy taglines without meaning
There is one famous tagline we all know which is pure fluff: ‘Probably the best in the world’. Using words like best, top, super, and prime are slowly becoming phased out and replaced by meaningful statements. They might have worked when people had less access to information, but nowadays you’re expected to summarise your brand's whole essence in only a couple of words: Spreading ideas, Think differently, Just do it. They are easy to remember and connect with the brand. Even Uber had to simplify their slogan from “Everyone’s private driver” to “Get there” to make it even punchier and more memorable.
On the other side of the spectrum is a classic nonsense tagline from Burger King who says “Be your way” - might be a sinister whisper to the gluttonous ego but doesn’t really spark thoughts of greasy fast food.
7. Not having a genuine tone of voice
At the heart of all your communication with the outside world is your brand’s tone of voice. Everyone uses their own voice in their head when they read a text, and as a brand, you must form a certain pattern that the audience can recognise.
Your brand’s voice should really echo the thoughts and emotions of your audience in its own unique way. If a more traditional company wants to appeal to a younger audience, they might be better off launching a sister brand with a voice that’s more informal and youthful.
Having a brand voice is more complex when you have both b2b and b2c users, so be mindful of the end reader whilst retaining your tone. It’s a delicate balancing act which can take some time to develop, but having set values for reference will help to stay on track.
Virgin has it’s finger in every pie and clings onto the brand name no matter what.