Branding is hard, and self-branding is even worse. How can you condense all your work, interests and passion into a few bite-sized chunks? It might feel impossible, but it’s also critically important for the success of your business. The average person spends under 2 seconds judging a website and deciding if it’s trustworthy. This means that if you don’t make a positive impression quickly, your visitor is cheerfully bouncing off to your competitor’s site.
The good news is you don’t need a huge budget or a big team to create a brand that resonates with your target market.
What you do need to have is focus, personality and a touch of fearlessness.
In my work at Float Design, I get to see the full gamut of branding — from big corporations with hundreds of pages of brand guidelines, to start-ups and freelancers. Here are some of the most common mistakes — and how you can avoid them.
Having a Lack of Focus
Your customer probably has a specific problem and is looking for a specific answer. A general product might work in a pinch, but if they can find a solution that addresses their specific needs, they’re much more apt to get out their wallet.
It’s nearly impossible to be uniformly good at everything. Especially if you’re a small brand, consider your specific strengths and play to them. It’s much easier to be an expert in a very narrow niche and broaden from there. Try writing a unique value proposition (UVP) for your brand or service to focus in on exactly what you offer.
Trying to Please Everyone
This is rooted in the idea that the larger your potential market is, the better. If anyone and everyone can buy from you, they will — right?
Unfortunately this usually backfires because you’re chasing everyone, overspending your marketing budget, and not finding those early adopters who will evangelise your brand.
It can be scary to limit your audience. You may feel some personal resistance and doubt. However, consider how the major companies do it. Most develop different brands or products for new audiences, rather than try to grow the brand to fit everyone. Try defining your target market — if you find yourself saying “well, anyone really!” start again.
Losing Your Personality and Voice
It’s very easy to slip into 'corporate-ese' in the misguided attempt to sound professional. It’s understandable — building a business is daunting, putting yourself out there is intimidating, and sounding corporate feels safe.
However remember even in B2B, you’re still talking to a human on the other side. Be conversational, show some personality, have a point of view — don’t get lost in jargon. Be a person.
Using Hodge-Podge Visuals
You don’t need to hire an expensive, high-end design agency to create a good visual style (though you’re certainly welcome to!). When it comes to visual branding, often the simpler, the better. Your brand visuals should be effective and consistent.
Pick out two fonts, two to three brand colours, note down your UVP, tear a bunch of inspirational images from a magazine and make a moodboard.
Create one version of your logo that you use on everything. Once you have a look you like, create basic brand guidelines and distribute them to any team members, agencies or freelancers who will need to create visuals for your brand. Ideally people should know it’s yours the minute they see it — regardless of whether it’s on social media, in a store, or on a website.
Not Staying Consistent
Consistency is key to good branding. Once you’ve settled on a brand style, make sure to stick to it. Think of it like a person — we expect people to be consistent. No one wants to see their buttoned-up boss drunk dancing at the after-hours party. It’s weird, it’s embarrassing, it diminishes your trust in their judgement.
Sure there’s room for some flexibility — for instance, your brand can have a more casual side on social media. However, avoid the temptation to mix it up because you’re simply bored or tired of your current branding. Remember most of your customers aren’t spending their days immersed in your brand and they probably don’t feel the same. If they do, it might be time for a rebrand!
Building a strong brand is an ongoing process so don’t get discouraged. If you think of all the household names like Nike, Coke, or Apple — you’ll see they’re constantly working to refine and strengthen their brands, even with some funny missteps along the way.