The 3 worst brand mistakes startups make

Thought Leadership on Branding/Growth Strategies presented by Catalpha Advertising & Design

The challenges of being an entrepreneur are many. Often entrepreneurs are on their own to decide the priority of tasks for launching their product or service. There is a lot of advice online from professionals and others who have been through a startup. Even with the best advice, the entrepreneur is responsible for all the decisions.

Branding is often given less time and thought.

To those who haven’t worked in marketing, it seems a simple project or unimportant. As a professional who has spent her career creating brands and expanding their impact, I can attest to several mistakes common to startups. These three are the most dangerous.

1: Not having a brand strategy
2: Underfunding
3: Thinking you can do it all yourself.

Brand strategy is the roadmap for business and marketing efforts.

This includes describing the audience, the reason why they desire the product or service, the unique benefits and the personality of the brand. These facts are all important to building a smart business plan. The foundation is knowing your audience – intimately.

There is a YouTube video of Steve Jobs speaking to his employees after he returned to Apple and had spent five months on the job. It gives an inside look at how a successful company looks at its brand and how to impact its target customers.

Catalpha Advertising & Design, Inc. image for SmartCEO

Brand strategy must change with the times, but the foundation is a guide to steering the company. It’s not something you do once. It is what you build your marketing, sales and business plan on, with a goal to engage, educate and convert your target audience. The ultimate goal is to create raving fans… fans that will talk about you and want to hear from you.

You can have the greatest product that will change lives, but fails because your brand didn’t appeal to the consumer or they never noticed it.

Funding brand development and other marketing tools is as critical as product development. Inexperienced and experienced entrepreneurs, even established businesses, have made the mistake of underfunding brand development and strategy. Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan, the creators of Method Brand, leveraged branding to get their product line into 800 stores within a year of launching.

Catalpha Advertising & Design, Inc. image for SmartCEO

They were at the front of eco-friendly ingredients, but they needed to stand out in a crowded category. Redesigning the delivery method – the bottle their product came in – was critical to their business plan. It was an essential part of their brand strategy.

The impact of branding is very evident when you consider Kleenex. There are many companies that have created a brand so strong that their brand has become the term used to request the item. Kleenex is still asked for when someone has a runny nose.

You wouldn’t go to a mechanic if you had a toothache.

The third mistake is thinking you can do it yourself. A branding and marketing professional who understands your vision is worth more than their invoice. You can go to your printer friend or your niece to get a logo created that you like, but are you ignoring your bigger audience? Using resources that are not experienced in branding may create a logo you like, but are you the only customer? I often advise my clients that they are biased and inevitably missing the larger target.

Get an outside perspective by enlisting the help of an experienced branding professional.

Branding experts have experience you may not have, knowledge gained over time that you should take advantage of. Be warned, you may not like everything they tell you. They can take your image concept and the mission of the company to create the visual style that you will use for years. Over the years, Apple modified their logo, but it still is the same apple. Logos, colors and visuals should never be changed with the seasons or a new CFO/CMO.

Any one of these three mistakes can have a negative impact on a business. Thinking branding is easy or a “once-and-done” activity is a dangerous road to travel. Thinking a business doesn’t have a brand is like ignoring customer feedback.

Whether you are a startup or a seasoned business owner, managing your brand is an investment that needs funding and effort. Schedule time to work on your brand strategy regularly. That time spent on your brand will pay you back. If you need help, give me a call.

Want to read more? Here are 3 Key Steps in Brand Analysis

Click here for more Thought Leadership from Catalpha Advertising & Design