I’ve seen my fair share of clients who have gotten stuck while trying to figure out their brand. Now, effective branding can be challenging all on its own. So as you can imagine, trying to go it alone can turn into a battle for your sanity.
To be clear, branding is the process of creating a strong, positive perception (for your startup, your business, or yourself) in the mind of your customer. Your brand is the tool you use to achieve this.
There’s much more to it than just graphics.
Now you might just be starting out, or maybe you’re a more established business looking to rebrand. Whatever your situation, you can expect to face some common challenges and pitfalls when trying to DIY your brand.
1. Getting stuck in your own world
Picture for a second that we all walk around in the world surrounded by a bubble with a label on it. We can all read each other’s labels quite easily. But when it comes to reading our own label we’re on the wrong side of the bubble. We lack the outside perspective to be able to read it clearly for ourselves.
We are too close to the problem…
When we struggle to find answers within ourselves, we tend to start looking at what everyone else is doing. It can be tempting to glean inspiration from competitors, adding the same features or practices to our own business. But if branding is the art of differentiation and standing out in a meaningful way, then you can understand why this is not a great tactic.
Key takeaway: It’s hard to read our label from inside a bubble. Don’t copy your competitors. An objective, outside perspective, is the best way to find new insights and angles to create a meaningful difference.
2. Designing for yourself
This is another common mistake I see. Designing our brand around what we like may sound like a good place to start if we’re stuck. I’ve seen brand decisions made based on “my spouse doesn’t like X or Y”. Our spouses may have the best intentions for us, but are they part of the audience we’re trying to speak to?
Ultimately, your brand is a business tool that is driven by deeper needs and challenges. Maybe your startup is facing increasing competition, or your business is losing out on customer connections, or you find yourself competing on price more and more.
Whatever the challenge, remember who you are serving and keep your customers in mind at all times. Business decisions shouldn’t be driven by subjective biases, they should be driven by what’s best for the company to make it grow and perform at its best.
Very simply, your business exists for two key reasons – to provide value to customers and generate profit. By ignoring your customers, you jeopardize your profitability. Your brand exists for them.
Key takeaway: Always keep your audience in mind and build your brand around them.
3. Doing things backwards
This one may sound a little cryptic but stick with me.
When we think of branding it’s usually the logos of big-name brands that pop into our heads. When we look for brand inspiration online, it’s all slick logos, trendy colour palettes, brand guides and social media templates.
So when people begin creating a brand for their business they tend to begin with the things they see first – like their logo. But they’ve skipped some vital steps.
They’ve missed all the behind-the-scenes process, thinking, and strategy that led up to that logo design (and every other piece of brand collateral) to meet the needs of that business.
It’s a bit like painting your house before it’s even built. We need to start at the beginning, not the end.
Key takeaway: Successful brands have loads of strategic work to back up their creative execution. This is seldom seen by the public. So remember, everything you see first, is what those brands created last.
4. Not having a clear framework
If you’re trying to DIY your brand, maybe you’ve searched the internet and found some checklists that tell you all the things you need to “create a brand”.
We all know those checklists. They say you need a brand mission, brand values, a brand story, some mood boards, a good logo design, typography, colours, and a brand guide. Then you’re done!
The problem is that having all that stuff doesn’t necessarily give us a clear, cohesive brand that helps us build trust, captivate customers and communicate our value. We’re essentially creating all of these things separately without a framework to connect them all. So we may end up with a bunch of nice-looking stuff that isn’t very effective at helping our business grow.
To use another analogy, you can have all the ingredients you need to make something delicious. But if you use or mix those ingredients in the wrong order, overcook one thing or undercook another, you can still end up with something nasty.
Key takeaway: Checking items off a list is not the same as connecting the dots and uncovering insights that will move the needle in your business. We need a framework that can translate business challenges and customer needs into communication that drives action.
5. Creating a Frankenbrand
The dreaded Frankenbrand! This is a brand that has been stitched together piece by piece through different means to create something that should not be.
This is essentially a business that lacks a unified brand. As a result, they tend to be all over the place. They don’t have a clear message, their marketing tries to appeal to everyone, they may find themselves constantly chopping and changing because their marketing isn’t performing the way it should be.
As a result, they are constantly lopping off parts of their brand and stitching on new pieces to try and find the right combination that works.
Key takeaway: Your Frankenbrand could be pushing people away instead of drawing them in. It’s also good to remember that any confusion in your brand can lead to confusion in your marketing.
As you can see, trying to figure out and execute your brand by yourself can be a mental minefield. There is so much more to it than meets the eye. The DIY route can be an extremely frustrating path that can keep the best of business owners spinning their wheels for months and months.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Whether you’re branding for the first time or rebranding because of changing markets or challenges, it helps to partner with the right people.
Your brand is the best, most effective tool for bringing together your purpose, your message, and your marketing to captivate customers, build trust, and become more profitable.
About the Author
Gavin Booyens is the owner/operator of Uppercut – a brand consultancy that understands the challenges and pitfalls that entrepreneurs and small brands face. He has worked with clients in the United States, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and South Africa. Follow Gavin’s blog at https://www.gavinbooyens.com