Let me start this post with one of my favorite quotes.
If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.” – Philip Kotler.
If you want to be competing more than just price, you need to have a strong brand identity that will make your audience remember and love you.
But creating a brand is not instant, and it can be tricky.
So here’s a quick list of branding dos and don’ts to keep in mind!
General branding dos and don’ts
Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors and tells your customers what they can expect from your products or services. Your brand story can be divided into three parts
- Identifying what your brand stands for, your brand story
- Visual identity of your brand
- Developing your brand messaging
So let’s start with some overall branding dos and don’ts, and then we can move on to the specifics.
General branding dos
1. Do: Be consistent
If your branding is all over the place, it will be difficult for customers to remember who you are and what you stand for.
To make your small business brand instantly recognizable, you need to make your branding consistent, to make your audience absorb all branding cues.
Your customers might interact with your brand at various touchpoints, from your website andaccounts to your packaging and marketing materials.
Use the same brand attributes in all these touchpoints. This means using the same logo, colors, design elements, language, style, brand personality words, and overall approach in your website content, social media posts, and marketing materials.
2. Do: Live up to your brand promise
What do you say you will provide your customers if they buy from you? That’s your brand promise.
Your brand promise is the heart of your brand; it’s what you stand for, and what constitutes your competitive differentiation. It’s the reason why customers choose you over someone else.
So it’s important that you live up to it, you consistently deliver on what you promise.
If for example, your brand promise is to deliver a service within 24 hours, you have to fulfill that promise. Otherwise, you start losing your brand, and then your customers.
If possible, even try to over-deliver on your promises; if you say you’re going to do something, do it, and then go above and beyond to exceed your customers’ expectations.
Living up to your brand promise is essential to maintaining a strong, healthy brand. And when you do, you’ll reap the rewards in terms of customer loyalty, word-of-mouth marketing, and bottom-line results.
Read more about how to create a brand promise in my post on brand messaging.
3. Do: Rebrand and refresh if necessary
Any business, no matter how big or small, should periodically assess its brand to see if a rebranding, brand evolution, or brand refresh is necessary. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to overhaul your entire image – sometimes, small changes can make a big impact.
For example, you might update your logo to be more modern or redesign your website to be more user-friendly.
4. Do: Invest in experts
Of course, you can do everything for your brand yourself. But if you have no prior experience in branding and marketing, you should consider getting the help of brand experts who can guide you in how to create a brand story and strong brand identity.
While it may be a little initial investment to get professional help, it can help you immensely in developing a brand that our audience will know and love.
General branding don’ts
1. Don’t: Make your brand just your logo
So many graphic designers sell their services as ‘branding’. That’s just incomplete.Your logo represents your brand, but your brand is more than your logo. It's a promise. Click To Tweet
Your brand is not also just the colors you use or the typeface you choose.
It’s a positioning, it’s your story, and the experience your customers have with your company, from the first time they see your marketing materials to the moment they receive their product.
So please, don’t just get a logo done without any thought to your full brand identity. There is a step-by-step process to creating your brand story.
Get a FREE, detailed guide to creating your brand story
2. Don’t: Jump on every trendy bandwagon
There’s always something new and shiny in the world of marketing, and it can be tempting to want to jump on every trend that comes along.
However, not every trend is right for every brand, and some trends are simply fads that will quickly come and go.
It’s important to first carefully consider whether a particular trend is a good fit for your brand before you make the decision to jump on board.
If you do decide to pursue a trend, do it in a way that matches your brand, and do it with a proper plan.
Otherwise, you could end up wasting time and money on something that doesn’t really benefit your brand in the long run.
3. Don’t: Go for the cheapest option always
Of course, as a small business, you may have limited budgets. But don’t go for cheap and quick ways like getting everything done on Fiverr.
What the Fiverr freelancers y create may not accurately represent your brand, and you may end up spending time and money on something that’s not really what you like.
Invest in building the core guidelines and design a brand with a branding expert or with Canva, and then give the guidelines to a design freelancer or copywriter to create regular marketing material for you.
Related: Read more about Canva Pro prices.
4. Don’t: Change your brand too often
We said above that sometimes you can think of tweaking your brand a little to refresh it. Brand evolution is absolutely essential to stay relevant for your audience.
However, remember that your brand is what people think of when they see your logo, hear your name or read your tagline.
If you change your brand too often, you risk confusing your customers and diluting your message.
It can take a lot of time and money to develop a strong brand, so it’s important to choose wisely from the beginning, and not change it too often.
Once you’ve found a look and feel that resonates with your audience, stick with it for at least a few years before you consider a rebranding exercise.
Brand story dos and don’ts
Brand story dos
1. Do: Monitor your competition
Before you can create a differentiated, unique brand, you have to know and understand your competition.
But it’s not just about creating a differentiated identity once and that’s it.
You have to constantly watch out for their activities and campaigns.
What are they doing right? What can you learn from their successes about their audience? How can you differentiate your branding activities in a way that will appeal to your target market?
This might involve creating more differentiated messaging or even revamping your entire website.
Whatever approach you take, the goal is to keep a constant eye on your competition and make sure that your brand always stands out from the crowd.
2. Do: Be proud of your unique story
We talked about the competition above. Why?
Because you will always have competition. There are others who are doing either similar products/ services, for example, and you have to differentiate your brand from them.
But being unique goes beyond that.
I once had a client who was based in Netherlands, and constantly checked out another company which provided the exact same services, but in the US.
And when we worked on her brand and website together, she wanted me to use the EXACT brand positioning. She thought, since the brands are based in different countries, it shouldn’t matter, right?
I had to explain to her, that in the online world, brands are not necessarily at a distance. Google might rank both brands next to each other in the SERP, for example.
So don’t copy any other brand exactly, even if you are inspired by them.
Your story is unique, authentic, and powerful. Believe in your story, because your brand will turn out much stronger that way.
3. Do: Establish clear brand attributes right from the start
One way to build a coherent, recognizable brand, is to establish clear brand attributes.
These are the characteristics that define your brand and make it unique. They could include sensory attributes like color and smell, or subconscious attributes like personality and behavior.
Establishing these attributes early on will help you develop marketing materials and messaging that are consistent with your brand identity.
That in turn will make it easier for customers to recognize and remember your products.
4. Do: Be human
In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be human.
That means being relatable, approachable, and easy to communicate with.
It also means having a clear understanding of your audience and what they want and need from you. Only by being human can you connect with your audience on a deeper level and build the trust that is necessary for a strong brand identity.
Additionally, being human also means being transparent.
People want to know who they’re doing business with, and they want to know that you’re honest and open.
They need to see that you’re fallible, just like they are. Only then will they feel comfortable doing business with you. So if you want to create a strong brand identity, remember to be human first and foremost.
Brand story don’ts
1. Don’t: Forget your ‘why’
Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.
It’s your purpose, and did you know that your brand purpose can drive sales?
If you’re not clear on your ‘why’, your customers won’t be either. They’ll see you as just another company selling just another product.
Your ‘why’ should be at the core of everything you do, from the way you design your website to the way you interact with your customers. Keep it front and center in all of your communications, and let it guide all of your decisions.
But if you can articulate your ‘why’ clearly and concisely, you’ll create a strong brand identity that will resonate with your target audience, help you stand out from the crowd, and build a brand that your customers believe in.
Related: Brand purpose examples
2. Don’t: Attempt to sell to everyone
Here’s the thing.
You would like the whole world to buy from you, but that’s not going to happen.
A company like Coca-Cola, for example, who simply talks about ‘happiness’, seems to target the whole world. But there are people who don’t like soda, and people who simply want Pepsi.
So one crucial aspect of building your brand identity and story, in fact, the starting point, is to identify and focus on a niche target audience. Trying to please everyone will only dilute your message and make it harder for people to understand what you’re all about.
It’s also important to consider what sets you apart from your competition and what unique value you can offer your target audience.
Instead of spending your resources on trying to sell to everyone, spend it on these three aspects:
- Really understand your audience
- Laser-focus your marketing efforts on them
- Create targeted messaging that resonates with them
This will give you maximum ROI.
3. Don’t: Copy your competition
Earlier talked about monitoring your competition and learning what they are doing well.
It’s great to do that, but just avoid getting too hung up on them and copying what they are doing.
If one competitor does a certain event, for example, try to analyze the strategy behind why they chose it, and take notes on their execution. No matter how successful the event is, just analyze the reasons for success, but don’t do the exact event for your business.
Do something different that addresses the strategy, but do it for your brand. And if possible, do it even better!
4. Don’t: Compromise on your values
One of the most important aspects of branding is to live by your brand values.
Your values are the foundation of your brand, and they should guide everything you do, from the products you sell to the way you interact with your customers.
If you compromise on your values in order to appeal to a wider audience, you risk alienating your core customer base. Moreover, customers are increasingly interested in supporting businesses that share their values.
First, take some time to identify what your values are. What do you believe in? What do you stand for? Once you’ve identified your values, make sure they’re reflected in everything you do.
Ifis important to you, make sure your team is providing excellent service. If transparency is one of your values, make sure you’re sharing information openly and honestly. When you live by your values, it’s easy to create a strong brand identity that people can connect with.
So be clear about who you are and what you stand for, and if you are a B2B business, don’t be afraid to turn away a business that isn’t a good fit.
Branding dos and don’ts about visual identity
Brand visual identity DOs
1. Do: Pay attention to the details.
This includes things like choosing the right color palette and font family.
Also make sure that your logo looks good in both large and small sizes, and clearly visible on small-scale applications like business cards or website favicons.
Though it may seem like a lot of work, paying attention to the details is essential for creating a strong, cohesive brand.
2. Do: Develop a brand website
You know how important a website can be for a business.
Use consistent colors, fonts, and imagery throughout your site so that visitors can easily recognize your brand.
Second, do use your website as a platform to tell your brand story. Share your mission, values, and unique selling points so that visitors know what you’re all about.
3. Do: Use good images that match your brand
Use high-quality images that match your brand. If you’re selling products, make sure your product photos are clear and professionally taken.
If you’re providing a service, use photos that show you and your team in action.
4. Do: Create a brand kit
A brand kit is an essential tool for any business, large or small. It helps to create a consistent look and feel for your brand across all of your marketing materials, from your website to your business cards. A brand kit typically includes a logo, color palette, typography guide, and other visual elements.
It’s important to remember that your brand kit is not set in stone; as your business grows and changes, so too should your brand identity.
However, by having a brand kit you have a foundation to work from, which will be extremely helpful to maintain consistency in your brand story.
So keep your story and it will be much easier to make small tweaks as needed than if you were starting from scratch each time.
Brand visual identity DON’ts
1. Don’t: Use the same logo version everywhere
Surprised? On one hand, I talk about consistency, and on the other, I say don’t use the same logo everywhere?
That’s because you won’t be able to use your logo on all your marketing material in the same way. There could be a color clash.
Imagine putting a red logo on a blue sky picture vs. a sunset picture. It will be completely lost in a sunset picture.
So here’s what you do instead.
After you finalize your logo, make different versions of it and add to the brand kit.
For example, with colored background vs without background, in full color vs in black and white, etc.
Add them to your brand kit.
You or your designer can then simply apply the logo version that looks best on the relevant design.
2. Don’t: Use too many fonts
From your logo to your color scheme, you should choose every brand attribute to reflect your company’s values and personality.
One thing you definitely want to avoid is using too many fonts. A consistent font choice is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a cohesive brand identity.
Using too many fonts can make your brand look amateurish and confuse customers.
Stick to two or three fonts at most, and be sure to use them consistently across all of your marketing materials.
Choose one font for your headline and one for your body copy.
The subhead font can be the same as your body copy font, just bigger, and maybe in b
Branding dos and don’ts about messaging
Brand Messaging DOs
1. Dos: Focus on benefits
The product or service you sell may be loaded with amazing features, even technical ones.
But always remember that your customer doesn’t care about the features by themselves. They want to know how your product or service will make their life better, not just what it does.
So when you create your messaging, and product descriptions, for example, it’s important to focus on benefits instead of on features.
For example, if you’re selling a new type of toothbrush, don’t just say for example “It has nylon bristles”.
Instead, focus on the benefits (e.g., “It will help to whiten teeth” or “It’s gentle on gums”).
2. Dos: Make the tone of voice appropriate for your target audience.
When crafting your brand’s tone of voice, it’s important to consider who your target audience is and what message you want to communicate.
A corporate tone might not be appropriate for a youthful, trend-setting brand, while a more casual tone might not be suitable for a luxury goods company. The key is to find the right balance that will resonate with your target audience.
Once you’ve determined the general feeling you want your tone of voice to convey, it’s time to start thinking about the specifics. What words will you use? What sentence structure will you employ? Will you use humor or keep things serious?
These are all important questions to answer as you finalize your brand’s tone of voice.
3. Do: Proofread your text
One of the most important things to keep in mind when crafting your brand messaging is to proofread your text.
Typos and grammatical errors can make your brand seem sloppy and unprofessional. Review all your written text carefully before you publish it.
With careful attention to detail, you can ensure that your brand messaging is error-free and conveys the professional image that you want.
Brand Messaging DON’ts
1. Don’t: Oversell and overhype
You might think all this brand stuff is great, but what about sales? That’s important too, right?
You need to develop your sales strategy and messages too.
However, try to keep these messages on point and true. While it may be tempting to drone on about how amazing you brand/ product is, overselling your products or services can create a sense of false expectations, and ultimately lead to disappointed customers.
It can also turn off potential customers and make your brand seem inauthentic.
2. Don’t: Be pushy
Another brand messaging doesn’t is being too sales-y or pushy.
This comes across as desperate and can make people feel like they’re being pressured into something they may not be ready for.
Instead, let people come to their own conclusions about your product or service.
3. Don’t: Use multiple tones of voice.
Decide which tone of voice you want to use to talk to your audience, a tone of voice that reflects its values and personality.
And then always talk in the same way. Trying to sound too many different things will only confuse your audience and prevent them from forming a connection with your brand.
Branding dos and don’ts – Conclusion
If all these branding dos and don’ts seem like a lot and overwhelms you, don’t worry. If you are passionate about your brand, most of it will come naturally to you anyway.
Use this simply as a quick reference point to see if there is anything that you are missing right now in your brand guidelines, and how you can make your brand identity even stronger.
Anything I missed? Would love your input on more branding dos and don’ts that I can add to the list! Share in the comments.