Published: Feb 22, 2022
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2022

A strong brand identity isn't just about quirky slogans and logos. Instead, it involves every visual element your business uses to communicate with customers, from your website's typography to your copy, to the color schemes you use and beyond. Execute these visuals correctly, and your brand identity becomes a powerful tool for communicating with your customers. Conversely, execute these visuals poorly, and you might end up sending the wrong message to potential leads and customers.

All businesses, big and small, make the occasional misstep regarding branding. Indeed, a lot of the time, they don't even realize they've made a mistake. However, while the odd oversight isn't the end of the world, it's crucial that you identify and rectify these issues whenever possible.

This post covers seven of the most common brand identity mistakes and provides guidance on how to fix them.

1. No Defined Audience

The point of a strong brand identity isn't to appeal to everyone. In fact, if you believe that everyone will like what you do, you will do well to let go of that idea now. Instead, a strong brand identity is there to get you into conversation with the right people, i.e., those who are likely to use your products and services.

But what happens when you don't know who those people are? Without a strong understanding of your target audience, you'll be basing your marketing efforts on guesswork. And, the likelihood is, you'll waste your time and resources trying to appeal to the wrong audience.

The Solution: Create a Buyer Persona

To communicate effectively, you need to know whom you are trying to talk to. A buyer persona can help you identify your ideal customer and help you understand their wants and needs. It will also help you create a plan to best communicate with such customers.

So what exactly is a buyer persona? In short, it is a fictional representation of a user of your products and services based on market research.

When creating a buyer persona, you'll want to consider the following when defining your user:
  • Geographic location
  • Spending habits
  • Demographic
  • Need or desire for product/service
  • Online habits
Analytics from previous sales, website activity, and social media activity are all useful for honing in on who your ideal customer is. Additionally, interviews, field tests, and surveys can be helpful, too.

Often, you'll need to make more than one buyer persona. After all, you probably sell products to many different people from very different backgrounds. The point, however, is to identify which buyer personas are more likely to make a purchase and how you can target your marketing towards them.

2. Inconsistent Visuals

Want your brand's name to pop into someone's head? Use visuals.

People think in pictures. What's more, people remember in pictures. This is especially useful in today's digital world, where endless content streams fill social media feeds vying for attention.

A picture can make your branding pop, helping it stand out from the crowd. But that won't do you any good if you don't stay consistent.

You want customers to see certain types of imagery and think of your brand. Furthermore, you want your audience to recognize you across different platforms. But, that will be difficult for customers to do if your visuals are all over the place.

The Solution: Create a Style Guide

A style guide is a document that outlines the basic principles behind your brand's image. Doing this will help you and any designers and content creators you work with, whether they're outsourced or part of your team.

Your style guideline doesn't need to be a massive document, especially if you're a startup or a smaller business. But it would help if you outlined the basics, including:

  • Colour schemes
  • Logo and design variants
  • Typography and fonts
  • Iconography
  • Letterheads
  • Social media assets

As an example, here's a summary of Idea Grove's brand guidelines.

3. A Lack of Brand Purpose

Purpose sign isolated on white background

It's now more crucial than ever that businesses have depth and purpose. A study by Zeno Group found that consumers are four to six times more inclined to support brands with a clear purpose than those without one.

And no, making money doesn't count as a purpose.

The Solution: Clearly Define and State Your Brand's Purpose

Your brand purpose is the reason your business exists. More than likely, you had some goals beyond just making money when you started. If you didn't, maybe now is the time to stop and think about what your long-term goals are.

Contrary to common belief, your purpose doesn't have to be something world-changing or life-affirming. For example, let's say you're a restaurant owner; your objective could be to offer authentic cuisine made from quality ingredients. Whatever your goal is, though, it must be genuine and consistent. Furthermore, for it to play a role in your marketing, you must communicate your purpose to your customers.

4. Using a Lousy Logo

We touched on the importance of good visuals earlier. When it comes to your logo, though, it's worth reiterating that you cannot and should not settle for less. Why? Because your logo serves as the face of all your branding. And, if you don't care enough about that to do it right, why should your customers care about you?

Your brand's logo doesn't just need to look aesthetically pleasing. It needs to convey something about your business and its traits. After all, audiences will relate your logo with what your brand does. As a result, even a pretty logo will fail you if it doesn't match your brand.

The Solution: Focus on Simplicity and Meaning

Good copy conveys more with less, and images work the same way. Don't get overly elaborate or precious with your brand logo design. Stick with conveying what your company is about in the simplest possible way.

This can be accomplished even when your business is complex. The AIOps platform Avantra, formerly Syslink Xandria, came to us for a full brand identity makeover, starting with name and logo. The logo design led directly into a complete visual identity for the company across all its marketing touchpoints. Read the case study to learn more about Avantra's story.

5. Poor Website Experience

Low-resolution images, unresponsive web pages, irritating pop-ups—these are problems that will turn website visitors away. Of course, no one actively tries to design a bad website. However, these problems often arise when a company's web presence is not adequately prioritized.

Remember that while your website might look to be running fine on your MacBook, that might not necessarily be what the customer is experiencing on their end. With around half of all website traffic now coming from mobile phones, it's essential that you ensure your website works across all devices.

The Solution: Test Your Designs

Just as you shouldn't get carried away with your logo design, you shouldn't get carried away with your website. Simplicity and functionality must always be the top priorities.

As such, you need to test your site's performance often. For example, while specific designs and formatting might look great on a desktop, you should always check how this carries over to phones and tablets. Furthermore, while interactive graphics might seem like a great idea, you must be sure they aren't irritating visitors by slowing down page load times.

6. Not Focusing on Core Service

Your business probably offers a variety of products and services. So naturally, you'll want to market each of these services on your website and in your sales materials.

However, you don't want to overwhelm customers with a long list of all the different things you sell, especially when it comes to your core branding. While being comprehensive might seem like the best way to make sure you don't miss out on a potential customer, the reality is that this approach is likely to frustrate, confuse and drive away your audience. 

It's better to focus your marketing efforts on the core services you offer.

The Solution: Create a Unique Selling Proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) can help clarify what your business is in your customer's eyes.

So what is a USP? While your brand purpose focuses on why you exist, your USP focuses on why you're different.

A USP is a concise statement that clearly states:

  • who you (the business) are;
  • what it is you do;
  • whom you do it for; and most importantly
  • why you do it best.

Not only does a USP help clarify your value to customers, but it also serves as a solid foundation from which to build the rest of your brand marketing efforts. That's because it keeps your marketing focused on your core service, especially in places like your landing pages, where it matters most.

7. Lack of Originality

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We've talked about how consistent visuals can help customers identify with your brand. But, unfortunately, none of that is relevant if your visuals look boring and unoriginal—for example, by choosing a logo color just because it is popular, or using the same stock photos as everyone else.

Whether you do it intentionally or not, copying another brand's imagery will only serve to confuse customers. Worse yet, your marketing efforts might even drive your audience towards your competitors. You also risk making your business look like a cheap knockoff.

The Solution: Do Your Research

Whenever you begin to work on a new logo or other brand imagery, it pays to do research first. The first thing you'll want to do is look at the visuals your competitors and other entities within your industry use. Business directory websites can help make your search more manageable here.

A reverse image search can also help you check for originality once you've got a logo. One place you can do this is Google Images. Once there, click on the camera icon and upload or share a URL of your image. Google will then provide you with a list of similar images. If you find anything out there too similar for your liking, you may need to reassess.

Final Thoughts

Successful branding doesn't end with a product launch or once your website is up and running. It is an ongoing process that evolves over time. Inevitably, branding mistakes will happen. But, so long as you remain vigilant and are constantly working on your brand, your brand identity can be the North Star for your business.

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About the Author

Megan Chesterton
Megan Chesterton
Megan leads the design, content, and digital marketing teams. Together they produce everything from interactive experiences to social graphics, with a focus on telling great stories.

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