Having worked with local and regional companies to launch or re-boot their branding efforts for the last 18 years, here are the most common branding mistakes I’ve come across:

1. Confusing Brand-Building Advertising with Branding

Branding is creating a defined identity and personality for your business that gets expressed in everything you do.

So while that certainly should include a brand-building advertising campaign, advertising is only a small part of branding and should also include:

Hence the immortal line:

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” 

— David Packard, of Hewlett & Packard fame.

On the flip-side, know that just because you have a name and logo and brand colors doesn’t mean you have an actual brand.

Real brands have “share of mind” — they stand for something in the heads of prospective customers.

And nothing creates that faster than an effective, mass-media branding campaign.

2. Multiple Personality Marketing Disorder

Because marketing is bigger than advertising, it’s possible to have disconnects between your branding campaign and the rest of your marketing.

If you come off as one personality on the air, but feel and sound different on-line or in-person, your company suffers from Multiple Personality Marketing Disorder.

And it’s one of the hard truths of branding that sales won over months or years of advertising can be lost within minutes of a mishandled website visit or phone call.

This is where tools like Brandable Chunks and Character Diamonds can Brand Style Guides prove invaluable.

They’ll ensure your web copy, your phone dialogue, and your in-person interactions  feel and sound like the same brand that’s in your ads.

3. Assuming Your Brand Requires a Unique Selling Proposition

Most businesses in most categories simply won’t have a USP.

Nor do they need one.

And, even if they DID have one, it wouldn’t stay unique for long.

So instead of making up faux USPs, businesses should be focusing on bonding and distinctiveness as the foundation for their branding campaigns.

Those are more effective and longer-lasting foundations for proper branding campaigns.

4. Playing it Safe & Failing to Stand Out

The only real law in advertising is: Never Bore the Audience!

Yet most ads monotonously sound and look like every other ad in their category — mostly ‘cause they wanted to sound “professional.”

Huge mistake.

‘Cause there’s no point in running branding ads unless they’re noticed, remembered, and associated with your brand.

So unless your ads sound, feel, and look different from everyone else’s, you’re doing it wrong.

5. Not Investing in Long-term Brand Building

Below is one of the three most-important marketing charts you’ll ever lay eyes on:

And what this chart shows is that long-term growth in market-share and profits is directly tied to your long-term branding.

Short-term sales (from day now till about 6-months out) are dominated by sales activation efforts.

But once you get past six months, the bulk of your growth will come from your branding — IF you start one and continue to run it year-in and year-out.

The good news is you’ll see signs of effectiveness well before that six-to-twelve month mark.

So the biggest branding mistake is not to brand your business to begin with.

6. Avoiding Old-School Mass Media

Companies often grow to the point of being able to afford mass media by relying on various forms of Digital and Direct Response Advertising.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But sooner or later, those companies will suffer from Feed-the-Beast-Itus when their digital campaigns can’t keep up with their need for leads.

This is when it’s time to brand using a story-telling mass media, typically broadcast radio or TV, but potentially also cable or OTT.

So this mistake involves avoiding broadcast radio or TV under the mistaken impression that “nobody listens to / watches that anymore.”

Or the erroneous notion that the un-targetable nature of broadcast radio or TV renders them inefficient.

This despite the audience statistics and easy math (not to mention business case studies) that prove otherwise.

Because while YOU personally may not listen to or watch broadcast media, that doesn’t mean that large numbers of your customers don’t.

7. Failing to Concentrate Your Firepower

When smaller businesses imitate large corporations’ marketing mix they end up in trouble.

Because they don’t have the budget to advertise effectively across multiple media.

They’d be better off concentrating their advertising firepower on one media so they can get past the effectiveness threshold and become unignorable in that media (or their chosen stations / tv shows / etc).

Once a business can dominate their first media, then it’s time to add another.

And make no mistake, using multiple media comes with “synergistic” benefits — IF you have the budget to do both media well.

8. Under-Spending on Creative

There’s no sense in spending tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on air time to get people to see or hear your ad, while underspending on the quality of the ad.

Because your branding campaign will only be as effective as your branding ads.

And your branding ads will only be as good as your creative team.

9. Running Isolated Ads Rather than a Unified Campaign

Branding is association design for fun and profit.

But it’s extraordinarily rare and difficult to create those associations in a single ad.

That means you need all of your ads to be thematically and stylistically unified in their aim to create the right associations.

In other words, you don’t need a great ad, or even a handful of different, isolated great ads.

You need a great campaign.

And that means you need to hire an ad consultant capable of crafting a great ad campaign, custom-made for your business.

Which makes not hiring that guy perhaps the biggest branding mistake of all.

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