The 5 Most Common Branding Mistakes Small Businesses Make

For small businesses, it can take years to establish a brand identity that’s recognized in the communities you serve. With hiring quality employees, managing finances, finding an affordable lease, and a number of other responsibilities to attend to, branding can understandably end up on the backburner. Still, if you want to establish a foundation for success, it’s a necessity that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Even some of the most recognizable international brands are constantly tweaking their identity to achieve the public image they want. Small businesses have the advantage of being lean and versatile in this regard, but often make mistakes that slow down the process. In this article, I’ll cover 5 of the most common mistakes small businesses make when trying to carve out an identity of their own.


1. Trying to Appeal to Everyone

As the saying goes, if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. This applies perfectly to the art of building a brand.

Nearly every business has a target audience demographic. Even those who feel as if everyone is a potential customer can recognize that there are some individuals who are more likely to me a customer than others based on their age, gender, parental status or geographical location. For example, local businesses may want to play up the hyper-local angle, and claim their spot as a major staple in the community.

I’m not suggesting that you need to be so narrowly-focused that your messaging is off-putting to those who fall outside your target, but if your goal during the branding process is to find something that everyone loves, you’re embarking on a futile mission.

The best way to avoid this problem? Develop a consumer profile, and start crafting your messaging around your ideal customer.

2. Forgetting to Include Personality

The best way to build a connection with your audience is to bring your brand to life! Whether it’s through traditional creative messaging or actually developing anthropomorphic “spokes-characters,” (think Geico’s gecko, Michelin Man, or Mr. Peanut), your branding isn’t complete until you’ve given it some human-like qualities.

You want your brand to be relatable. In fact, you want your customers to think that they’re a “friend” of your business, not just a source of revenue. It’s much more likely that first-time customers will remember your branding ‘mascot’ (typically incorporated in your logo) than just the name of your company. In fact, if these two components of your brand can work in tandem, there’s an exponentially higher chance of being remembered.

For more on why this concept is so successful regardless of industry or size, check out this article.

3. Inconsistent Messaging

When you’re still trying to “find yourself’ in terms of your brand voice, inconsistency is inevitable to some degree. With being said, be wary of making major changes to the brand personality you’ve already established with your audience.

Not to go armchair psychologist, but people typically don’t love change. If you have a solid, established, loyal customer base, don’t try to reinvent yourself in attempt to gain new business from a demographic who has historically not been your main target audience. Stick with what works, and if you want to evolve, do it slowly over time.

The way you scale a business is by, first and foremost, maintaining the loyalty of your existing clientele. If your new customers are simply replacing your old business, you’ll grow very slowly. Don’t fall into a rut and start doing things just because “that’s the way you’ve always done them,” but don’t change just for the sake of change, either.

4. Alienating Certain Audiences

You might look at this and say, “Wait, I thought we weren’t going to try to appeal to everyone?” While you shouldn’t try to make every audience segment your target (trying to appeal to everyone), you shouldn’t brand your business as something that excludes anyone either.

For example, if you’re running a local business that sells sporting equipment, you might feel an urge to push out a very ‘masculine’ appearance because on average, younger boys play more sports than younger girls. The problem is if you focus too hard on projecting an image that appeals to males, you risk alienating a not-insignificant percent of the market (female athletes) which can hurt your bottom line.

You should, obviously, have some type of consumer in mind when building your brand from the ground up, but it’s crucial that you think about your messaging from the perspective of all different types of people.

5. Trying to Hop On a Trend’s Bandwagon

Avocado toast, pumpkin spice lattes, the list goes on. It seems like every generation has their preferences that become a cultural cliché within the demographic.  Though it’s undeniably beneficial to get on board with a trend while it’s relevant, it’s not a good idea to craft your entire brand image around it.

Trends come and go, but your business should be set up for success now and in the future. Aligning your brand with something that is likely to become obsolete in the future could mean jeopardizing your ‘tomorrow’ as well. The saying “the only constant is change” exists for a reason, and trying to capture a moment in time and turn it into a business model is setting yourself up for failure. Not to mention, you never want to be thought of as out-of-touch once the trend inevitably passes in a couple of years.

Focus on creating something timeless, and you won’t be scrambling to tweak your brand on a regular basis.


Wrapping Up

Branding is an art that can be refined to fit the image you’re hoping to achieve. Don’t be afraid to take chances that set you apart from your competitors, even when it seems like you might be taking a risk. In today’s marketplace, differentiation has proven to be a successful branding play when executed tactfully and tastefully.

If your company needs a partner with experience in developing the brand identities of dozens of local businesses, get in touch today and we’ll find a solution that works for you and your customer base.