Critical Brand Mistakes You Must Avoid


Your organization’s brand is more important than you might realize. Branding is not the “voodoo of marketers” but the sum total impression of everything you are as an organization. In a nutshell it is the essence of who you are organizationally. Communicating it properly is essential; not doing so can be disastrous. Here are the most critical brand mistakes you should avoid:

Brand mistakes

Assume your target audience understands your brand promise. Whether you manufacture guitars or lead a local church, you must always fight the insidious thought that…just because you have been around for a while or just because you are the biggest building on your side of town…your target audience understands and even cares what you have to offer. Successful brands know they need to continually tell their story to an ever-growing population faced with an increasingly noisy and crowed world.

Assume those closest to yo, your consumers or constituents, understand your brand promise. This one is tough to swallow for leaders. After all, we would like to believe that those who have “bought” into our product understand what we do and offer. Not really. Even in my own company I see that happening. The A Group has two divisions:  marketing and technology. Some of our technology clients act surprised to hear we do high-end, research-driven marketing; while some of our marketing-only clients sometimes say “I had no idea your company does that.” That’s not on them. It’s on us. We live with the day-to-day dynamics of our microcosm and fail to be intentional in communicating the complete scope of what we offer.

Fail to create a transferable and memorable way for your brand loyalists to pass your brand promise to their network. I call this group of influential, satisfied, and highly motivated people “sneezers.” They love your organization, and their products and are more than willing to let their network know about you. However, brands often fail to create simple and effective ways in which the sneezers can be successful. Churches are often victims of this. Ask a happy member why he likes his church and answers are all over the board. “People are friendly and we have a great youth program,” said a woman I interviewed lately.  No one ever thinks his church is not friendly—well, I met a guy who actually thought his church was “not very friendly”—and if I am not interested in the youth program, then the brand promise of friendliness plus good youth program might not be compelling enough to engage me or cause me to come for a visit.

Create brand promises that are not fulfilled by your product or services. This is not only a mistake, but a mortal sin for brands. Making claims or promises you cannot deliver on. I learned this lesson the hard way in my early days of consulting, even before I started The A Group. I had designed a direct mail piece that made specific claims about the quality of experience and production for an event. Another organization putting on a similar type of production asked me to design something very similar and with the same claims. Since they were in different cities and several weeks apart, I obliged. Both pieces were successful in driving people to the event. However, the “copy cat” event had the claims, but not the infrastructure to deliver its promises. It was a fiasco. I heard that people were not only disappointed…they were angry. Please don’t look at someone else’s design or claims and adopt it because you like it. In the real world, not the pretend world, people expect to get what you promised them in your promotion.

What other brand mistake would you add to this list?

  • Steele Jansen

    The benefit of “sneezers” marketing your product is so valuable.  Great point!

  • My company used to use the “voice of the customer” technique to try and determine the customer’s true requirements and to get a heading check on our success in meeting those requirements. This process is not followed as well as it was in the past in some key areas, but when used properly it can be an invaluable way of also evaluating your brand and how it is working for you.

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