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Columbia Business Monthly

Four branding mistakes to avoid

Feb 04, 2019 11:29AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Tim Joiner 
Founder and CEO, 3Fold

Most business owners understand intuitively that building a great brand is key to unlocking growth.
However, most business owners that I have dealt with in the past 20 years of performing marketing and branding for companies across the nation always seem to make the same mistakes when it comes to their brand. Actually, the same four mistakes come up with stunning regularity.

1. Designing a great logo. And then stopping.
People often confuse a “logo” with “brand.” The two are not interchangeable. Your logo should be a graphical representation of your brand, but it isn’t the brand itself. Your brand is your reputation—what people remember and believe about your organization, and it’s up to you to shape that reputation. Your brand sets expectations and makes promises. So go ahead and design a great logo, but don’t stop there! Spend some time thinking about concepts like brand position, brand essence, brand voice, and brand promise, and be an intentional brand steward for your company. Nike isn’t Nike because of their swoosh. The swoosh is a symbol of a much more nuanced brand. 
Pro Tip: If you’re creating or updating your logo, look for an agency or graphic designer who will take time to get to know you and your company and who understands best practices and knows how to design a logo that will look good in every possible scenario (such as a polo shirt with your company logo embroidered on it, or a tablecloth with a one-color logo, or after it’s been photocopied, or when blown up to billboard size).
2. Ignoring brand strategy
Lots of would-be successful brands never make it to the minds of their target consumers/clients/patients/buyers because they underestimate, undervalue, or skip brand strategy. This step takes time and focus, and it sets the stage for incredible success. To paraphrase author Simon Sinek as he described Apple, their brand strategy was to get people to buy into why they did what they did before buying into what they made. People bought—and still buy—Apple products for their ingenuity, their user experience, and their design. Other brands offer superior tech, yet Apple dominates the cell phone, tablet, and personal computer markets because they went for an audience who wanted something different, who wanted out of the status quo.
Pro Tip: Brand strategy is for brands who want to succeed. A great agency or branding consultant can help you evaluate and refine your brand strategy. What makes you different? What do your customers care about? Find the overlap, and build your brand there.
3. Ignoring your audience
If you’re not clear about who your audience is, what your brand can do for them, and how they want to interact with your brand, you could miss them entirely. Is your target audience a digital native or a digital dinosaur? Do they consume media by traditional TV, radio, and print or do they stream Netflix, devour Podcasts, and look for the daily news in their inbox? Do they care about features, benefits, or causes?
Pro Tip: It is easy to assume that your customers think and act just like you do, but chances are, they don’t. Research your audience using industry and behavioral data. Put your assumptions aside and get to know your audience from the inside. Make sure your brand is everywhere they are, in authentic and meaningful ways that delight your prospects and customers.
4. Trying to be someone else
Branding is most successful when the core substance of the brand is authentic to the company and resonates with the audience. Don’t try to be like your competition just because they are bigger or more successful than your company. Know how you differ from your competition and know how to communicate that visually and verbally. You do you. And do it better than anyone else.
Pro Tip: Establishing a unique and authentic brand positioning statement, brand essence, and brand voice allows for consistent messaging across all platforms (blogs, emails, social media, radio and TV advertising, etc.) and more powerful, lasting connections to your audience.
Tim Joiner is the founder and CEO of 3Fold, a Greenville-based growth agency. Their multi-disciplined team is skilled at developing strategic campaigns that accomplish business objectives. Learn more at