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The ten most common errors when branding


Even though I am firmly convinced that we tend to learn from our victories and not from our mistakes –one only needs to look at our history to see that we have an almost inevitable tendency to repeat the latter–, this post is a summary of the ten most common errors when creating and managing a brand, so that you can do a positive reading of it.

1. Long kick, and run

Using a comparison with our national sport –from which we've all, perhaps unwillingly, learned something–, possibly the most common error among entrepreneurs and small business owners when they launch a "brand" into the market, is not doing any branding at all. The "long kick, and run" strategy, as the project manager at the consultancy where I learned about branding used to call it, is much more frequent than we imagine. Everyone running towards the ball without really knowing where it will fall, what we are running for, who we are or what we've come to the field for... The long kick means not thinking before you create your brand, not having a vision of your own, but rather a generic "sectorial" one, or one exclusively driven towards making profits. Not understanding one's market and ignoring the context and its tendencies. Not knowing who you are or why you do the things you do.

2. The bulb

It is often thought that creating a name for your brand is an exclusively creative activity –that clever idea that pops up in our head while showering, riding the metro, or right before we go to sleep–, but the consensus among experts is that this is the most important marketing decision, the cheapest and the most effective one, especially on the internet. If we create a name that, besides being registrable –something that is becoming increasingly difficult– also helps us break through the powerful filters of our audiences, who are always saturated with information and blind to any new messages, this would doubtless be a great achievement. It is important for creativity to be combined with a careful strategy. And, if naming is so crucial, why not look for professional help?

3. The fart

A phrase that the creative director of this same branding consultancy used sarcastically, was that there is the common belief that "creating a logo is like farting". As is the case with many other professions, the internet tends to de-professionalise and trivialise this work, and it is quite easy to find companies that will create the logo for your company without any care or personalised attention, and even auctioning creative talent. And not only that: we all know of a certain member of our family or friend who has just learned how to use a design programme and can't wait to get a chance to practice and is thus willing to do this job for free. On the contrary, we believe that a logo must always be the consequence of an image strategy, and that we need time, care and good artisan talent to create the symbol that is going to identify your brand for its whole existence.

4. Positioning

Sometimes a brand's positioning gets confused with its positioning in search engines (SEO/SEM). "Positioning" a brand means reaching the heart and mind of your audience with the meaning that you want them to associated it with. Positioning requires, firstly, the distillation of your central message out of your business strategy, in order to turn it into the lighthouse which guides your strategy, that which shows you what you are and what you are not. There are few companies that are truly well positioned, and it is crucial to first define and then make your promise tangible in a coherent and consistent way. And combine it with what is often lacking: an inspiring leadership that, as Tom Peters said, is willing to fight "under crossfire because he believes in it".  

5. The ostrich

Nowadays, there is too high a price to pay for being asocial, for not understanding that brands are built in conversation with one's audience and for wanting to believe that communication is unidirectional. We can't hide our heads as if we were an ostrich whenever there is a reputation problem that affects the brand, as we can't think that we are betraying our DNA by using certain channels to communicate, either. The media fragmentation we are experiencing forces us to be more consistent and coherent than ever. And it's important to show your human face, to listen, to answer, to apologise if you've made a mistake, and to get to work to fix it as soon as possible.

6. "Companese"

This is a term that I heard from Enrique Dans some time ago at a conference, and which I love. It's true that almost all companies hide their lack of commitment to their discourse by means of empty words which convey the politically correct message. "Companese" is the official language of most websites, corporate pamphlets and sometimes even social networks, but which is not believed in, nor lived, nor felt. Values are not grandiose yet empty words, they are promises and commitments that become true every day with what you say, do and show. They are your inescapable and non-negotiable pillars. I'm afraid Groucho's famous phrase is not applicable in this context...

7. The cream

We can all easily come up with the case of a company that has thought that a brand is the cream we add to seduce and make desirable what truly isn't. But in a world as transparent and interconnected as ours, we can all know, if we want to, the secrets and hidden agenda of companies. We can't afford to lie, hide, not comply and lose our legitimacy by doing the opposite of what we've promised.

8. The mass

Because of our culture, it is hard for us to stand out, be different, and show our true personalities. These are attitudes that are un-encouraged since we are kids. This is the origin of companies' tendency to blend in with the mass, to be more of the same thing. Many identities renounce daring, and thus innovating; they believe it's out of their reach, that it's an investment only fit for big companies, that small ones can't be powerful brands. And the big secret is that, for the small ones, it's much easier to do things right.

9. The goal

Once the strategy, the name, the logo, the website, and all the necessary applications have been dealt with, many companies consider that the branding work has finished, when it's actually a continued process that is built daily with our every action. This is just the beginning of their management process.

10. My responsibility?

Delegating the full responsibility of managing one's brand to a single person, or a branding, marketing or advertising agency, means forgetting that brands are also the daily behaviours of everyone involved. If things are to be done correctly, then the responsibility must always be shared and never fully delegated.

This list is not meant to be completely thorough. Have you identified any other error that we can all learn from?


This post is a summary of the talk I gave at a Guiri Drink held by the Guiri Business group (Professional Network for Foreigners and Expats in Spain), last 25th March at Madrid's Bar Chikito.


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This forum needed shnkiag up and you've just done that. Great post!

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