Now that you know the basics of branding, let’s talk about what can go wrong! There are many spectacular stories of branding-gone-wrong out there (if you’re old enough, you’ll remember the New Coke debacle of 1985!), but many times branding mistakes are everyday decisions that all add up to take you down a path that will result in a brand that won’t stand out or meet the needs of customers. Here are the most common mistakes you can make as you build your brand:
Mistake 1: Following the Crowd
It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of feeling like you have to be like everyone else. You’ll see other online entrepreneurs doing cool things and finding success, and feel like you have to do exactly what they’re doing. Don’t fall for this trap. If you try to be like everyone else, you won’t stand out. As we talked about before, you need to find what makes you unique, and then milk it.
Here’s an example. For years I envied other online entrepreneurs because they were holding their own live events and conferences. I kept thinking “maybe I should be doing that too!” But I knew the time wasn’t right, so I resisted following the crowd because if I ever DID host my own live event, I wanted it to be unique, and special.
Finally, 2019 was the year. It just felt like the right time to launch FlynnCon. I had hired my fulltime team in January of 2019, so I knew I’d have the help I needed to plan and host the event (live events are a lot of work!).
I also knew that in the ten years since I started Smart Passive Income I had grown as an entrepreneur and I had something to offer the SPI Community during a two-day conference. So I went for it!
But instead of making FlynnCon like all of the other conferences out there, I wanted to keep it true to the SPI brand. So my team and I came up with ideas for how to make FlynnCon a different kind of conference experience.
- First, we kept it small and intimate. We capped the tickets at 500.
- Second, we made it family-friendly. We offered workshops for tweens and teens to train the next generation of entrepreneurs
- We built in more time for community building. Most conferences schedule back-to-back sessions to there are only a few minutes here and there to network and chat with other attendees.
- We had only a handful of carefully selected guest speakers. We wanted quality over quantity.
- We added a SmartBar (similar to Apple’s Genius Bar) where attendees could have face-to-face time with our partners from ConvertKit, Teachable, Buzzsprout, and RightMessage to get their questions answered.
Our first FlynnCon was a huge success and I’m convinced that it was because we dared to be different! Don’t make the mistake of following the crowd. Know who you are, focus on your values, and focus on what makes you unique.
Mistake 2: Not Clearly Defining your Purpose
If you don’t have a clear mission statement and core values (which we talked about in Chapter 1), an important part of your brand will get lost. Think about how other brands share their missions and what that means for who they are and the products that they create. For instance:
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Workday: To put people at the center of enterprise software.
These missions aren’t about the product, they are about what the product ultimately could help people do, or what their mission can do for the world.
Sure, here at SPI we offer courses, podcasts, educational guides, but our purpose is to serve others, to help our audience build the business and life they want. Like I mentioned before, our mission is to elevate entrepreneurs to within reach of their dreams.
We try to keep our focus on the bigger purpose, not just our products.
Mistake 3: Poor Visuals (and Not Hiring a Professional Designer)
When you’re just starting out, the most important thing is to have a website that works, an email list, a basic logo. But as soon as you have things up and running, you’ll need to hire a designer to make things look more professional.
We launched a redesign of the SPI website at the end of 2019, and obviously you know what it looks like—since you’re reading this guide! But while it looks new and refreshed, it still has the same brand personality that SPI has always had. And while the logo and website are updated, they still look like SPI.
The important thing is to continually improve the visual look of your brand while keeping the brand personality. A great designer will help you do that. Sticking with the same feel, from design to style to messaging, can hurt you in the long term as you continue to grow and expand, and also add new offerings or ideas within your business.
A once-a-year check in to revisit things is smart. “What got you here won’t get you there” is a common phrase, and it has to do as much with the brand and look and feel of your work as it does with the actual action steps you take and the goals that you have.
Mistake 4: Thinking It’s ONLY about Design
While you do need to have a professional-looking brand, it’s a mistake to think that’s ONLY what your brand is about. Your brand is about so much more than that.
My good friend, Chris Ducker from Youpreneur.com once said that a brand is how people talk about you when you’re not there. Hiring and finding a good designer is great, but branding is also about designing the experience people have within your brand. In my book, Superfans, I teach you how you can create all kinds of different experiences that will lead people to become fans of your work, spread the message, and thus spread your brand as well.
Mistake 5: Inconsistent Identity
Once you nail down your brand, what makes you unique, your brand identity, you need to be relentless in keeping it consistent. If you have a quirky brand, keep it quirky. If you have a brand that is down-to-earth and relatable, keep it that way.
This applies to everything: Your design (website, logo, social sharing images, marketing materials, etc.), as well as your “voice.” If you have a personal brand, your content should sound like you. If you’re not a comedian, don’t try to be funny. If you have a company brand, develop a brand guide that will inform your employees of design standards and the characteristics of your company’s voice.
This is important because image recognition is the number one way that people make connections in their brains. Huge companies know this, and even babies know this when they recognize the face of their mother for comfort and food.
This is why I do my best to brand each of my pages online the same: My website, Facebook page, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter account all have the same look and feel. I use the same gravatar throughout all of my different platforms.
When we redesigned the SPI brand in 2019, we also developed a brand guide. It includes:
The logo, and acceptable variations:
The primary and secondary brand colors:
The brand fonts:
We refer to this guide frequently and make sure our brand is always consistent and that SPI always looks like SPI!
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Mistake 6: Failing to Innovate
It would be easy, once you find a bit of success, to just start coasting. But if you do, soon you’ll find yourself and your product irrelevant.
Think about Toys “R” Us. For decades, since 1948 to be exact, it was the go-to store to find the toys you wanted to buy for your kids’ birthdays or put under the Christmas tree. But then people started buying toys online. All of a sudden, driving to a big-box store didn’t seem too appealing. Unfortunately, Toys “R” Us didn’t innovate. They rested on their laurels while other retailers (both brick-and-mortar and online) by-passed them. In 2017, they filed for bankruptcy and shuttered their stores.
Interestingly, Toys “R” Us is just recently trying to make a comeback. CEO Richard Barry, says the company is focused on updating its customer experience and adding new technology and plans to open 70 new stores in Asia, Europe, and India. We’ll see if it’s too little too late.
The moral of the story, especially if you’re an online entrepreneur, is that you must continue to innovate. Things change fast. You need to keep up or become irrelevant.
Now, in the next chapter, let’s talk about some tools that can help you with your branding!