There’s a plethora of branding advice out there, and if you’re lucky, some of it will come from actual experts — people who have been there, done that and learned things the hard way.
But not all branding advice is good advice. In fact, some of it is quite the opposite. It is sometimes challenging to sift through the clutter to find valuable tips and tricks, so let’s start by debunking some branding myths while validating some branding virtues.
First choices vs. changing things later
Someone’s gut instinct can be a big factor in branding and design, but should it be?
It’s easy to get attached to the very first iteration of your brand’s new logo design, especially if you had a hand in designing it yourself. But the first iteration isn’t always the best iteration or even the most accurate for your brand. Blindly devoting yourself to the very first choice without allowing room for variation and exploration in the design is definitely not sound advice.
On the other hand, neither is the tendency to rush into making the decision with the idea that you can always change the design later. Visuals make an impact, and they last in the public consciousness. If you launch with a hastily-chosen logo, that’s likely what your audience is going to remember — no matter how quickly you change it afterward.
Good feedback vs. harsh criticism
“Be true to yourself, no matter what anyone else says” is common advice. Usually accompanied by the line “follow your heart.” Well, the sad fact is that our hearts are easily misled, and our judgment isn’t always the best — especially if emotions are involved. Feedback is a valuable part of ensuring the best branding possible.
On the other hand, neither the customer nor the critic is always right. If you listen to every single nitpick, no matter how minuscule or personally motivated, you’ll never get anywhere. Get a variety of outside opinions on your brand so that you can garner high-quality insight.
Change vs. consistency
Some advice, especially from a marketing standpoint, suggests that branding and creative elements should be changed with every new initiative. Keep it fresh! Keep it light! Look at Google’s logo changes!
That’s all fine, but Google still has a cohesive branding strategy and has built in the daily changes in its logo to further the aim of the overall brand identity. That’s different than just changing everything for the sake of change. Consistency is important in establishing a brand.
On the other hand, stubbornly clinging to a branding strategy that may not be doing its best work isn’t a great idea either. Be consistent and willing to adapt. Focus on your promises and values as a brand and let them influence the individual branding decisions.
The importance of social media
It can be difficult to keep up with the next big social media application (or how we’re supposed to use it to spread the word about our brand). If a new social network can be here today and gone tomorrow, is it really all that important?
In short, yes. One of the most valuable outlets for establishing and marketing a brand, social media allows for close communication between a brand and the target demographic. It allows you to spread the word, tell your story and build communication and loyalty. Social media is never a bad idea for a brand.
On the other hand, social media isn’t the be-all and end-all for branding, especially if you stick to a platform that is falling out of favor or which doesn’t help you to connect with your target audience. Research the demographic for your social media platform, be choosy about which platforms you use, practice cohesive and consistent branding across the board, and social media will reward you with more opportunities.
Good branding advice:
- Consistency: Consistency is key in building a strong brand. Ensure that your brand messaging, visuals, and voice are consistent across all platforms, including your website, social media, and marketing materials.
- Differentiation: To stand out in a crowded market, your brand needs to be differentiated from your competitors. Develop a unique value proposition that sets your brand apart and appeals to your target audience.
- Authenticity: Authenticity builds trust with your audience. Be true to your brand’s values, voice, and mission, and avoid any attempts to misrepresent or mislead your customers.
- Customer focus: Your brand should focus on solving customer problems and providing value to them. Your messaging should be customer-centric, addressing their needs and desires, rather than solely focusing on your products or services.
- Flexibility: While consistency is important, your brand should also be flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs. Be open to feedback and adjust your brand messaging and visuals as needed.
Bad branding advice:
- Copying your competitors: While it’s important to be aware of your competitors’ branding, copying their strategies and messaging is not the way to differentiate yourself in the market.
- Inconsistency: Inconsistent branding can confuse your audience and dilute your brand’s message. Ensure that your brand is consistent across all platforms.
- Lack of authenticity: Consumers can quickly identify a lack of authenticity, and it can damage your brand’s reputation. Be true to your brand’s values and mission.
- Overcomplication: Simple, clear messaging and visuals are more effective than complex and confusing ones. Avoid overcomplicating your brand messaging or visuals.
- Ignoring your customers: Focusing solely on your own products or services, rather than addressing customer needs and desires, can lead to a disconnect between your brand and your audience. Keep your customers at the forefront of your branding strategy.
The key to good advice
It’s a good idea to take advice with a grain of salt. There’s always going to be someone out there with a completely different experience than your own. That being said, the odds are that you’ll find someone whose circumstances mirror your own and whose advice you can really trust.
Ultimately, what makes advice good advice is whether it works for you or not.