Sales & Marketing

Five branding traps you need to avoid

6 min read

05 February 2016

Working on your own brand can be incredibly difficult. That affinity you feel is a double-edged sword. So what are the common pitfalls when attempting to work on your own brand?

We’ve done this a few times, and have noticed a number of common traps clients can get snared in when creating or evolving a brand. Generally, I’d say that one of the key aspects of our role in this process is one of professional objectivity. It’s where we can add a lot of value for the client, because at some stage or other they’re going to struggle with one or more of the following issues.

I know this because we recently did some brand work for ourselves and I just couldn’t get my head around it. I was too close to it. Too emotionally involved to be constructive in the decisions we were making. However, I think it was very useful as it gave me the client perspective on a brand project.

So in no particular order, here are five challenges that are more than likely to crop up:

(1) Evaluation without context

We all do it. We see something and immediately jump to a conclusion, whether that be good or bad. It’s particularly true when it comes to naming. You just have to give it some time to sink in and understand the context around the proposition. New names and identities can be like trying someone else’s clothes on…a bit awkward and feels very strange. But, with time comes normalisation and perhaps a realisation that it wasn’t that bad after all.

During this process I always have a new found respect for Wolff Olin’s team that proposed and pushed through the name Orange for a new telecom brand. I wonder how many clients in that room were squirming in their seats when the name was
revealed?

(2) The search for perfection

This is a kind of no man’s land between approval and rebrief. It’s a dangerous rut to get stuck in because there is no way out. The truth is that in all of these projects need a level of compromise in order to move forward. Whether that’s on colour, language, names, sub-brands, or URLs. There comes a time when decisions must be made to keep pace with the wider business requirements. We have a saying for this in the agency: “perfection is the enemy of good”.

Read more about branding a business:

(3) Subjectivity blindness

This is similar to the above, and is another pitfall that beckons welcomingly. You need to consider every single detail of your brand with a meticulous enthusiasm. But it can go too far and become detrimental to the bigger picture. For example, I once had a client who had a problem with the character “i” in the logotype of their brand name.

Apparently (in their opinion) it just didn’t look like an “i” and there was a concern that their customers couldn’t read the word. When this happens and they start talking about research to clarify things, you know it’s gone too far!

(4) Research isn’t the answer

Don’t look to it to make a decision for you. That’s a cop out. All it will do is cast up 1,000 other things to be worried about – things you hadn’t thought about before. Things that aren’t likely to be real things. But with your subjectivity blindness in full effect those things become mission critical.

Researching brand concepts, logos or names is wrong in my view. It invites an unnatural scrutiny of things we never really consciously think about – and it takes you to the edge of madness. Calm down, take a step back and make some sensible decisions with objective, pragmatic advice. You’ll also save some time and money.

(5) Never work in isolation

It might get you to the end of the process more quickly, but it’ll kill you in the end. No matter how good the work is.

Because everyone feels so invested in their brand, it’s important to take everyone with you. The best projects are the ones that somehow allow all the stakeholders a say at the outset (For example via a company wide survey). And as the project progresses, it’s sensible to create a smaller working group that represents the view of all stakeholders.

If you’re looking for other branding examples not to follow, then take a look at how Uber’s rebrand drew mass confusion from its users.

Chris Lumsden is a partner at brand and design consultancy Good.