Each fall, young people across the country brainstorm for weeks to come up with the best, funniest, and/or most provocative Halloween costumes. Scary ghosts and monsters, celebrity doppelgangers, recreations of fictional characters, viral internet phenomena from the previous year – they are all fair game for the last night of October.
But for your company, creating an engaging and positive brand is a year-round pursuit. If you develop this image with a consistent approach, your customer base will continue to grow as people get to know you as a company and feel comfortable doing business with you. If not, the results can be, well, scary. Here are some branding pitfalls to avoid throughout the year.
Every once in a while, as individuals and as businesses, we allow vanity to reign supreme. Everyone wants to be the smartest one at the party. This is part of human nature; it’s expected and understandable. When it comes to building your brand, however, arrogance is something you need to be constantly on guard for. Coming across as arrogant to your audience will leave them feeling less and less comfortable doing business with you. Studies show that consumers prefer interacting with companies that evoke an emotional response. Constantly pumping up your own ego doesn’t accomplish this – genuine human connection does. Approach each interaction with your audience as an opportunity to interact with them on a human level and demonstrate actual value. Forgetting this simple principle can quickly lead to scaring away qualified leads, and your numbers will suffer as a result.
Technologically Behind the Times
Another easy way to frighten away your audience is by appearing out of touch. Technology governs all of our interactions in 2015, and consumers have developed refined expectations for how those interactions should unfold. Ecommerce, for example, is becoming a necessity for anyone in the retail industry. Busy consumers want flexibility and value more than anything else, and having a smooth, functional ecommerce option will provide them with that. When user experience during these transactions is lacking (glitches occur, security is breached, path to completion is vaguely defined, etc.), you’ll be lucky if the user even finishes the purchase at hand, let alone comes back and promotes your brand as a return customer.
Depending on your company’s size and industry, there could be thousands of transactions with potential customers occurring on a daily basis. As a business owner, it’s important to prepare your staff for all of the human-to-human contact these interactions will bring. In the moments when the people you employ are in actual contact with customers – whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, or even online chat help options – they need to have the desire and know-how to provide sincere, helpful service. While there are inevitable hiccups and unfortunate negative experiences that occur, your response to them can be just as important as your preparation for them. Give your employees the freedom to use their best judgement when resolving these issues, but also incentivize behaviors that result in a positive interaction. Most customers will not only forgive a brand if its employees go out of their way to right a wrong, they’ll feel even more inclined to return as a customer. On the other hand, if the same employees are indifferent to those concerns, you can kiss those customers (and the revenue they represent) goodbye.
No matter what industry you are in, dull is never a good look for your brand. Think about the path your customers take before deciding whether or not to purchase from you. Likely, this path involves deciding between your product/service and a litany of competitors. If what you are offering to them – and, equally important, how you present it – doesn’t stand out from the pack, you’re bound to lose out to those competitors who took the time to develop a unique brand identity. Creativity isn’t reserved for painters and musicians; you can incorporate it into all of your business and marketing decisions. If you work with a marketing agency for some of these needs, stress to them how important it is to you to avoid dullness in your brand’s imagery, tone, and message. Even if you don’t, there’s plenty of easy and inexpensive ways to keep your brand fresh. Embrace the sense of humor of your employees and don’t be afraid to lift the curtain on what goes on behind the scenes. Consumers feel more comfortable doing business with a company that’s willing to poke a little fun at itself, and a great way to do this is creating fun videos with your employees and disseminating them across social media channels.
Too Big to Be Human
There’s no reason to hide success – as an individual or as a business. You and your employees have worked hard to create a viable business model and execute it, so be proud of it. But from a branding perspective, increased success means new challenges – especially when that success comes quickly. If your brand has incorporated elements of ‘down-home’ authenticity and ‘mom and pop’ sensibilities, you’ve likely benefited from how endearing those ideas can be. As the company grows, however, those claims may start to seem insincere and hollow. So think about where your business is along that arc and adjust accordingly. Size isn’t a bad thing; it just means your message should be adjusted to reflect a different kind of authenticity. Even major brands can achieve a successfully authentic brand message, but they do it by highlighting individual examples of good customer service and positive interactions with customers. The key is to focus more on humanization (incorporating individual personalities of your employees is typically a great way to start with this) and less on size. One thing is for certain – a brand that comes across as too big to feel human is one that will scare away far too many of your potential customers.
At the end of the day, every company has a different approach to creating their optimal brand. The common denominators between successful brands are sincerity and consistency. Keeping these tenets top-of-mind while making branding and messaging decisions will go a long way towards keeping your customers happy and not scaring them away.