02 Aug Small business owners, avoid these five crippling branding mistakes
By Anthony Pappas, Published: June 12 | Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 7:15 AM
The Washington Post
The brand’s authenticity is a direct reflection of the depth of its message: employees are allowed surfing and snowboarding breaks during peak conditions, and customers can track the environmental impact of an item from design to delivery.
• Neglect to engage your customers: In order to be truly engaging, start-ups must create a personality for their brand, interact with customers, and be a natural extension of their target audiences’ personal interests. TOMS Shoes was hugely successful at building an army of brand advocates early on by transforming the traditionally superficial act of shoe shopping into a charitable act that gave customers a sense of purpose. They created an experience that socially conscious Gen X consumers, and consequently their friends, wanted to be a part of.
• Lose sight of your aspirations: A start-up’s brand should be something that will live with them forever, so it’s important that entrepreneurs ask themselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Aspirations drive decisions organizationally and help define brand architecture.
For example, Virgin started out as a small record company in 1970 built on a unique set of principles: value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. Today, Virgin has evolved into a multi-billion dollar international investment group. All along the way, Virgin has held steadfast to their ideals, no matter what sector — whether it’s travel, mobile, lifestyle or entertainment, they create the same brand experience for their customers.
• Break your promises: If companies don’t deliver on their brand promises, their customers will hold them accountable. Recently, the social networking site Path learned this the hard way. In their mission statement, Path says that the social network “should be private by default. Forever. You should always be in control of your information and experience.”
Yet earlier this year, they were ousted for collecting contact information from their users’ iPhones without consent. So when Path’s chief executive justified the behavior as an “industry best practice,” social networks erupted with outrage. After the fact, the start-up apologized for the mistake and corrected the error, but the entire ordeal could have been prevented had the company kept their brand promise.
Anthony Pappas is the founder and president of Pappas Group, an Arlington, Va.-based advertising and branding services agency.