6 Cringeworthy Branding Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Small Business

No matter how small your business is, chances are you’ve already been hard at work at trying to build the brand of your business. You've seen tons of advice on "how to build a great brand," so why aren't you and every other small business owner gurus by now?

Well, you may have created a great logo and have accounts made across all the leading social media platforms. Yet business isn't flowing your way.


Well, you can blame the crowded internet world.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon said, “a brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Small business branding is not an easy task, but should be taken seriously. 

For small businesses, getting things done seems to take priority over getting things polished. With limited funds and resources, it could seem like fighting a losing battle at times. As a result, focus on branding takes a backseat. They consider it as nice-to-have, rather than need-to-have. However, such a perception could harm the growth of any business.

If your big plans for your startup aren’t quite coming together, there could be a chance these branding mistakes are holding you back.

Small Businesses Prohibit Their Employees From Building Brand

Social media has a positive correlation to employee satisfaction; however, many small businesses continue to hold a tight grip on their social media accounts and posting strategy. About 50% of employees are blocked from accessing Facebook at a workplace, reports Sophos.

The truth, in fact, is that we are at war for the best talent. In a socially connected world, your employees can be the champions of your product and company. We are forgetting when we used to worry about employees using email and phones, which are now workplace mainstays. The new tactic is to let them use social media as long as it is being used for the benefit of the company.

People today trust person-to-person communication and tend to ignore direct advertising by brands. Thus, personal consulting takes priority over corporate communications. By letting your employees be on social media, you are initiating a fleet of small personal brands to help in your business branding. 

Few companies realize the potential of social media. Zappos, an online shopping site, does -- and has built an incredibly social culture. Employees at Zappos are given a complete liberty to talk on behalf of Zappos among their customers and vendors. This not only attracts consumers but also draws in potential candidates who might want to join the company.

Quick Tip: As with emails and phones, the time for social media has come. Instead of seeing social media in the workplace as a threat, train your employees to be social media brand ambassadors and set them loose on the internet.  

They Have a Multiple Personality Disorder

One of the fastest ways to dilute the leverage of your brand is inconsistency. Though inconsistency has always been a branding blunder, but it is even more in the digital age with the growth of social media platforms and evolution of mobile devices. Customers can quickly spot brand inconsistency and can easily develop mistrust with inconsistency across multiple platforms.

Branding is all about fixing a reputation in the audience’s brain. It would encourage people to buy a product that would make not explicitly say “Buy me”, instead it says “This is what I am. If you agree, you can buy me and recommend me to your friends.”

You cannot be an expert budget planner one month and amazing market consultant next month. Don’t make it hard for people to follow and support you by sending an inconsistent message.

Coca-Cola, the king of consistency, has remained remarkably consistent visually as well as in terms of the purpose. Although its image has evolved over decades, the central characteristics have been conserved. It’s not the luck or coincidence: they have deliberately built their brand up over years in a consistent fashion. 

Quick Tip: People don’t like change. Non-stop tinkering with your brand may lose favor with customers. Find your identity and stick to it.

Not Making Tough Decisions to Target Their Market

Do you think it’s possible to please everyone at all times? No.

But by choosing your target market and honing in on it, you can please the right audience all of the time.

A target market leads to a compelling brand, without which the brand will lose focus and efficiency. Don’t be afraid to be specific to define your target market. Targeting everyone reaches no one.

It would not be possible for small business to reach their target market unless they deliver a meaningful message to the audience. For example, if you are targeting students 20 and older, you cannot show to the entire group how beneficial your product is because a 20-year old has different needs than a 50-year old.

Quick Tip: Tailor your strategies to amuse your customer and not just any customer.

Being the Same As the Competitors

What makes your brand unique? Or are you in the same fight as your competitors?

It’s not easy to create a unique product in today’s market. But if you go little deeper, there are a number of ways to differentiate. Think about it: McDonalds and Burger King deal with essentially the same products, but still they are entirely different brands and pretty much successful in the same field.  

Any “me too” business would survive only by competing on price. And this is nothing but a race to the bottom – and there will always be someone to beat you.

Quick Tip: Simply imitating competitors would literally defeat the purpose of all your branding efforts. Find out something that would make you stand out.

Forgetting to Establish Brand Guidelines

Many small businesses believe that branding is only for big guns with big budgets. However, this is far from the truth. Just because you are a small company, there is no reason not to look professional.

There should be proper guidelines for the logo, brand colors, vision and brand promise, which ensures consistency in the company’s presentation at all times. Even the seemingly minute details such as the music they hear when on hold or greetings used in emails contribute to the perceptions users form about your brand.

Quick Tip: Don’t be afraid to be a stickler. Take time to establish brand guidelines that would clearly address what your brand is (and what it isn’t about).  

Thinking They Own the Brand

Re-branding is not essentially an evil practice that any business has to avoid. However, re-branding without strategic planning and customer engagement can doom your branding.  

Branding is not a science, it’s an art. And the cardinal sin small businesses may commit is assuming that they own the brand. In the real world, it is far from the truth. Your customers are the drivers of your brand.  


Tropicana, who changed the entire packaging suddenly, learned this lesson the hard way. They didn’t understand that customers had an emotional connection with the brand. Within months of re-branding, Tropicana was silently back in its old packaging.

Quick Tip: Messing with a classic is a bad idea. Making few alterations here and there may be important, but don’t alter the design entirely.

The Wrap Up

Every entrepreneur tends to make a branding misstep now and then. If you have fallen prey to the mistakes described above, pick yourself up. Avoidance of the mistakes described above will help you go a long way towards building a powerhouse brand for your business.