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Building a brand is not easy. A few bad decisions can start a snowball effect and put a brand in a sorry state. All that time, money and effort needlessly wasted. All for a mistake that could have easily been avoided. But that doesn't have to be the fate of your brand!

To make your branding even better, I'm going to tell you about the 9 mistakes that are often made in connection with brands.

1. what should the brand stand for?

It's one thing to come up with a brand name on purpose, and quite another to put random words together and call it a brand. Names stick, and you don't want to stick with the wrong name. When you choose a brand name, you need to make sure it's meaningful and associated with positive emotions.

Brand owners need to think carefully about how they want their brand to be perceived before settling for a generic or negative brand name. Most experts would agree that AirWaves is a terrible name for a chewing gum brand. Nothing about the name tells you that the product is chewing gum. You don't want to make that mistake.

Think about the emotional experience a potential customer would have when interacting with your company. The brand name should evoke this experience.

2. the brand must be attractive to new customers

An extensive but loyal customer base is the be-all and end-all for all companies. But brands always lose customers in proportion to their size - that is unavoidable. Customers may be loyal, but they can stop being customers for whatever reason.

In "How Brands Grow", author Byron Sharp describes the customer cycle. He begins as a light buyer and then, if everything goes well from the company's point of view, develops into a heavy buyer. Over time, however, the buyer's status evolves back to that of a light buyer, before they may no longer buy the product at all.

Brands should focus on attracting new customers to grow their business. Sharp says that brand growth is influenced by new buyers, not increased loyalty, so your goal should be to make your brand attractive to new customers through targeted branding.

While it is great when a brand keeps existing customers happy, if this customer base does not grow steadily, the company will regress. To avoid this, the company should be on the lookout for new customers and position the brand accordingly.

3. don't try to appeal to everyone with the brand

I have just talked about the need to win new customers with a brand. But there are also limits! There are situations in which a reorientation of the brand can be promising, but the brand usually loses its good reputation within a clearly defined market segment.

A brand may be productive, but it cannot fight against its own limitations. A good example of this is Toyota - a brand known for affordable cars. In order to gain market share in the upper middle and luxury class segment, Toyota developed the Lexus brand. Since 2006, cars have been produced under this name that compete internationally with Mercedes, BMW, Audi, etc. If the manufacturer marketed the same models under the Toyota brand, they would not be considered true luxury cars.

So, don't weaken your brand with an extreme product line extension, but develop new brands for market segments that bring fundamental differences.

4. brand building takes much longer than often assumed

The brand has established itself when its market segment not only recognizes the brand, but also associates it with the desired values. Brands do not become a hit overnight, but are often only really recognized after years of effort.

When building a brand, it is necessary to develop a strategy. Creative briefings need time to develop into a tangible result. Research cannot be rushed. Iterative adjustments are also necessary, especially for digital or technically sophisticated products, in order to keep pace with the competition and defend your USP.

Branding is not a band-aid that can simply free a company from fundamental problems. The brand must be built on a strong foundation in order to withstand the passage of time. It cannot be rebuilt over and over again, because once it is tainted with negative values and emotions, there is rarely a successful comeback.

5. trends and current topics are addressed too frequently

Jumping on the trend is a good way to ensure that a brand remains fresh and appealing. But you can't overdo it in branding either. Trends are basically fads, and we know how they fizzle out. Investing time, money and effort in trends cannot be a sustainable practice. A brand should survive trends and not just be led by them.

Not all trends suit a brand. If the trend doesn't help you improve your brand's relationship with your audience, why bother responding to the trend at all? It's too easy to fall into the role of a copycat. The authentic power of a brand is greatly diminished when it reliably follows the latest trends.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't follow what's happening out there in the competitive digital world. Keeping up to date can pay off and in many cases is necessary. Your brand can certainly be aware of trends, but it shouldn't define itself by them.

6. mental and physical availability of the brand is neglected

The popularity of a brand is not much use if the product is not on the shelf. To truly gain popularity, a brand needs to be both mentally and physically available. In other words, when a customer makes a purchase decision, your brand should be one of the first options on their list. Subsequently, the customer will only buy if the product is available for them to purchase.

It is not enough to advertise on just one medium, even if it generates sales. The brand must be omnipresent in order to really stay in the customer's mind. Successful brands therefore use media such as video, print, social media and advertising space to be present in as many facets of the target group's everyday life as possible.

Branding must be viewed and evaluated as a whole. It may be that individual parts of the marketing measures are not profitable, but benefit brand awareness as a whole and therefore contribute to the bottom line.

The second important component is physical availability. The key here is to make the product available everywhere as much as possible. If a potential customer is willing to buy a product and this customer finds this product in the form of your brand, you not only generate sales but also strengthen your branding. Brands like Coca Cola or McDonald's are not only so popular because they invest a lot of money in advertising, but also because they are available everywhere.

Mental and physical availability must not take a back seat in a brand strategy. Availability cannot always be maximized immediately, but every step towards it contributes to success.

7. unclear positioning of the brand

According to Porter's competitive matrix, a brand should be clearly positioned in one of the segments of cost leadership and differentiation, either industry-wide or in a niche. If a brand wants to differentiate itself, it must have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in order to successfully stand up to the competition. If this USP does not exist, there is no reason for the target group to prefer this brand over other brands.

Only a few companies can achieve cost leadership at all. These are usually large companies that can achieve economies of scale through higher production volumes and implement standardized processes that result in lower production costs. This usually requires a high level of investment.

For many smaller companies, differentiation, possibly limited to a clearly defined niche, is an option. The smaller this niche, the less competition there is. On the other hand, the target group also shrinks. Another advantage here is the possibility of expanding the niche in a meaningful way once the market has been successfully developed.

8. regular discount influences consumer behavior

Discounts are a great way to maintain enthusiasm for a brand. But scheduled and regular discount sales can have undesirable consequences. While it would lead to more sales in the short term, it would not affect market penetration in the long term. While the number of sales increases over a short period of time, it would fall below the usual level after the promotion.

Regular discounts can also influence purchasing behavior in the long term. Customers adapt their buying cycles to the discounted sales - in other words, they only buy when products are offered at a discount. This is particularly true when it comes to products that are not absolutely necessary but are lifestyle products.

Discounted sales fulfill a specific function. Use them to generate interest in your brand and to reward customers for their loyalty. However, they are not a tool that should be pulled out of a hat on a regular basis.

9. brands must not follow a zigzag course

Again, branding is a long-term and carefully planned affair. Constantly reacting to changes in the market and changing course once it's set will only lead to customer confusion and can set back the progress of your marketing activities by months.

Sales can also decline without the need to fundamentally change the branding. If you then panic, you usually don't solve problems, but get even deeper into trouble. Successful rebranding does happen, but not every few years or even months.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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