8 Brand Mistakes that Hurt

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Do you remember when Zippo made women’s perfume? How about when Harley Davidson, the famous rough-and-tough motorcycle brand, developed their own line of cake decorating kits? Or even Virgin Airlines creating wedding dresses? It may sound strange and like something out of a satirical movie, but these products actually happened, and they might be considered brand mistakes.

Sometimes, weird brand decisions can be kitsch and cool; die-hard fans have to have them, and regular consumers find the oddities to be charming. But, for that to work, the brand has to already have a certain weird vibe, otherwise you can begin to water down your brand image. If you’re not careful, you can make serious mistakes that undermine your brand.

Brand Mistake #1: Not Being Where Your Customers Are

Communication channels have evolved over time, new channels are continuously opening, and if you’re not evolving with you customers, you’re missing out on important opportunities. Not too long ago, a customer service line was the only way your customer had to get in touch with your company. Now, we have Twitter, Facebook, other social media platforms, email, in-app communication, and more, in addition to the old-school methods like letters and hotlines.

With these new lines of direct-contact, you also have the opportunity to release high-value information and content for your customers that might help them solve a challenge or problem. Knowing where your customers tend to flock will tell you where more potential customers are.

Brand Mistake #2: One-sided Feedback Loops

A common pitfall you can fall into is thinking marketing is a one-and-done activity. Traditional methods– like direct mail, radio, television and print– may have been able to be one-sided communication, but with the changing world, your brand can participate in a more two-sided feedback loop.

While successful companies are often built on the back of failure, negativity only gives you one side of the story. You will see the negatives, and you should learn from those, but also pay attention to the positive comments, which can help solidify your brand benefits, tap into low-cost resources like brand advocates, and enhance the overall experience users experience from your brand.

Brand Mistake #3: Failing to Act on Feedback

Both negative and positive feedback should be acted on quickly. Don’t just collect feedback– put it to use. If your mountain of data just sits on your servers or in a filing cabinet, you and your company are missing out on an amazing opportunity to build your brand and your brand equity.

Consumers will place higher value on a brand that seems to meet their concerns quickly and efficiently rather than leaving them hanging in limbo.

Data collection is just a tool; to truly get to the root of your branding goals, you need to create strategies to analyze the data as it pertains to your customers. The feedback collected can help drive innovation and build a better experience for your customers, and you can also begin to understand how to manage your brand better by building a higher profile.

Brand Mistake #4: Ignoring the Buyer’s Journey

If you try to sell to a prospective client before they’re ready, they’ll begin to view your brand as “pushy” or “invasive” and switch to a competitor. People are tired of being exposed to hundreds of ads a day, all vying for their limited attention, and receiving demanding messages to buy products they don’t need or even care about. If you go in for the hard sell, your prospective customers– and even current customers– will be turned off and treat your messages like spam.

To sum it up, don’t make your promotion too obvious, especially too soon.

buyers journey

Play coy. On any given post, put the call to action at the end since that’s the best time to explicitly indicate you are a business. When your buyer is at the point in their journey they’re ready to buy, they’ll be grateful you placed a greater importance on education rather than the hard sell.

Brand Mistake 5: Poor Quality Content

If the product you’re putting out is poor quality, consumers wouldn’t buy. The same thing goes for website content. If you consistently push out poor quality content that doesn’t answer a question, explain a trend, give advice, solve problems or explain new concepts, people won’t come to your website, and all your other marketing and branding efforts will be for nothing.

Bad quality or poorly written content will get you nowhere. If your customers feel like they’ve wasted their time on vacuous posts, they will walk away with a sour taste in their mouth regarding your brand. People who post content for content’s sale will rarely see the same benefits as a company who posts thoughtful and carefully calculated content. No one will willingly share poor content to their own social media platforms, and traffic to your site will slow.

If you feel like you’re stuck in your ways and the value of your blog is diminishing, try a new style. Post an eye-catching infographic with industry-specific data, or find (or, even better, make) relevant videos to illustrate a how-to. Flex your creative side if you feel like you’re in a rut.

Brand Mistake #6: Inconsistent Image Cross-Platform

Perhaps the most important key to building a strong brand is consistency. Your audience expects a certain experience from your brand, and it can be jarring if those expectations are not met. Companies who appear inconsistent across platforms can appear unprofessional, disjointed and untrustworthy.

Visually, your brand should be the same across each platform. Your website can be considered the hub. Everything you put out, link back and preach should fall in line with your website. Social media accounts, ads, print materials and other assets should follow the website, aligning your visual identity and messaging efficiently.

A good way to make sure everything is consistent is creating a brand style guide. It’s the playbook your company will follow to keep consistent no matter where you decide to post. It has a prepared list of fonts, colors, imagery, logos and other visual assets. A really great guide will go above just the visual and outline your brand’s messaging elements as well. Putting your mission, vision, values and brand positioning elements in the guide is a handy way to ensure you’re presenting a clear and cohesive message everywhere your brand appears.

Brand Mistake #7: Trying to be Trendy

Just like the enigmatic little black dress, some things stand the test of time and remain classic. Your brand is one of those things. While it is important to keep up with the latest trends and know where designs are headed, your brand should be grounded in something more traditional. Keeping current with the latest branding trends is a great way to present your brand in a fresh way, but there’s such a thing as too much.

apple logo brand mistake

You can get swept up in “cool” design, but your brand has to weather waves of trends to avoid becoming dated.

If you’re worried your brand is feeling dated, go through this checklist:

  • You’re embarrassed to show your brand to anyone
  • Your logo looks like it’s from another era
  • Your customers are confused about what you actually do or aren’t interested in learning more
  • Your look doesn’t reflect company values
  • You seem “out of touch”

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions (or more than one), it might be time to take a step back and see if your brand is feeling dated.

Brand Mistake #8: Straying Too Far from Your Roots

If you’re considering a brand refresh, make sure new messaging and graphics don’t stray too far from what makes your brand distinct just for the sake of change. Gap learned this lesson all too well in 2010 when they introduced an abrupt logo change that had fans yelling “please, no!”. Gap took their classic blue square and went a new, minimalistic direction, getting away from their traditional roots:

Gap brand mistake

Gap’s fan-base hated the new logo. The backlash resonated throughout the Internet and, in what has to be the fastest turnaround time in history, Gap scrapped the rebrand.

Unless you are totally changing direction or introducing a new business model, you want your current audience to recognize your brand post-redesign so you don’t lose the most loyal of fans.


It can be easy to navigate the ever-changing landscape of business and industry if you’ve aligned your brand with your core values, determined your positioning and unique sales proposition, and implemented messaging strategies to expose those core values and positioning. Keep consistent, refrain from hopping from trend to trend, and produce top-notch quality to remain relevant and build a better brand.

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