Entrepreneurs: Don’t make these three branding mistakes!

Entrepreneurs: Don’t make these three branding mistakes!

Branding is a fascinating and sometimes complex topic for small business owners. One high-level concept that applies to all successful branding is consistency. Hey, I get it, consistency isn’t sexy. But the hot news is that it works. On a recent trip to Tenerife, I made three observations that serve as examples to help you check your own branding and make sure it’s consistent. Don’t get me wrong, we had a fabulous holiday. Not complaining, just noticing.

Here are the three branding mistakes I noticed on our trip:

1. Contradictory branding

The first hotel we stayed at had a split personality. It promised a brand-new, freshly designed apartment: quiet, roomy, and private. The photos of the pool and its description on the website showed a serene and quiet place to relax. But in reality, the pool was committed to a contradictory promise. They were there to party like it was 1985. Ping-pong table included.

When I politely asked at the pool bar if they would mind turning the music down, they seemed shocked. The guy said: “You’re in Tenerife and this is a pool bar…” Which clearly explains why the music can’t be turned down. Oh, and the majority of the people at the pool were over 40. But never mind.

At the exact moment I was making my silly request, the young and eager poolside-fun-making woman showed up announcing the impending aqua aerobics and insisted that I join. You can probably guess my answer… Off I went to my lounger and I quickly donned my music player to escape the sounds and dive into my book. Problem solved.

Are there any areas in your business where you promise one experience, but you deliver a different one? Maybe you promise focused attention and care during the time you work with clients. And you deliver on that. But, when clients send you an email or call you, you’re slow to respond or completely unresponsive.

Consistent experiences are critical to building trust with clients. Identify any cases where you promised one thing and delivered the opposite and put systems in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

2. Misleading branding

As we were strolling the streets looking for a lunch spot, we spotted a cosy place that had a graphic of a fish on the window. Fresh fish sounded perfect. We went in, sat down and got the menus.

The waiter immediately informed us they only sell sandwiches and salads. He asked if we saw the image of the fish in the window and explained that they do have a fish salad sandwich but no fresh fish. We indicated that we were indeed looking for fresh fish and he kindly directed us to a delightful place a couple of blocks away that had just what we wanted.

From the speed with which he clarified the menu, it seems this particular situation had happened before. So, why not change the graphic on the window?

Do you have any misleading images or graphics on your website or marketing materials that give people the wrong idea about what you offer? It could be that you have a photo on your website of you sitting around a table with a group that looks like in-person group coaching when in fact you only offer online programmes.

Take a look at your current business model and compare that to the images on your website and your marketing materials to make sure that they match.

3. Confusing branding

The last three nights of our holiday, we spent in another city, in a hotel that proclaims it is a luxury hotel. I agree, it is quite lovely and has many outstanding features. Including a pool with no music, but I digress. The hotel also has a casino inside the property. I’m not into gambling (because of the part about throwing your money away) but I am a curious cat. So, when they gave us a special coupon and told us the casino had a gift for us, I wanted to find out what it was.

It turned out to be a voucher for two free drinks and two coins each to play on some kind of machine. I think games are fun to play, especially when you have nothing to lose, so we went in. To say it was dark, depressing and a bit creepy would not be inaccurate. So, we got the drink, had a laugh and used the coins. No, we didn’t win a thing.

The point is, why does a luxury hotel want to be associated with, and house, a second-rate casino (this isn’t Las Vegas)? How does that add to the experience of staying there? Maybe it was a deal struck a long time ago that they can’t get out of now? Who knows? It just doesn’t fit.

It would be like having a gorgeous website with high-end offers and then running Google Ads in the sidebar. It doesn’t make sense. If you have a successful business with expensive offers, why would you need to make a few dollars from Google AdSense?

This could also show up in something as simple as a business card. If your brand promise is high-end and you print your own business card, people are going to wonder if you are really high-end. It sends a mixed message, which makes you appear untrustworthy. Get it right and people will notice.

I saw this exact scenario play out a couple of months ago at a networking event. My friend Cristina Stoian who has a high-end brand also has beautiful business cards to match her brand. No mistake there. I watched her hand her business card to a man who immediately commented on how stunning it was. Her gorgeous card prompted him to add that maybe he needed to get some new (better) cards.

Think about your brand promises and make sure you aren’t inadvertently confusing potential clients.

Take a closer look!

I hope you’re feeling inspired to give your brand a closer look and make sure your brand promises are consistent and in harmony with your messages, materials, and actions.

When was the last time you took a closer look at your branding? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments section below.

Stephanie Ward


Stephanie Ward

Stephanie Ward is a Business and Marketing Mentor ( who helps passionate small business owners attract more clients and grow their businesses. She offers a free special report, 7 Steps...

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