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6 Common Branding Mistakes and How To Fix Them







Branding is essentially about 2 things; Positioning and Connection.

Positioning – Is about managing perception:  It’s the science of staking a claim in the mind of your prospect.

Minds are cluttered and overwhelmed, plus they have powerful filters.  So you must send a clear, focused and novel message to entrench yourself in your “slot”.

The role of Brands is to reduce the complexity of decision making. They prevent our overtaxed minds “re-deciding” each time we are presented with a choice (which is thousands of times a day).

Seeing the imagery of a familiar Brand or hearing it mentioned unlocks all the knowledge, memories, opinions, experience and emotion that are stored in your mind relating to that name.  (This works in the same way as hearing someone’s name – you bring up a picture of them and all the connections will fire from your stored memory).

The other part of the equation is

ConnectionYour brand forms a bridge between you and your people. And it bridges not only from mind to mind, but also heart to heart.

Activating an emotional response creates “stick”, especially where memory is concerned.

Creating resonant communication, that triggers senses and emotions, positions you for deeper relationships and high likeability.  This in turn will position you to build authority.

Brand Bridge Illustration 1 700px


Branding is the business function that allows you to design and build a bridge that invites your people to join you in a place they desire to be.

It is the twinkle in the eye, the outstretched hand, the interested question and the memorable remark of a new acquaintance that makes you certain that you could be friends.

Simple perhaps, but is it easy? Not for everyone …..

There are 6 issues I see standing between many entrepreneurs and their ideal Brand.

Could you be afflicted with Claytons Brand, Bland Brand, Brand Babble, Nanna Brand, Brandemonium or BrandLock?

The good news is …. most have a simple fixes.

Mistake 1 – Clayton’s Brand

The Brand You Have When You Don’t Have a Brand.  Possibly a harsh assessment in most cases of Clayton’s Brand, which I also considered calling “UnBrand”, “Accidental Brand” or “Fiverr Brand”.

Brand building has not been a priority for this entrepreneur (and that’s OK for a lean start up).  However, once you’ve proven yourself there is an opportunity for this Brand to fly with a few hours of care and attention.


This is the brand of a busy entrepreneur, a “go getter”, an action taker.  Typically this person has an idea, purchases a domain, recruits a neighbourhood teen to design a logo, allows a template to dictate their look and goes with a minimum viable launch to see if their new business idea has any legs.

This is considered great business practice and plenty will tell you to do it this way, rather than sinking a lot of time and money into a new idea.  What it means was the brand strategy and execution was rushed and that often shows.

I can generally see a distinct mismatch between the quality of person, the quality of their knowledge and the (lower perceived) quality of their Brand.

Could a Clayton’s brand limit your potential to scale?   I think it could, because it should be doing so much more for you.   Not always, but in many cases I see these brands under performing compared to strategically managed, well designed brands.

To demonstrate the mistakes “in the real world”, let’s use the metaphor of a networking function.

You meet Clayton’s Brand at a networking function and he’s an impressive guy. He is well dressed, confident and friendly.  He doesn’t brag, but it is clear he is busy, his brand is growing and he’s doing well.  You remember him and later you hear his name about the place … when you hear him mentioned for the third time, you think, “I wasn’t mistaken, he obviously knows his stuff”.


Remembering a blog post he mentioned, you head to his website and you feel …. a shade underwhelmed.  It doesn’t gel with the person you met.  It all looks a bit “slapdash”, without any thoughtful design or any personal touch.  It could be anyone’s site.  He was impressive in person, but no one would know how much he had to offer if this was their first impression.  Somehow his Brand lacks all the energy and dynamism you remember and you wonder about referring him after all, knowing the website would be the first impression your friends get.

 What to Work On:

So once you’ve proven that you have an offer with legs, all you need to do is put aside an afternoon to build out your brand strategy (you can start with our simple system The One Page Brand).

Once you have the strategic pieces down, more often than not you will only need the help of a designer and possibly a copywriter to bring your brand to life on the page.

What You Want Instead:

You want your Brand to convey the energy and passion that you do in person.  Aligned design that amplifies your qualities rather than hiding them with an undercooked site.

A brand that lives up to the potential in your idea.  A brand that embodies the transformation you are creating for your clients. A design and tone that engages the audience and positions you as an authority for ideal clients.

Enticing design that works perfectly with your energy, your value proposition and excites your ideal client.

Use our One Page Brand Training as a basis of a new design brief. The most important segment is your brand descriptors – precision with these will give your designers a fantastic starting point. Include some descriptors that translate visually such as contemporary, elegant, sophisticated or feminine.

If you supplement the words with a vision board of colours and images that would sit well with your refreshed brand you are setting up a designer to do great work and will reap the rewards.

Quick tip: Spend a couple of hours online looking for design that really resonates with you. Save it and say what it is you liked about that. Your designer will be interested in all the segments on the One Page Brand training, but as visual people they will also be helped enormously visual references, colours, site designs etc.

Surely that’s worth the investment of one afternoon of work?

Mistake 2 – Bland Brand

Bland Brands look and sound like “everybrand” in your niche, you could have been selected from a stock template.

You lack sizzle (something memorable or compelling) or your brand is a personality free zone.

Your presentation is cookie cutter. Perhaps you bought a keyword rich domain which has no pizzazz as a brand name.


“The yawn syndrome” you seem a little (dare we say it) boring and are easy to ignore. Maybe you’ve used stock photos and inoffensive “vanilla” copy because that is your idea of a what a professional should be.  Perhaps your target is so broad that in trying to appeal to everyone you end up not connecting with anyone.

Look and Feel: “Templatey” and with stock photos and standard palette. You are not “in your brand” and your design could be interchangeable with any brand in your niche.

Tone and Personality:   Pedestrian “professional sounding” copy that lacks soul or quirk and sounds familiar or interchangeable.

If you have a brand where you are front and centre your copy is best written in first person and your Brand connects better when infused with personality (and often values).  Review copy most especially on your home page, about page and bios.

Let’s return to our networking function.

You meet “Bland Brand”, he (sorry guys) is wearing …. hmm … you can’t recall, but it was neat and correct. He shakes your hand automatically, his name was John or Peter or Michael (why can’t you remember?) and he has an accountancy practice. He seemed reserved, so you asked him a question about the kind of clients he worked with and he said “just mums and dads”.



Conversation stalls. Then you saw a friend wave to you from the bar, so you said “it was good to meet you [John or Peter or Michael] have a great time”…..

What to Work On:

Delve into your mission and brand stories and revamp your tone and personality (also known as your brand voice).

You want to inject humanising elements into your brand that will connect with ideal clients – look for some personal touches to enhance memorability and “stick”. (Our free training will help with this)

It is likely you will need to work on your copy and perhaps revamp your design too.

What you Want:

A strong and instant connection, a memorable hook that helps you cut through.

Quick tip: ask your friends and clients to describe you in 3 words, take these themes and see where you can inject more of this in your website, especially your landing page and about pages.

Cultivate a distinctive, authentic, personable voice that gives your audience a sense of “person” you, not just anonymous business owner.

The best way to do this is to use stories – your stories are more memorable than any CV bullet point and will make you more approachable and distinct.

How personal should you be? Unless you have a high transparency value (and some people do) or are very audacious, most people keep a certain degree in the private realm and aim for “personable”.

Mistake 3 – Brand Babble

This is when no one seems to “get you”. When you tell people about your business you say too much and the response is the dreaded glazed eyes.

You don’t like to be boxed in, and what you do is hard to explain, so when someone asks you about your business you don’t have a strong, clear, tantalizing statement.  Instead, you come across a bit “all over the shop”.

This could also be called “Brand Blurt” because in trying to hold someone’s interest you cram in too much information and don’t leave them with a clear, focussed takeaway. (Your “positioning” is fuzzy).


You fail the “8 second test”

-What’s this business about?

– What can I do here?

– Is it for me?

Perhaps you are trying to be all things to all people, rather than selecting an ideal client group and building a clear proposition that solves problems for those people.

You meet “Brand Babble” at the networking function.  She is wearing something colourful with a chunky necklace. (This is me, so I know her well). She shakes your hand warmly and repeats your name.


You ask her what her “thing” is. She talks fast in long skeins of words, she is quite “woo woo” (and very nice), but she doesn’t give you a clear answer or leave room for a question. Eventually she stops talking and you are still not exactly sure what she does, is it soul deep marketing or something?


After a pause she asks you what you do, and she is very interested. She’s easy to talk to, it is just …. What the hell does she do again? You are just not sure you could refer people to someone who comes across a bit “lightweight”, especially when you are not clear what problem she could solve.

What to work on:

CORE MESSAGING – You want concrete, tantalising answers for the “big questions”;
– What it is that you do (ESPECIALLY the problem that you solve),
– Who you do that for and the transformation that RESULTS.
– Plus why you are the best choice for them.

Once you’ve nailed your core messaging, add authority signals to your website (for example testimonials, case studies, media appearances).

What you want:

Upon meeting you virtually or in person their takeaway should be

“X is my go to person to get help with Y”

You want to be able to describe the value you create in words that your auntie would understand.

Your pitch is the key that unlocks it all.

My free Pitch Perfect training has a bunch of cool  formats but here is one that works well:

I help X overcome Y resulting in Z.

Concrete, engaging words, that beg for a follow up question.   Words that accelerate rapport and enable you to ask; Do you know anyone that could use my help?

Your value proposition, whilst still short, takes this to the next level by encapsulating the unique benefits and ultimate outcomes of the transformation you provide.

Make it about them (not you ) and keep distilling till you get flawless recall both written and spoken.

Mistake 4 – Nanna Brand

Nanna Brand happens when your visual identity (look and feel) is at odds with your desired positioning, creating a perception gap.

Often Nanna Brands either haven’t kept up to date or never invested in quality design.  They may have a bit of Frankenstein going on, leading to inconsistent visuals.

Or you might have a bit of “lame name” … an uninspired “keyword style” business name.

If you want to be positioned with integrity, professionalism, high quality or premium cues, you must look the part (not boring, but stylish, or elegant or contemporary).

Symptoms of “Nanna Brand”

You started as a bootstrapper and never invested in quality design.

It’s been a few years since you’ve updated your look and feel and it doesn’t stand up well next to clean, contemporary design. Design trends change rapidly, so noughties fonts and use of design devices like embossing or shadows or swirly backgrounds really date your website.

You don’t have a consistent set of brand guidelines and your visuals don’t have thread that connects them.

You’ve added bits and pieces that jar a little. You’ve designed stuff yourself, you’ve had a number of different designers and there isn’t a cohesive visual feel.

So, to return to our metaphor, we meet “Nanna Brand” at our networking function – in this case they are a middle aged couple. He reminds you of your high school geography teacher with a short sleeved shirt worn with a tie and wire frame glasses. His wife is fussily dressed in a blouse with frills and a bit much make up. Both have put on a few pounds over the years.


Whilst they made a poor first impression, once you speak to them for a while you realise they are wise, generous and insightful business owners and you can learn from their experience. You find yourself feeling glad you persisted because it was a great conversation, despite your snap judgements.

What to work on:

If you resonate with “Nanna Brand” it is probably time for a makeover. This will be an energising process that will also allow you to refocus, clean and declutter your website and supporting materials.

What you want:

A fresh, clean design applied with absolute consistency.   Entice your ideal client with Brand design that works perfectly with your personality, your value proposition and positions you into the future.

If you think you do need a refresh, I invite you to complete the One Page Brand training (it will take half an afternoon).  You can use it as a basis of a design brief.  Because you have the right fundamentals, it shouldn’t take much time at all – it is really the wrapping that needs a bit of an update.

Concentrate on your brand descriptors – precision with these will give your designers a fantastic starting point. Include some that translate visually.  Examples could be contemporary, elegant, sophisticated or feminine.

If you supplement the words with a vision board of colours and images that would sit well with your refreshed brand you are setting up a designer to do great work and will reap the rewards.

Quick tip (which I also recommended for Clayton’s Brand):  Spend a couple of hours online looking for design that really resonates with you. Save it and say what it is you liked about that. Your designer will be interested in all the segments on the One Page Brand training, but as visual people they will also be helped enormously visual references, colours, site designs etc.

Mistake 5 – Brandemonium

You’ve inadvertently spawned any number of independent brands, sub brands and program brands, plus your personal brand.  And all are competing for attention.

Your Brands are hard to manage (and explain).  You get little leverage from efforts in one area onto other brands or from your personal brands to your product brands.

You lack alignment between your brands, not much (or nothing) ties them together.

It is not only difficult to juggle, it is wasteful too. It is surprisingly common amongst even very successful entrepreneurs (in fact most common with successful entrepreneurs because often they have been through quite a few iterations in their business and on social media).


Each time you launch something you buy a new domain and build a new website for it, along with a new social profile too!  You have multiple brands operating which are unconnected or loosely linked and successful to varying degrees.

You are running 2 or more websites for essentially the same audience.

You are confused about the role of your personal brand beside your business brand or brands.

I’m sure you’ve met Brandemonium at a networking function. Even as a branding specialist (perhaps because I am one) even I fell into this trap a few years ago. I recall someone asking what I do and my answer was a breezy “oh I have about 7 different projects on the go” (I thought it sounded industrious, but it doesn’t …. it sounds flaky)


You meet Brandemonium at the networking function and he is very enthusiastic about his project du jour. He can definitely communicate his vision for it and you understand what it does. That’s not his issue.

You email Brandemonium and he replies from a different email address or Brandemonium gives you a card for a completely different business than the one he was telling you about. His email address is crossed out and written in pen.


Or, about 20 minutes into the conversation Brandemonium suddenly has a solution to a problem that is unrelated to the niche he said he was in earlier. Or Brandemonium has 10 different websites that each cover a different facet of one discipline, all named and built to maximize SEO potential.

What to Work On

Simplify your Brand system.  It is generally accepted in marketing that putting effort into building one powerful endorser brand is preferable to running small discrete brands

Brands are for markets, if you can find common ground in your audience and clients, and what they aspire to, then you can build a single brand around those “glue factors”, even if people are at different stages.

When are multiple brands justified? If authentic messaging for one part of your audience alienates or confuses others, you may not have one market.  Or if your audience gets so broad you have to dilute your message so much that it doesn’t land with anyone, you may need to filter some people or split into segments.

What you want

For advanced marketers it is important to understand Brand Systems so that you either consolidate or run your multiple brands in a disciplined endorser / sub brand model.  You can’t have mixed systems, it will just confuse everyone.

You want a brand system that is future proof, with lower complexity and with better alignment and cross sell opportunities.

These are the people I often consult with as private clients, you would only need to book an hour session so we can untangle this.  I would take you through the frameworks of effective brand systems and why you’d choose between the systems and come up with something cleaner from a positioning standpoint and much easier to manage.

Mistake 6 – BrandLock

Your brand has outgrown its name or your positioning is stuck or limited where you don’t want to be – like you are in traffic gridlock of your own making.

You may be over specialized or too tightly niched and feel shackled.  Especially if your business is a success or you have created a well known brand position around your expertise.

You are missing out on growth opportunities by virtue of long ago decisions.


Because your offer has expanded from your original brand and proposition your business name doesn’t reflect your services. (For example you built a business around a particular topic or skill  – for eg SEO – which isn’t as sought after as it was 5 years ago).

On top of that you are so bored you get itchy at the thought of another conversation about this topic with a newbie.

Or you built a blog around a topic that has proved to be very difficult to monetize, perhaps because it is not something that people experience as a burning pain.

It could be a modifier problem, maybe you targeted a geographic location, a certain service, or one gender (without good reason to do so).

Perhaps your vision has grown out of all proportion with your brand and you just can’t there from here!

You meet BrandLocked at the networking function, he seems not inclined to talk much about his business, you really have to probe to get it out of him. There is no excitement and definitely no pride as he speaks of it.


If you talk for any length of time his dilemma becomes evident, he has a business that either he a) is “over” or b) can’t make work.


What to work on:

This is a strategy piece first and foremost, you need your business strategy laid out so your brand strategy delivers it.  You need to work through a structured process to design a business that will work for your future self.

What you want:

Of all the problems; BrandLocked needs the deepest thinking and most time to devise an approach, generally from a range of options. In this case working with a strategic branding professional will really help.

Sometimes just a pivot or tweak is required. Some entrepreneurs can take what is working and refocus it for a different niche or extract leveraged products from their know how.

Or, you might decide to rebrand with a better platform for your solutions and that is all you need to re- energize and refocus you and relaunch the business. (That said, finding a new name is pretty challenging, so I like to explore all the options first before I make that recommendation).  You can book a private one hour session with me anytime on this link

Occasionally it becomes clear that you could be in the wrong business or a business you’ve grown out of.  What you are struggling with is a business which is making you unhappy or supporting you financially …. in these cases some real soul searching is required – I have an amazing program for this called Purpose Pivot  – there is a 20 minute free call with me to see if that could be your solution.    (Believe me, I know a lot about this problem).