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When Brand Identity Goes Horribly Wrong: Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

By January 6, 2023January 19th, 2023No Comments

Think of your brand identity as a house. Just like a house, a strong brand identity requires a solid foundation (a clear and consistent brand message), sturdy walls (visual elements that align with your brand message), and a roof (consistency across all touchpoints).

But when a brand gets it wrong, it’s like building a house on quicksand. No matter how nice the decor is or how hard you try to fix things, the whole structure is unstable and prone to collapse. Maybe the foundation is weak because the brand message is muddled or inconsistent. Maybe the walls are shaky because the visuals don’t align with the message. Or perhaps the roof is leaking because the brand is not being consistent across all touchpoints.

Whatever the problem, it’s essential to identify the issue and fix it before it’s too late. Just like a house, a strong brand identity takes time and effort to build, but it’s worth it in the long run. So, it is critical for brands to take their time and get it right from the beginning to avoid any future problems.

As a brand identity designer, I have seen firsthand how a poorly designed or implemented brand identity can spell disaster for a company. It’s not just about making things look pretty – a strong brand identity is an essential aspect of building trust, creating a cohesive customer experience, and differentiating your business from the competition.

But even the most experienced designers can make mistakes, and when it comes to branding, those mistakes can have serious consequences. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some common pitfalls that companies fall into when it comes to brand identity, and how to avoid (or fix) them.

Mistake #1: Not having a clear brand message

One of the most fundamental mistakes that companies make is not having a clear, concise brand message. Your brand message should be the foundation of everything you do – it should inform your visuals, your tone of voice, and your overall brand identity.

But if your brand message is muddled or inconsistent, it can create confusion for customers and make it difficult for them to understand what you stand for. This can lead to a lack of trust and make it more difficult for customers to connect with your brand.

To fix this, it’s imperative to take the time to define your brand message and make sure it’s communicated consistently across all touchpoints. This might mean revisiting your mission statement, developing brand guidelines, or working with a branding expert to define your messaging.

Mistake #2: Not aligning visuals with your brand message

Your brand visuals – including your logo, color palette, and design elements – should be an extension of your brand message. They should work together to communicate your values and personality to customers.

But if your visuals don’t align with your brand message, it can create confusion and make it difficult for customers to understand what you stand for. For example, if your brand message is all about eco-friendliness and sustainability, but your visuals are bold and aggressive, it’s liable to be challenging for customers to make the connection.

To fix this, it’s important to define your brand visuals and make sure they align with your brand message. This might mean updating your logo, revamping your color palette, or working with a designer to create cohesive design elements.

Mistake #3: Not being consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to branding. If your branding is inconsistent – for example, if your website looks completely different from your social media profiles – it can lead to confusion. Customers will be unable to recognize your brand.

To fix this, it’s critical to develop a set of brand guidelines that outline how your brand should be presented across different touchpoints. This might include things like your logo usage, color palette, typography, and tone of voice. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that your branding is consistent no matter where customers encounter it.

Mistake #4: Not evolving with your audience

Your brand identity should be dynamic and able to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of your audience. If your branding is stuck in the past, it can make you seem out of touch and irrelevant.

To fix this, it’s important to stay attuned to the needs and preferences of your audience and be willing to evolve your branding as needed. This might mean updating your logo, revamping your website, or changing your messaging to better align with your audience.

Mistake #5: Not standing out from the competition

In a crowded market, it’s important for your brand to stand out from the competition. If your branding is too similar to that of your competitors, it can make it very difficult for customers to differentiate you and choose your brand.

Examples of Big Brands getting it horribly wrong

Calvin Klein

In 2018, Calvin Klein faced criticism for a controversial ad campaign featuring a group of young, scantily-clad models in sexually suggestive poses. The ads were widely circulated online and generated a significant amount of attention and outrage.

Many people felt that the ads were inappropriate and objectified women, and the campaign faced calls for a boycott. Some critics argued that the ads perpetuated harmful beauty standards and contributed to a culture that sexualizes and objectifies women.

Calvin Klein defended the campaign, stating that it was meant to be provocative and edgy, but the backlash led to a significant decline in the company’s stock price. The controversy serves as a reminder of the importance of considering the potential reactions of customers when creating marketing campaigns. It also emphasises the need to be mindful of the impact of such campaigns on societal attitudes and values.

Starbucks

In 2011, Starbucks underwent a rebranding effort, updating their logo and introducing a new design for their coffee cups. The updated design was intended to be more minimalistic and modern, but it was met with mixed reactions.

Some people appreciated the simplicity of the revised design, but others felt that it was too plain and lacked the personality of the previous design. There were also some issues with the revamped logo, which featured a simplified version of the iconic mermaid figure. Many people felt that the new logo was too simplistic and lacked the detail and character of the original design.

Despite the controversy, Starbucks did not make any major changes to the rebranding and has continued to use the updated design. While the rebranding may not have been a complete failure, it did not receive universal praise and has been a source of criticism for the company. This serves as a reminder of the importance of thorough market research and considering the potential reactions of customers when undergoing a rebranding effort.

Weight Watchers

In 2018, Weight Watchers (now known as WW) underwent a rebranding effort, changing its name and introducing a brand-new tagline and logo. The company hoped the rebrand would help modernize its image and appeal to a wider audience.

However, the rebrand was met with widespread criticism and backlash. Many people felt that the company name, WW, was too similar to the Nazi slogan “Work Will Set You Free,” and the new logo was seen as bland and uninspired.

In response to the backlash, WW issued an apology and made some changes to the branding, but the damage had already been done. The company saw a significant drop in its stock price and struggled to regain customer trust. The failed rebrand serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of thorough market research and avoiding controversial or offensive branding choices.

GAP

In 2010, Gap attempted to update their iconic logo, replacing their blue box design with a more modern font. However, the new logo was met with widespread criticism and backlash from both customers and design experts.

Many people felt that the redesigned logo was too plain and lacking personality, and there were calls for a boycott of the company. The backlash led to a significant drop in Gap’s stock price and a decline in sales.

In response to the criticism, Gap ultimately abandoned the revised logo and returned to its original design. The failed rebrand serves as a cautionary tale for the importance of thorough market research and considering the potential reactions of customers when undergoing a rebranding effort. It is also a reminder of the power of brand loyalty, as many customers expressed their preference for the familiar and iconic blue box design.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a strong, cohesive brand identity that resonates with customers and helps your business stand out in the marketplace. However, it’s critical to note that even the most well-established brands can get it wrong sometimes. In those cases, it’s essential to take responsibility, listen to customer feedback, and make changes as needed to get back on track.

If you’re considering rebranding your small business or product, it’s important to take the time to carefully plan and research your new branding. A successful rebrand can help you attract new customers and give your business a fresh, modern image. However, a poorly executed rebrand can be confusing and damaging to your reputation.

It’s also a smart idea to conduct market research and gather feedback from customers, employees, and other stakeholders to ensure that your revamped branding resonates with your target audience. By taking the time to carefully plan and execute your rebrand, you can create a strong, cohesive brand identity that helps your business stand out in the marketplace.

If you need design advice before rebranding your small business or product, it can be helpful to get in touch with a branding expert or design professional, like me (wink, wink). They (I) can help you identify your brand values and messaging, create a cohesive visual identity, and ensure that your branding is consistent across all touchpoints.

Kris Byers

I am the owner and brand designer at Horrible Brands where we build brands that turn expertise into profit and have helped hundreds of small businesses develop their brand identity and messaging. My goal is to clarify and simplify the concept of branding so that other business owners can understand the importance of building a strong brand.

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